Minority hiring criticized
The General Accounting Office, in a recent study, has criticized the Justice Department for its lagging efforts to attract minority and female employees.
The GAO chided the department for its lack of aggression and failure to adopt numerical goals in hiring minorities and women.
The auditors' criticism was significant because, of course, it was the Justice Department that helped rationalize President Bush's veto of the 1990 Civil Rights Act, which would have made it easier for employees to sue employers who allegedly discriminated against them. The administration argued that the measure would set up quotas which in turn would lead to reverse discrimination and to the hiring of unqualified workers.
Concerning Justice's aversion to numerical goals, the GAO said that "Justice chooses not to use goals becaused it views them as tantamount to quotas. We do not share that view. Like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), we believe numerical goals do not require or mandate selection of unqualified persons or preferential treatment of EEO groups but are another tool management can use in working toward full representation of all segments of the civilian labor force."
Even without numbers to use, the GAO said the department also did not hold its Senior Executive Service officials accountable for meeting the vaguest of equal opportunity policy objectives.
Whatever the methods used to reach equal opportunity goals, the GAO found that the results at Justice lagged. Although representation of minorities and women grew between 1982 and 1988, the latest year for which data was available, Justice was behind in new hiring of women and minorities in these categories: attorneys, border patrol agents, correctional officers, criminal investigators, deputy U.S. marshals and immigration inspectors.
The GAO said that while Justice generally agreed with its observations, department officials differed on a number of points. Justice compared its minority hiring to the American Bar Association, which is narrower than the overall civilian work force numbers used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Using the more favorable ABA assessment, in the attorney category Justice said minorities and women were underrepresented in 3 of 10 jobs. Applying the broader civilian labor force figures, they were behind in 9 of 10 jobs at Justice.
As for the vagueness of Justice equal employment opportunity plans, department officials said "the generalities within the work plans flow from the agency's overall policy against goals and numerical objectives."
NTEU hails OPM retreat:
The Office of Personnel Management has canceled plans to enlarge government hiring based on college grade point averages for more than 100 entry-level jobs. The move brought a sigh of relief from the National Treasury Employees Union.
OPM acted in response to an NTEU lawsuit challenging the plan, which was intended to broaden federal agencies' ability to hire the brightest prospects in an expedited fashion without them having take competitive examinations.
But NTEU President Robert Tobias calls the Outstanding Scholar Program, which some agencies will continue to use, a "scandal."
"It has reduced employment opportunities for black and Hispanic applicants, both for off-the-street applicants and long-term employees seeking promotion to entry-level professional jobs," Tobias said. "Agencies have used OSP primarily to hire white applicants, watering down the gains in minority hiring made in other areas."
Tobias branded the scholar program as a sort of affirmative action in reverse that "the Reagan and Bush administrations have used to discriminate against the people it was designed to help."
NTEU isn't too fond of OPM's new job examination scheme, either. The new system consists of six tests covering related "job groups" plus a universal Individual Achievement Record questionnaire all applicants would take.
The achievement questionnaire attempts to develop a psychological profile of applicants that Tobias said was "unnecessarily intruding into their privacy."
A U.S. District Court judge in the District of Columbia will consider the union's arguments at a Nov. 16 hearing.
Retaining woes, not employees:
A GAO survey on poor retention and recruitment because of low federal salaries found these problems:
* Environmental Protection Agency officials in Chicago reported that complicated, long-term projects are continually disrupted because of high turnover among environmental engineers.
* The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in New York City's Manhattan and Queens offices were "far behind their program goals" because of severe staff shortages.
* The inability to hire and keep practical nurses in Boston has increased patient falls and medication errors at Veterans Administration facilities.
* U.S. Customs Service higher-ups have had to type their own work due to lack of clerical staff in New York.
In this column on Sept. 26, Joseph Flynn, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1923 at the Health Care Financing Administration, was incorrectly identified as Joseph Quinn.