NAACP targets racism in federal agencies

NAACP targets racism in federal agencies

Equal employment opportunity laws and regulations fail to protect federal employees from discrimination on the job, a new report from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says.

The 69-page report describes dozens of cases of workplace discrimination throughout the federal government.

"Government for generations, until recent years, has traditionally been a progressive employer where racial minorities and others have found jobs. Today, many government agencies are less than hospitable to racial minorities," the report said. "We expect the U.S. President and U.S. Congress to take a proactive lead via the passage of legislation and the issuance of executive orders designed to clean up the federal sector [equal employment opportunity] mess."

The report, "Employment Discrimination and Abuses in the Federal Workplace," was compiled by a special federal sector task force led by NAACP board member Leroy W. Warren Jr. Federal employees from around the country submitted personal accounts of discrimination to the task force.

African American, Hispanic and Asian American employees told the task force that promotions often went to less-qualified candidates who are white. One Asian American GS-15 manager at the Agriculture Department said a promotion he applied for went to a less-qualified white male who was also a personal friend of the selecting official.

Employees complained that managers retaliated against them after they filed EEO complaints. An administrator at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, who did not give her race, alleged she has received racially charged e-mails since she filed an EEO complaint.

The report also decried the EEO complaint process as long, complex and expensive for both agencies and complainants. At a breakfast on Wednesday in Washington at which the NAACP released its report, former U.S. Marshal Matthew Fogg, an African American, described his 13-year EEO battle with the U.S. Marshals Service. The service's internal EEO office took six years to respond to Fogg's initial complaint, after which he took the service to court. In April, a jury awarded Fogg a $4 million discrimination settlement against the service.

The NAACP made a dozen recommendations to reduce discrimination in the federal government, including developing model EEO systems for agencies to follow, making EEO policies a component of senior executives' annual performance evaluations, and congressional hearings into federal sector discrimination. The group also said managers are not punished severely enough when they violate EEO rules, noting that some managers continue to receive promotions after being found guilty of EEO violations.

"There's nothing to put pressure on those managers who discriminate," said Rep. Al Wynn, D-Md., at the breakfast.

Warren said the NAACP is planning a march for later this year to protest discrimination in government. He also called for a review of agencies' EEO offices.

"We have some very strong EEO people," Warren said. "But we also have some EEO people who are not worth a dime."

In 1996, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administrative judges issued 3,083 decisions in federal discrimination cases. The judges found that agencies had discriminated against employees in 284 cases. EEOC decisions are not final; agencies overruled 63 percent of the decisions made against them. In contrast, agencies rejected only four decisions in which discrimination was not found--one-tenth of one percent of all the cases made in favor of the agencies.

The EEOC has issued a proposed rule that would make its decisions final.

According to Office of Personnel Management statistics, 29 percent of federal employees are minorities. While 45 percent of positions in the lowest three grades of the General Schedule are held by minorities, only 16 percent of positions in the highest three grades are held by minorities, OPM says.

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