Claims of Bias Rising in Agencies: 17% of Complaints Last Year by Whites

By Larson, Ruth | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Claims of Bias Rising in Agencies: 17% of Complaints Last Year by Whites


Larson, Ruth, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Clinton administration's push for diversity in federal agencies has had an unintended consequence - a dramatic rise in discrimination complaints, including growing numbers of white employees charging reverse discrimination.

While the number of federal workers has dropped by almost 340,000 since 1991, the number of discrimination complaints has grown by a third, from 9,924 in 1991 to 13,156 in 1996, according to statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

And whites' charges of reverse discrimination have nearly doubled, from just 10 percent of the EEOC's caseload in 1991 to 17.1 percent in 1996.

"In implementing equal employment policies, agencies have used quotas and timetables that appear to contribute to the increases in discrimination charges," Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican, said in a recent memo.

At a congressional hearing last week, Mr. Mica noted: "Government employment practices sanction race- or sex-based preferences and the disparate treatment of individuals based upon their race, sex or national origin. Whether we call it `reverse discrimination' or `affirmative action,' the effects on individual victims are no less devastating."

Luther Strickland Jr., a former Federal Aviation Administration lawyer now in private practice near Atlanta, said his caseload reflects the growing diversity backlash.

"People who are absolutely not qualified are being promoted because they are females or minorities, just to fill their diversity goals," he said. "They're just going overboard."

The Washington Times has reported on several diversity programs in federal agencies that seem to defy common sense. At the Forest Service, for example, critical firefighting positions in California forests were left vacant - not because there were no applicants, but because the slots were "reserved" for women and not enough of them applied.

Earlier this year, the National Park Service suspended hiring for temporary seasonal positions for two weeks in March - the peak summer hiring season - because senior officials wanted a more diverse work force.

"The National Park Service's employment policies appear to be at odds with statutorily established merit system principles," Mr. Mica's memo said.

Diversity even permeates the employee awards process. For instance, a recent FAA letter soliciting award nominations cautioned, "Please assure that your nominations reflect the diversity of our work force."

One FAA employee said, "As a manager, this tells me that if the top five [candidates] happen to be white, I'd better grab the bottom three instead, to meet their diversity numbers. Quality isn't even considered.

"That's stupid - it's dumbing down our whole society," he said.

The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's subcommittee on civil service will hold a hearing Sept. 24 on discrimination in the federal workplace. …

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