Magazine article Black Enterprise

Brown Addresses Discrimination Complaints; New Policies to Promote Diversity at the Commerce Department

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Brown Addresses Discrimination Complaints; New Policies to Promote Diversity at the Commerce Department

Article excerpt

Secretary Ron Brown, responding to criticism that minority workers were treated unfairly by the Commerce Department, recently outlined steps to address the problems.

At an agency-wide meeting, telecast for those who could not attend, Brown addressed the difficulties faced by blacks and other ethnic groups at the agency. "It is clear that there are difficulties with the EEO process and insufficient opportunities for upward mobility," Brown acknowledged.

He outlined seven policies created to increase the diversity of Commerce's workforce at all levels. Most significant for the employees is that management, which they say has been the greatest obstacle to their upward mobility, will be held accountable for its efforts to diversify. Not only will a lack of effort negatively impact a manager's performance appraisal, but Big Brother, in the form of a newly established diversity council, will be watching. Additionally, a nationwide search for a new director of the agency's Office of Civil Rights has been launched.

Brown told workers that his goal is to make Commerce a working example of diversity [and] a showcase for all to emulate." African-Americans make up 18% of the agency's 36,200 employees, but less than 7% of its professional staff, and Commerce ranks 39th out of 58 federal agencies in percentage of blacks employed.

Last fall, a group called Commerce Committee for African-American Concerns approached Brown in a letter. Their allegations included the lack of African-Americans in the agency's mid-and senior-level positions and a "plantation mentality" that workers said punishes those who file complaints against the agency. This appeal was followed by a letter of support from former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Chavis. …

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