EEOC Turns to Predictive Analytics to Understand How Pandemic Affects Employment Discrimination

Alisa ChaseOn/

The capability shows that the commission should expect an increase in the number of discrimination charges in the next six to 12 months due to the economic downturn, the agency’s chief data officer said.

A new predictive analytics capability is helping the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission understand the state of employment discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the agency’s chief data officer. 

Chris Haffer, EEOC’s chief data officer, said during a Wednesday webinar predictive analytics is new to EEOC, but it’s already helping the agency ensure it has the right personnel in the right places to help prevent or remedy employment discrimination during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. 

“We have some preliminary evidence suggesting that we anticipate the number of discrimination charges will increase over the next six to 12 months, triggered by the economic downturn,” Haffer said. 

In addition to using data to make these kinds of forecasts, EEOC also is performing a monitoring function during the pandemic. The agency uses data from discrimination charge filings to identify groups of the population that may be at the highest risk for employment discrimination. EEOC is looking at demographic, geographic and industry segment trends as well as trends by type of alleged discrimination to perform this analysis, Haffer said. 

Haffer added that over the last few years, EEOC has progressed its data practices from simple processing to a much higher level of capability, allowing it to do this kind of predictive analytics work. 

Ted Kaouk, chief data officer at the Agriculture Department and head of the interagency CDO Council, indicated this kind of development fits with trends he’s seeing across the government, particularly during the pandemic. Kaouk also spoke on the Wednesday webinar. 

“I've just seen a tremendous amount of collaboration, even today, across agency lines, to bring the best available data to bear on key problems facing the nation and agency operations,” Kaouk said. “And so I think out of that, it's provided us with some very powerful use cases about the opportunities for collaboration and sharing data, but also some lessons learned about what we can do better, and what it's going to take for us to get there.”

The CDO Council met for the first time in January 2020. Kaouk said the fact the timing of the council’s inception aligned with the coronavirus outbreak has enabled CDOs to develop a collaborative community already demonstrating the value of using data to improve agency services and operations.