UM agrees to pay $230,000 to end race bias dispute Blacks overlooked for clerical jobs, according to U.S.

March 06, 1992|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

Up to 267 black applicants who allegedly weren't hired for secretarial and clerical jobs at the University of Maryland College Park because of their race will collect $230,000 in back pay under a settlement between the university and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The agreement resolves a dispute that began in 1987 when federal investigators found that black applicants deemed qualified for secretarial and clerical jobs at College Park often weren't offered employment.

"We saw this tremendous statistical disparity between minorities who were qualified and those who were hired," said Joseph DuBray, regional director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in Philadelphia.

In reaching the agreement, the university continued to deny having discriminated against black applicants. Officials said the university settled to avoid the high cost of further legal proceedings.

The Labor Department said no job applicants complained of bias in hiring.

The settlement, arrived at last month and announced this week, means that the case will not go before a federal administrative law judge. If a judge had upheld the finding of discriminatory hiring, the university ultimately could have lost all its federal grants and contracts, which totaled $89.5 million last year.

Andrew M. McDonald, an assistant Maryland attorney general representing the university, said the Labor Department didn't look at individual cases of alleged discrimination.

"Sometimes just numbers don't accurately reflect what's going on," he said. "There were some apples-and-oranges comparisons being made that really weren't accurate."

In addition to the $230,000 payment to qualified applicants not hired between October 1985 and January 1991, the university agreed to:

* Offer 60 secretarial or clerical jobs within three years to black applicants who were previously found to be qualified but not hired.

* Make job interviews less subjective and increase reviews of hiring decisions.

* Provide more affirmative-action training to university personnel.

The dispute stemmed from a routine federal review of hiring practices when the university was being considered for a $1.3 million Army research contract.

The review found no discrimination in eight of nine job categories, including faculty and maintenance workers.

Mr. McDonald said the university took steps in 1989 to ensure that blacks were getting full consideration in hiring decisions.

Some 17.8 percent of the campus' secretaries and clerks are black, up from 14.5 percent in 1987, said Kathryn Costello, vice president for institutional advancement at College Park.

She said the campus goal was to increase that figure to 32.2 percent, which would reflect the racial makeup of the area.

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