WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com)—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.
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.