I recently attended a breakfast meeting with Michael Farrell, the new District Director for the Miami office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Miami District Office has jurisdiction over the State of Florida (excluding a few counties in Florida’s Panhandle), as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Federico Costales was the Miami District Director for many years. Upon his retirement a few years ago, a parade of individuals filled the position for short periods of time. As a result, the District seemed to lose its focus. This resulted in varying practices among EEOC investigators and a backlog of charges of discrimination awaiting review. However, Director Farrell is the new Sheriff. After 5 months in office, he has plans to refocus the Miami District Office.
By way of background, Mike is an attorney who spent approximately 16 years with the EEOC’s Miami and Los Angeles Offices as one of its senior trial attorneys. He left the EEOC for private practice, representing employees. He has now returned to the EEOC to lead the District.
Mike clearly understands the problems facing the Miami District Office. He also recognizes the frustrations by both employers and employees (and their attorneys) when dealing with the EEOC. Although Mike is a law enforcement officer, my impression is that Mike is willing to listen to all EEOC stakeholders and will make an honest effort to address concerns within the limits that he has been given.
Mike noted that his investigators are carrying a heavy caseload which makes it extremely difficult for them to timely address each charge of discrimination and for the office to reduce its backlog.
At present, the EEOC has four teams of investigators, each led by a supervisor. Mike’s goal is to add another team to reduce the backlog and allow investigators to handle no more than 65-70 charges of discrimination at any given time.
He also believes that the EEOC’s Tampa office can be better utilized. At present, charges of discrimination from Alachua County (which includes the City of Gainesville) and Orange County (which includes the City of Orlando) are being handled by the Miami District Office. His desire is to have these counties re-routed to the Tampa EEOC office for handling. He thinks this would make it easier for the EEOC investigators to do more on-site visits and make it easier for individuals to file charges of discrimination based on their geographic proximity to these two counties.
Mike also touted the District’s Mediation Program and noted that this Program has had a 93% success rate. If Mike is successful, he will be our “Sheriff” for years to come.