02 September 2011
A local woman is working hard to get more equality in federal jobs as she believes the government is closing doors on opportunities for minorities. “I felt that Black federal employees that were brave enough to take on the injustices that were happening to us needed to have an advocacy group to actually expose what’s going on in the federal government,” said Tanya Ward Jordan, founder of the Coalition for Change (C4C).
Jordan founded C4C in 2009 after taking part in a class action suit against the U.S. Department of Commerce that was settled out of court. Jordan says part of the problem lies in the sheer number of opportunities not given to minorities.
According to a 2006 report by the Office of Personnel Management, the percentage of Blacks and Latinos in high-grade positions decreases the higher you get. GS-08 held the highest percentage of Black and Latino workers at 26.7 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. However, for whites, that number increases the higher up the scale one goes. Whites garnered 81.2 percent of all GS-15 positions, the highest obtainable for civilian employees, distancing its next closest minority group by 74 percent.
"When it’s time to put people in positions, people pick family and friends,” Jordan said. "When you talk about favoritism in favor of White people at the exclusion of Black people, then a lot of times that translates to racism because a lot of times we’re being blocked out.”
Despite the numbers and Jordan’s assertions, federal law prohibits that practice unless it is "job related and consistent with business necessity."
Part of the issue, Jordan says, is the way complaints have to be filed. In order for federal employees to start the EEO complaint process, they have to first file a complaint with an EEO counselor within 45 days of when they think they’ve been discriminated against. If the dispute isn’t settled, then the EEO counselor must inform employees how to file a formal complaint, which the aggrieved then have 15 days to file.
Federal agencies have 180 days to investigate, which will result in a final decision or a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge. Employees must go through the entire administrative process before filing a lawsuit.
Jordan says for those who have been terminated or were denied employment, the process can become expensive to complete. “These poor employees have to get legal counsel and once you’re fired, you most likely don’t have much money,” she said. “They have to take out loans and that type of stuff. We try to provide information and support the best we can with how they can best help themselves.”
Jordan plans to push forward and says that her work is bigger than just equality in the federal government. She says it’s about Black people everywhere. “Internal discrimination on the inside spills over into our public programs and services and how they administer these services to our Black community and other minorities,” she said. “The federal government is over everything we do.”