40-hour workweek plan is biased, 2 women tell EEOC

March 29, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

The governor's plan to lengthen the state employee workweek to 40 hours unfairly discriminates against female workers, two women employees complained to the federal equal rights agency yesterday.

The discrimination complaint was filed with the Baltimore office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Connie Powell and Gloria Chawla, assisted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The governor's cost-saving measure to expand the workweek from 35 1/2 hours to 40 hours would create disproportionate burdens for female employees of the state, primarily because of added child-care expenses, they argued.

Archer Blackwell, associate director of AFSCME Council 92, said that women make up over three-quarters of the state's 40,000 employees in mostly lower pay grades that will be affected by the longer workweek becoming effective July 1.

State officials rejected any suggestion of discrimination, noting that the personnel change would equalize the working hours for some 60,000 Maryland employees, one-third of whom already must work a 40-hour week.

"The secretary of personnel [Hilda E. Ford] has researched the matter and is confident that there will be no discrimination in the measure," said Paul E. Schurick, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's press secretary.

While declining to comment on the specific legal complaint lodged with the EEOC, Mr. Schurick said: "The state should be given credit that it employs so many women, not accused of discrimination because of it."

Terminations of state employees may be necessary to meet the $65 million already cut by the legislature from state budgets for next year, he said, in addition to extending the work week for the 40,000 state workers. The longer workweek is projected to save the state about $180 million a year.

State employee unions failed to get help from the General Assembly, which agreed merely to study the impact of longer hours on state workers.

Clerical workers will be the group most affected by the governor's order, and they are predominantly female, Mr. Blackwell said.

"This comes on top of a freeze on [length of service] pay increments for July and no cost-of-living increase for anybody this year," Mr. Blackwell said.

"They are getting not one more dime for their increased workweek, they are not getting their pay increases, and yet their day-care expenses are going to go up," he said.

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