Affirmative-Action Program Still in Place, IRS Contends
Lambro, Donald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The Internal Revenue Service told Congress yesterday that its affirmative-action employment policy remains in force while the agency works out new guidelines to overcome constitutional objections by the courts.
"The IRS has not terminated its affirmative-action program and, indeed, remains committed to doing everything permitted under law to achieve a diverse work force," an IRS official testified before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's civil service subcommittee.
Charles D. Fowler III, the director of the agency's Equal Employment and Oversight program, said portions of the agency's worker performance standards were suspended temporarily, "not the affirmative-action program."
Meanwhile, he said, "we are working with the Department of Justice to modify the [affirmative-action guideline] language and to make it appropriate for us."
Mr. Fowler was summoned before the House investigating panel yesterday after The Washington Times reported earlier this month that the agency had suspended its affirmative-action program in response to a court decision this year that struck down the agency's race- and gender-based standards for hiring and promotions.
But his carefully worded testimony appeared to contradict an internal memo from the agency's director of personnel that was widely circulated throughout the agency in September. That memo told IRS managers and directors that its affirmative-action policies were being temporarily suspended while undergoing a thorough legal review and overhaul.
"The service is currently in the process of assessing its affirmative employment policies and programs in the light of the recent court cases. However, until analysis of the impact these court cases have on our performance management program are completed, we have temporarily suspended portions of EEO and diversity," the memo said.
A key directive in the Sept. 22 memo, which The Times reported, said managers would make work assignments and employment decisions "in areas such as hiring, promotion, training and developmental assignments without regard to sex, race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or prior participation in the EEO process."
The memo angered many in the black political establishment who said it had effectively gutted affirmative action at the agency. …