Discrimination in the Federal Government: A Message to You

Unlawful discrimination (racial, gender, age, etc.) is on the rise in the federal government. Many federal workers are treated less favorably than others because of their membership in a protected group, despite the federal government’s claim of being non-discriminatory. The federal government, with roughly two million civilian employees, is one of the nation’s largest employers. The federal government’s equal employment opportunity policy informs that the United States Government does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability and genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, or any other non-merit factor. Nevertheless, the number of federal employees filing discrimination complaints increases annually. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the backlog of discrimination cases has lead to an average time of one year to complete investigations and close cases. The processing of discrimination complaints results in millions of taxpayers’ dollars being used to address the repeated improper behaviors of federal leaders.

A non-profit civil rights organization in Washington, D.C reported 16,480 individuals filed complaints alleging employment discrimination against the federal government in 2010. Roughly $210 million was awarded over a five year period (2007 – 2011) to resolve discrimination complaints. When the cost of processing those complaints (i.e., the salary of the government workers who process discrimination complaints) is added to the amount awarded to settle the complaints, it becomes clear that interventions by high ranking civil servants (e.g., the congress and other federal officials) are necessary. Rather than wait for civil servant leaders to decide to intervene and discipline those who facilitate discriminatory behavior, we should take steps to assist the victims of discrimination and show those who refuse to control their racist/discriminatory impulses that their behavior will result in meaningful disciplinary actions-including termination. Although the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation (No Fear) Act states that federal employees who engage in misconduct should be disciplined, many employees who suffer years of discrimination or retaliation at the hands of their leaders never see their leaders disciplined for their actions.

Research conducted concerning employee perceptions support the idea that many federal leaders fail to facilitate a fair and non-discriminatory work environment. The results of a 2009 study, concerning employee perceptions of whether or not their leaders are fair, showed that 42% of the federal civilians surveyed indicated their leaders do not use fair hiring and promoting procedures. Fifty-six percent of the respondents disagreed that the best candidate for the jobs announced at their workplace were hired without regard for their gender, race, or age. One of the federal government’s DOD agencies conducted a study in 2010 to gauge civilian employees’ feelings concerning discrimination in their workplace. The results showed that only 31% of respondents who suffered unlawful discrimination reported the act, 53% of the respondents who reported a discriminatory incident experienced adverse consequences, only 55% felt their leaders dealt effectively with prejudice and discrimination, only 61% felt their leaders work well with employees of different backgrounds, and 66% felt unlawful discrimination is tolerated at their place of employment.

Taxpayers should demand federal workers execute their duties in a way that ensures the funds granted by congress (i.e., taxpayers’ dollars) are spent responsibly. You should demand that irresponsible leaders be replaced and that hiring and promoting be based on properly developed job-related factors rather than nepotism and quid-pro-quos. Federal workers should stand together against workplace discrimination and report behavior that appears to be discriminatory. After all, workplace discrimination leads to official complaints that can result in multi-million dollar settlements which lead to tax increases.

Organizations such as the EEOC and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) exist to investigate and rectify employee complaints. Although the vast majority of the EEOC and MSPB complaints result in favorable rulings for the accused leaders, the outcome of each investigation (including some case information) is made available to the public. Each published complaint and resulting final decision serves as a puzzle piece that can be used to paint a picture relative to possible widespread discrimination. Once viewed by an artistic leader, that picture will lead to positive changes in government. Federal workers and taxpayers, in general, should support existing organizations (e.g., Coalition For Change-C4C and Blacks In Government-BIG) that have mission verbiage that includes fighting against discrimination and helping employees understand their rights. Taxpayers should also develop new organizations designed to discover, eradicate, and combat discriminatory activities within the federal government.

You should make sure your government abides by its policy concerning discrimination. Since the federal government’s policy states that the organization does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability and genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, or any other non-merit factor, you should report violations of that policy to the leaders of your organization, initially, and outside organizations such as the EEOC and MSPB if your leaders refuse to rectify the violation. You should keep the 4-Ps in mind-Puzzle Pieces Paint Pictures. Your actions might alleviate the need to spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars settling complaints and could, theoretically, lead to lower taxes. Together, we can help our country and its taxpayers. Will you join me?