Worker evaluations under fire
Minority federal employees, especially blacks, do not receive fair job performance evaluations under the government's appraisal system, according to recent statistics compiled by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) statistics from September 1990 were compiled at the request of NTEU President Robert M. Tobias for use by the Pay-for-Performance Management Committee. The task force is studying the feasibility of a pay-for-performance system in the U.S. government.
The OPM data showed that, although blacks make up 18 percent of all full-time permanent General Schedule employees,
they received 31 percent of the "minimally acceptable" performance ratings and 29 percent of the "unacceptable" ratings.
All of the minority groups studied received fewer top-level performance ratings than would be expected based on their percent of the federal employee population. Only white employees received more than their expected share.
All minority groups except Hispanics were denied within-grade salary increases more often than statistically expected. Blacks received 31 percent of the within-grade step denials. When statistics were examined on performance awards, quality step increases, involuntary terminations and other performance criteria, blacks and minorities suffered similar disadvantages.
Tobias called on Congress and the Bush administration to pass the Civil Rights Act, to "make it easier for minorities, in government and elsewhere, to challenge discrimination in the workplace;" to revise the performance appraisal system to allow more employee input and reform the Equal Opportunity appeals process to prevent employees from waiting for years for resolution of their cases.
He also suggested direct congressional committee oversight of the federal performance appraisal system. Members of Congress should consider this information during House and Senate hearings on the EEO process scheduled for this month, he said.
All of this would help "prevent minority workers in government from falling through the trap door, dropping out of sight through gaping holes in the performance-appraisal system," Tobias said.
Finally, Tobias called for the Pay-for-Performance Labor-Management Committee to study the performance-appraisal system by agency, grade level and age category.
NTEU also recently released a study of the Internal Revenue Service that showed that black IRS employees were disciplined at three to five times the rate of white IRS employees during fiscal 1989.
Union wins legal battle:
The U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, recently when it decided that the union was entitled to receive attorney fees equal to their market value instead of actual cost to the union.
AFGE was appealing a decision by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which specified that attorney fees were to be paid only at the actual cost rate.
The union has spent three years fighting what it called the unjust firing of a Bureau of Prisons employee -- first through arbitration under the negotiated grievance procedure and later through an unfair labor practice charge before the FLRA when the agency did not adhere to the arbitrator's decision.
Although the FLRA ruled in the union's favor and gave the employee his job back as well as granting reimbursement of legal fees, the FLRA stated that the government was responsible only for the actual fees.
"This victory makes it clear that the court considers the expertise and services of union attorneys to be as valuable as private-sector attorneys," said union national president John N. Sturdivant.
"It also sends a message to federal agencies that they will have to pay the going rate if they choose to ignore union-won arbitrations or other decisions which force us to go back into litigation," he said.
Union sues for overtime pay:
The NTEU is suing the U.S. Customs Service, charging that thousands of its employees are being cheated from full time-and-a-half overtime pay.
The union charges that Customs unfairly exempts many agency positions from overtime rates that are mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Customs exempts these employees by claiming that the customs inspectors and import specialists perform "administrative duties."
Potentially thousands of Customs employees are being "shortchanged," said NTEU President Tobias. The employees rTC are being treated "like indentured servants, working extra hours for the customs bosses while management assumes that they don't deserve full overtime pay."
NTEU is seeking plaintiffs to join the lawsuit. All Customs inspectors and import specialists are not automatically included in the suits and will not share in the potential money award unless they sign on as claimants.
NTEU members eligible to participate in the lawsuit will be notified directly by NTEU.
The suit, Saraco vs. Hallett, was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.