Opponets Expect Veto for Job Discrimination Bill

Article excerpt

Business opponents of a civil rights bill pending in Congress which has been called a "quota" bill and a "lawyers' bonanza" on Monday were confident of a veto this week by President George Bush.

The conference committee report on Senate Bill 2104, the Civil Rights Act of 1990, is scheduled for a vote today in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

"Some of our particular concerns regarding this issue are the provisions that permit jury trials and the awarding of punitive and compensatory damages," said Richard Rush, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"This bill is incredibly complex, and although well intended, what is intended to be a benefit to employees could indeed backfire and remove the willingness of employers to create additional jobs," he said.

But U.S. Sen. David Boren and U.S. Rep. Dave McCurdy, Oklahoma Democrats, said they will both cast votes in favor of the conference report, which Boren said is much improved from the bill's original version.

Fred Krebs, manager of labor and human resources for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and his staff indicated that Senate Bill 2104 would be vetoed "primarily because it is a quota bill.

"From our perspective, you can bring this bill down to two words: quota and lawsuit," Krebs said.

"It doesn't require quotas, but employers will use them as a defense mechanism."

The bill, co-authored by U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins, D-Calif., would overhaul employment discrimination law that has evolved over 25 years, according to the U.S. Chamber.

The bill would overturn six U.S. Supreme Court decisions last year. Provisions deal with courtroom procedures in work place discrimination lawsuits and include a ban on racial harassment on the job, and obstacles to reopening court-approved minority hiring agreements.

"When the bill first passed the Senate, the procedural situation prevented amendments from being offered," Boren said. "I stated on the Senate floor that I would not support the final version of the bill unless major changes were made by the House-Senate conference committee."

McCurdy said Senate Bill 2104 would bring U.S. civil rights law consistent with the original civil rights legislation passed in 1964.

"The conference report will be passed by overwhelming majorities, but the president says he's bound to veto the bill," McCurdy said.

Information from the U.S. chamber said the burden the bill would place on employers to prove they do not discriminate is so tough it would force them to adopt quota systems as the only form of protection.

To prove discrimination, all the employee would have to do is show a statistical imbalance between the composition of a locality's available work force and that of an employer, the chamber said.

An employer could be deemed to discriminate regardless of whether the company's practices had a discriminatory effect or whether the employer intended to discriminate, the U.S. chamber said.

"It, in our estimation, would force employers to use quotas," Rush said. …