Agencies Pay the Price of Discrimination, Retaliation
Bush signed legislation yesterday that is designed
to hold federal agencies more accountable for acts of
discrimination or reprisal against their employees.
new law will hit agencies in their pocketbooks,
according to proponents. It requires agencies to
pay - out of their budgets - for settlements and
judgments against them in discrimination and
whistle-blower cases. Most settlements and awards
in favor of federal employees who sue agencies in
discrimination cases have been paid from a
government-wide Judgment Fund. In addition, the
law requires agencies to file reports with Congress and
the attorney general on the number of complaints filed
against them by employees, the disposition of each case,
the total of all monetary awards charged against the
agency and the number of agency employees disciplined
for discrimination or harassment.
law directs agencies to post on their Internet sites
"summary statistical data" about the numbers
and types of equal employment opportunity complaints
filed against them.
legislation's chief sponsors were Reps. F. James
Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), Sheila Jackson Lee
(D-TX), Constance A. Morella (R-MD) and Sen. John
House, by a vote of 412 to 0, sent the measure to Bush
on April 30th after Senate approval on April 23rd.
longer will discrimination and retaliation be swept
under the rug and considered an inconvenience for
working at a federal agency." said Sensenbrenner,
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
"By holding accountable those who insist upon
discrimination against others, the federal government
will become a role model for civil rights - and not
civil rights violations."
the Senate debate, Warner hailed the measure as
"the first civil rights bill of the new
century" and predicted that it would "create a
more productive work environment by ensuring that
agencies enforce the laws intended to protect employees
from harassment, discrimination and retaliation for
legislation grew out of a House investigation two years
ago into what Sensenbrenner aides called a disturbing
pattern of intolerance, harassment and discrimination at
the Environmental Protection Agency. During the
probe, federal employees at other agencies complained of
those who had pushed for the legislation was Marsha
Coleman-Adebayo, an EPA employee who was awarded
$600,000 in 2000 by a Washington jury in a federal race
and sex discrimination case against the agency. A
judge later reduced the jury award to $300,000.
legislation - the Notification and Federal Employee
Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act or "No
FEAR" - alters a long-standing practice that
permitted agencies to avoid the costs of settlements and
judgments in bias cases.
created the Judgment Fund to avoid having to approve
specific appropriations for such legal costs and, in
theory, to allow for prompter payment. Under the
new law, agencies must reimburse the fund for
settlements and judgments. Because some judgments
might leave agencies short of cash, the law allows for a
"reasonable time" to reimburse the Judgment
Fund and says agencies may extend payments over several
years to avoid layoffs or furloughs.
General Accounting Office reported that in fiscal year
2000 agencies paid about $26 million in discrimination
complaint settlements and judgments. In the same
period, the Judgment Fund paid out $43 million more in
The Washington Post, written by Stephen Barr