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Department of Labor employees union alleges racial discrimination in complaint to Secretary Perez

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Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

The union that represents low-ranking Department of Labor (DOL) employees alleged racial hiring discrimination and discrimination of people with disabilities in an internal assessment being presented to DOL Secretary Thomas Perez Thursday.

The document, obtained by The Daily Caller, alleges that DOL is making a conscious effort to deny claims of discrimination among many other complaints including “abysmal” training procedures and “subjective performance appraisals” that promote “cultural norms” and “less diverse” college-educated employees over experienced non-college-educated veterans.

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 12, AFL-CIO represents Department of Labor employees at the GS 14 level and lower that do not have any supervisory responsibilities.

The union is meeting with Secretary Perez Thursday to discuss ways to boost employee morale (DOL recently ranked 19th out of 20 agencies in employee satisfaction, according to a government survey, ahead of only the Department of Homeland Security). Local 12 is emailing members asking for suggestions about which issues to raise with Perez.

Local 12 compiled an “assessment” to be presented to Secretary Perez listing its own issues to concentrate on, noting that “This document is by no means exhaustive of the myriad of issues that both labor and management encounter on a day-to-day basis. We view this document as a source from which we can begin discussions, initiate actions, and all commit ourselves to assuring a better results on the next Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).”

Here are 8 major takeaways from the union’s assessment:

1. Hiring discrimination against black males, black females and Hispanic females: 

“The statistics from our own Civil Rights Center reflect the discrimination in hiring, promotions, and removals at the Department of Labor.  What is more frustrating than these statistics are the other statistics that show that when EEO claims are filed, discrimination is rarely, if ever, found to have occurred.

“There were a total of 22 removals from DOL, of which 12 (54.5%) were women and 10 (45.5%) were minorities.   The percentages of removal actions taken against black males, black females and Hispanic females were higher than their respective representation in the DOL workforce.   Black males accounted for 13.64% (3 individuals) of the removals, black females accounted for 22.7% (5 individuals) of the removals, and Hispanic females accounted for 9.09% (2 individuals) of the removals, compared to their DOL workforce representation rates of 6.54%, 15.99% and 4.4%, respectively.”

2. Hiring discrimination against people with disabilities was found in a DOL report to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

The DOL report stated that “[i]ndividuals with Targeted Disabilities are not promoted at a rate consistent with their representation in the Qualified Applicant Pools for GS-13, GS-14, and GS-15 level positions.”

3. DOL’s Civil Rights Center to judge employee discrimination complaints is making a “conscious effort” to “deny claims,” is staffed by people with no legal backgrounds, and is slanting results:

“There appears to be a conscious effort made by the Civil Rights Center to deny claims.  This is simple for the supervisory staff to achieve because it utilizes the services of persons who have no general legal backgrounds and are certainly not civil rights lawyers. When DOL addresses complaints of discrimination from the private sector, DOL utilizes its vast legal resources, namely DOL attorneys.

“The Department reflects its lack of commitment to the investigatory and decision by staffing the Civil Rights Center with personnel who lack legal credentials…There are very few attorneys employed to provide legal investigations and analysis of the discrimination complaints.  However, because the EEO office is always directed by a minority person from a protected class, the patina of fairness is there. “If a white, Anglo-Saxon male ever directed the Civil Rights Center and found discrimination in only 1.5% of the complaints, there would be an uproar.  However, because this is never the case, the slanted results are assumed to be fair. They are not.”

4. Secretary Solis is not meeting with the department’s Disability Advisory Council, an employee working group that DOL established in 1998 to protect the rights of DOL workers with disabilities. Here are the 13 dates on which Local 12 alleges that DOL management did not respond to the Disability Advisory Council:

May 4, 2009, March 5, 2010, April 15, 2010, May 5, 2010, September 26, 2012, October 9, 2012, December 11, 2012, May 29, 2013, June 17, 2013, July 23, 2013, July 30, 2013, August 7, 2013, November 11, 2013

5. The “Career Enhancement Program” is causing “less diverse populations who do not know the DOL programs” but have college degrees to move up over non-college educated department veterans…and when Local 12 complained, they were shut out of the process:

“We have expected the Department to be on board with us in this endeavor.  However, during the Solis Administration Local 12 was excluded from partnering with DOL to create an in-house upward mobility program.  Although we were allowed to participate in the initial structuring of the program, when we objected to the program being opened to persons with college degrees, we were unceremoniously precluded from further assisting in the rollout of the program.

“We still object to long-term employees, who know the programs well, having to compete with younger, less diverse populations, who do not know the DOL programs…It is unquestionable that in light of President Obama’s Executive Order 13522, Local 12 has not only a right but an obligation to participate in the creation of the DOL CEP.  The fact that Local 12 refused to accept management’s demand that the program be open to higher-graded employees and college educated workers should not render Local 12’s participation null.”

6. “Abysmal” training for managers and bargaining unit employees:

“Persons who are promoted to management generally begin supervising employees without having had a single training session as to what constitutes proper supervision.

“Historically, the DOL has placed little emphasis on identifying and prioritizing the training and developmental needs of its workforce… Select groups of newly hired employees are provided with basic, structured training; however, recurrent training opportunities in a structured training environment are rarely offered.

“While the training for all bargaining unit employees is lacking, the training for lower-graded employees is abysmal.”

7. “Performance Appraisals are not designed to assess actual performance”:

“Employees state that the highly subjective performance appraisals completed by managers focus on their perceptions of ‘the individual,’ including characterizations of their personal traits, (perceived) knowledge of a subject matter, and exhibited behaviors rather than the actual duties they perform…Employees are provided with infrequent, inconsistent, and often meaningless feedback.

“Cultural norms and values influence performance appraisals. For example, in many agencies, new hires are automatically given an average rating during their first few years of employment, regardless of their actual performance. This practice has resulted in a high employee turnover rate.”

8. DOL has some kind of self-performance review called “mirror assessments” that are resulting in “discrimination”:

“Most people, and managers are no exception, have a tendency to rate people like themselves more positively. This has resulted in issues of discrimination in the evaluation process.”

DOL has not yet reviewed the document and declined to comment at this time.

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