NAACP chief lends support to anti-discrimination bill

The Associated Press
Thursday May 10, 2001

WASHINGTON — Federal employees who complain about discrimination or report fraud at their agencies routinely suffer reprisals and continued abuse from their supervisors, the NAACP’s president told lawmakers Wednesday. 

Among the examples cited by Kweisi Mfume at a House Judiciary Committee hearing: A Federal Aviation Administration employee’s car was vandalized after she complained about a Confederate flag display and references to slavery at the agency; at the Agriculture Department, someone scribbled on the wall that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stood for “Now Apes Are Called People”; a hanging noose was found at a black employee’s desk at an Army Corps of Engineers district office in Massachusetts. 

No one was ever prosecuted for any of those actions, Mfume said. 

“Discrimination and retaliation against people who complain about it and their supporters, is rampant in federal departments and agencies across the nation,” he said. 

The committee chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, are again pushing the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act, or No FEAR bill, after introducing it last year. 

Sensenbrenner said agencies should have to pay for settlements or judgments against them in whistle-blower and discrimination cases, rather than tapping a government-wide general fund. 

“This will make the agency more accountable for its actions,” he said. 

The bill also would require agencies to inform employees of their options under anti-discrimination laws and to notify Congress how many discrimination cases have been filed against them and the outcome. 

J. Christopher Mihm of the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said that for government to work well, “allegations of discrimination and reprisal for whistle-blowing in the federal workplace must be dealt with.” 

Mfume said an NAACP survey found 92 percent of the employees questioned at a Bureau of Printing and Engraving facility in Fort Worth, Texas, said they had been discriminated against.  

An investigation by an NAACP task force found similar problems in other agencies, he said. 

Also testifying at the hearing was Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who won a $300,000 judgment in a discrimination lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. 

She contended in a lawsuit that she was denied promotion on two occasions while white men in similar positions were not.  

She said she was the target of racial slurs and suffered retaliation after she complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

“I wish I could tell you that my situation is unusual, but it is all too common,” she said. 

The jury awarded her $600,000 in compensatory damages. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly subsequently cut the award in half and EPA Administrator Christie Whitman has asked to drop the appeals against the award. 

On the Net: 

Information on the bill, H.R. 169, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov 

House Judiciary Committee: http://www.house.gov/judiciary 

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: http://www.naacp.org