Race Bias #25 - "Quota Enforcement Police"

The federal government's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is charged with enforcing the "affirmative action plans" that every employer must agree to adopt in order to land a federal contract.

The excerpts quoted below are intended to give you a sense of what the federal enforcement effort looks and feels like to the typical contractor doing business with the federal government.

July 1, 1996 Wall Street Journal p A12

Bureaucratic Carpet Bombing


The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a little known but extremely powerful branch of the Department of Labor, is America's premier racial racketeering agency.

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The OFCCP enforces affirmative action obligations on federal contractors. For many products, the federal government is a monopoly buyer; private companies that produce those products have a choice of meeting the government's demands or perishing. More than 200,000 companies and institutions with more than 25 million employees are subject to the OFCCP's racial and gender dictates. The OFCCP's more than 500 compliance officers conduct over 4,000 compliance reviews a year.

"The OFCCP as it now operates is a racial spoils system," says Peter Kirsanow, a Cleveland labor lawyer. "For a long time we just called them the Office of Racial, Sexual and Ethnic Engineering." According to former OFCCP Director Ellen Shong Bergman, the agency's officers are sometimes guilty of "attempted extortion" in their threats against businesses that fail to hire and promote sufficient minorities and women.

The OFCCP's routine methods amount to bureaucratic carpet bombing. Jennifer Taylor, personnel director of City Utilities of Springfield, Mo., testified to the House Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities on Feb. 29 about the nightmare OFCCP audit her company experienced last year. An OFCCP compliance officer descended upon the company and spent almost an entire year going through its files. The official demanded "documentation and reasons why virtually every minority and female considered for promotion and new hire was not selected for nearly every opening," Ms. Taylor testified. Though the company had roughly the same proportion of minorities on its payroll as in the local labor market, the OFCCP demanded that the company in the future recruit from the Kansas City area-170 miles away.

OFCCP's policies can result in dumbing down the work force. Former Director Bergman noted that one OFCCP district director penalizes contractors for "failure to select a woman, black or Hispanic who is as qualified as the least qualified incumbent, irrespective of superior qualifications of other non-minority applicants." With this standard, the OFCCP seeks to drag down the company's hiring to the lowest level of any current staffer.

Many OFCCP compliance officers abuse their power at the work site. According to one industry attorney, an OFCCP district director in California shows up at site visits and warns the contractor: "If you get a lawyer, I will make it more difficult for you." The director has proclaimed to harrowed employees during audits: "You won't have a job around here much longer unless you cooperate with us because you are in deep trouble." Contractor employees have been left in tears by the OFCCP district director's bullying.

Since 1991, the OFCCP has been on a jihad against the so-called glass ceiling-invisible "attitudinal" barriers to the advancement of women and minorities into the top ranks of corporate power. Earlier this year, the OFCCP sent a notice of violation to the University of Cincinnati instructing it to inform 157 faculty members that "they are part of a group of female and minority professors whose salary should be adjusted." Even in cases where one professor had a doctorate degree from an Ivy League school and another had a master's degree from Ball State, or one had 20 years' experience and another was a new hire, the OFCCP made no adjustment in comparing salaries.

One of Washington's most experienced private sector labor lawyers observed of the method used in this audit: "They do that all the time. They see this as a quick and dirty way to collect a lot of back pay from institutions that are very dependent on government contracts." The OFCCP's glass ceiling methods are routinely characterized as "blackmail" by labor lawyers.

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Government contractors rarely challenge OFCCP power grabs. "Everybody knows what is going on," says Wayne State University Law Prof. Kingsley Browne. "The problem is that the business community has been completely spineless on this issue."

Then-Sen. Bob Dole and Rep. Charles Canady (R., Fla.) proposed the Equal Opportunity Act of 1996, a bill prohibiting the use of racial and gender preferences in federal government programs. The bill would gut the OFCCP'S power to impose racial hiring goals. If the Republicans ever decide to wake up and champion the principle of freedom, the Dole bill would be a fine place to begin.

Mr. Bovard is a visiting media fellow at the Hoover Institution. This article is adapted from the July issue of The American Spectator.

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