WASHINGTON – Two Maryland lawmakers on Thursday defended federal agencies’ employment policies against critics who said white male workers have been hurt by race-based promotion practices.
Rep. Constance Morella, R-Montgomery, acknowledged there are cases of reverse discrimination, but said affirmative action programs have helped achieve a more diverse federal work place.
“To uproot affirmative action polices would freeze this progress in place,” she said.
Morella said affirmative action isn’t designed to hurt men but to find qualified applicants in under-represented populations. “Affirmative action says that if you don’t have these people, search,” she said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, told the House Government Reform and Oversight civil service subcommittee that affirmative action remains necessary. “There are a lot of people who are being left out of the system,” he said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said there is little evidence to support claims of widespread discrimination against men, pointing to complaints filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
White men employed by the federal government filed 9,719 race-based complaints with the EEOC – 4.1 percent of the 239,744 total – between 1987 and 1994. They filed 17.6 percent of 27,898 sex discrimination complaints for that same time period.
But critics of affirmative action said EEOC officials don’t pursue complaints from white men as vigorously as they defend the rights of women and minorities.
Edward Drury, an air traffic controller who worked for the Federal Aviation Administration for 26 years, told the subcommittee his career was “destroyed” by managers who replaced him with a black man.
Drury complained to the FAA’s equal employment opportunity system, but “the department’s civil rights staff never considered the merits of the case, but rather chose to dismiss the case on a `timeliness’ technicality,” he said.
He later sued and was awarded $500,000 in damages by a jury.
FAA spokeswoman Allison Duquette said the agency would not comment on Drury’s case, but said “the FAA does not tolerate discrimination on any basis.”
Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., told the subcommittee that federal agencies should eliminate affirmative action policies.
“It is exceptionally difficult to defend, morally or legally, the government policy of giving race-based preferences,” he said. “We will never overcome discrimination by practicing discrimination.”
The hearing was the second of two on discrimination in the federal work place.
The testimony may be used to help mold, or kill, pending legislation, including a measure by Canady to end all federal race-based preference programs and a bill by Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Calif., to streamline the EEOC complaint process.