The Final Call Online Edition



WEB POSTED 06-26-2001




U.S. army accused of 'blacklisting'

by Memorie Knox

WASHINGTON (—Dr. C. Denise West knew things were bad when she was consistently denied promotions and training opportunities at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. So in August 1997 she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging racial discrimination and a hostile work environment.

From that point things went from bad to worse.

"I was sent home, ostracized, and isolated at work for over a year. It was humiliating," Dr. West told The Final Call. "I’ve gone to school and gotten my education, but they just wanted me to know that I was still a second class citizen."

Matthew Fogg, executive director of the newly formed Redstone Arsenal Minority Employees Association (RAM), also was shocked.

"The employees complained of blacklisting, meaning they couldn’t get jobs in other areas. So I asked Dr. West’s supervisor was she (West) blacklisted? He said yes, she was blacklisted. I didn’t expect anybody to come out and say it, but he said it to me," said Mr. Fogg.

But AMCOM spokesman Al Schwartz flatly denies any blacklisting, telling reporters, "There is no blacklist. We do not, will not, tolerate discrimination."

The Army responded to the increasing complaints with an independent three-month assessment of their personnel and promotions processes by the firm Booz-Allen and Hamilton. Army officials said the May 22 report gave the command high marks for its job selection, equal employment opportunities, grievance handling processes and the many actions taken to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all employees.

RAM brought its concerns to Washington June 8 as part of a press conference with the NAACP federal sector task force praising the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation Act (NoFEAR) H.R. 169.

H.R. 169 was reintroduced to the 107th Congress by Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), following last year’s House Science Committee investigation that uncovered a disturbing pattern of rampant discrimination at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Similar legislation, S. 201, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). Dr. David L. Lewis, Ph.D, testified before a Judiciary Committee hearing on his experiences with the EPA.

"The Labor Department investigated and found that the EPA officials had denied me a promotion in a retaliatory and discriminatory manner," said Dr. Lewis. "EPA scientists continue to feel intimidated by EPA’s practice of retaining and promoting managers who retaliate and discriminate."

The NoFEAR Act, which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in May, would make the government directly accountable for harassing and retaliating against employees who report government fraud, waste and abuse, and for discriminating against employees by failing to recruit, reward and retain the "most qualified person" for federal positions.

"In agency after agency, the NAACP Federal Sector Task Force continues to see a pattern and practice of the most egregious cases of discrimination. Even within the Department of Justice (DOJ), the only Federal agency that has enforcement authority for the violation of Civil Rights law, blatant racism thrives," said Leroy W. Warren, chairman of the NAACP task force.

At a time when the federal government reflects more and more diversity, the General Accounting Office states that the number of unresolved discrimination cases under the EEO Commissions jurisdiction continues to grow.

From 1991 to 1998, complaint backlogs at federal agencies grew by 114 percent—to about 36,000. During the same period, the backlog at the Commission grew by 280 percent—to nearly 12,000—while the appeals inventory rose by 648 percent—to nearly 11,000.

"There are so many federal agencies now operating counter productive to our great Constitution and its discrimination laws. NoFEAR will at least make the agency heads who are finding violations give an account for the money they must spend on these violations. And that means the U.S. Army and NASA commands in Huntsville," said Mr. Fogg.

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