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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) News Stories about Discrimination

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Lawmakers Denounce EPA Over Alleged Bias (10/05/00)

          "Members of Congress yesterday ordered EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner to sort out allegations of racial and sexual discrimination made against the agency, and clear up the "mess" before the start of the next administration.

          "During a highly charged hearing lasting more than three hours, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, warned an emotional Browner that an incoming president should not be faced with a "can of garbage."

          "In August, an environment specialist at the EPA related how, as the only black employee on an agency business trip, she was singled out and ordered to clean a toilet. Earlier that month, a federal jury ruled that Marsha Lynne Coleman-Adebayo, an African affairs specialist, had been discriminated against because of her race and gender. And just this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that the director of an EPA laboratory in Athens, Ga., had been discriminated against when she was told to relocate.

          "To gasps from the public and members of Congress, Coleman-Adebayo told how a colleague who had called her an "honorary white man" had not only kept his job but had been promoted. By contrast, while African Americans make up 18 percent of the EPA's work force of more than 17,000, they represent 57 percent of those fired by the agency, she said. Describing the EPA as a "21st century plantation," she and other witnesses urged Congress to pressure the EPA to root out and fire managers who discriminate.

          "In documents accompanying her [Administrator Carol Browner's] testimony, the EPA revealed that, since 1992, minority representation in the Senior Executive Service has more than tripled, and since 1993, has increased by 116 percent in Grades 13--the professional level--and above."   (Washington Post 10/05/00, Page A33, by Cathy Newman)
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EPA Boss Told to Clean Up Agency's Racial Practices (10/04/00)

WASHINGTON — "The [Republican] chairman of the House Science Committee told the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday to clean up the agency's policy toward minorities.  Members of the Science Committee heard African-American employees rattle off a long list of charges of racism during a hearing on EPA practices.

          "This administration will be going out of office in a little bit more than three months. I think it is important that you spend your personal time between now and January 20th cleaning up this mess so that the new president and whoever he appoints as EPA administrator does not get a can of garbage to start out a new administration," Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., told EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

          "Headlining the hearing was Marsha Coleman Adebayo, senior adviser to the director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics.

          "In August, a jury awarded Coleman Adebayo a $600,000 verdict after she complained that EPA managers were guilty of "racism, sexism, color discrimination and creating a hostile work environment." Coleman Adebayo said her boss told her the only reason she was permitted to participate in high-level meetings is because she was considered "an honorary white man."

          "This agency is run like a 21st century plantation and this has to stop," Coleman Adebayo said.

          "EPA officials said they recognized that problems exist, particularly in the response rate to complaints, but added that their agency faced fewer charges of discrimination than other government bureaus. They do, however, take longer than the government average to process those charges, admitted Romulo L. Diaz, Jr., assistant administrator for Administration and Resources Management (OARM). On average, the EPA takes 575 days to process a discrimination complaint. The federal government average is 384 days.

          "Since 1993, 626 discrimination complaints have been filed within the agency, Diaz said. Fifty-seven percent of those cases were resolved at an early, informal stage.

          "Diaz told that since 1998, there have been 269 complaints filed by 169 indivduals. Eighty-nine are resolved, nine are under appeal, 127 are being processed and 44 are in hearings at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

          "Coleman Adebayo also used numbers to make her argument.  "Fifty-seven percent of people fired were African American. We're much more likely to be fired than other people at the EPA," she said. She said that she has opened a victims of racial discrimination group that hosts 80-100 people at its meetings, but many more minorities don't attend because they are afraid of reprisal."  (FoxNews 10/04/00 by Sharon Kehnemui)
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Browner Defends EPA Diversity Efforts (10/05/00 - no link)

          "The House Science Committee criticized the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for not keeping discrimination in check.

          "But EPA Administrator Carol Browner angrily dismissed the committee's charges, saying that under her leadership, the agency has come a long way in improving race relations.

          "Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) commended Browner for trying to make EPA more tolerant, but said her efforts have not translated into results.  "As Administrator Browner is well aware, this committee has been looking into allegations of intolerance at EPA for over a year," Sensenbrenner said. "We find ourselves here today because of EPA's apparent failure to accept open dissent, and its apparent habit of retaliating against those who do speak out."

A Bias Award:  "Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, an EPA employee who won a discrimination suit against the EPA in August, said EPA officials retaliated against her after she was awarded $600,000 by a Washington jury.  "The agency has refused to police itself and address those injustices," Adebayo said. "Congress must take action to ensure that prohibited personnel practices are not tolerated and that disciplinary action ... is taken."

          "Although expressing sympathy to Adebayo, Browner said she has aggressively pushed diversity at the agency.  The EPA's policy is one of "not tolerating discrimination in any form, whether it be race, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation," Browner said.

          "Since 1992, minority representation in the Senior Executive Service has more than tripled," Browner said. "In addition, minority representation in Grades 13 and above has increased by 116 percent since 1993, from 1,086 in 1993 to 2,348 in 2000," she said.

          "The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People questioned Browner's effectiveness at improving the race climate at EPA.  "The careers of an excessive number of black scientists and other minority employees at EPA have been unjustly devastated," said Leroy W. Warren Jr., chairman of the NAACP Federal Sector Task Force. "Numerous cries for help to EPA officials and the EPA administrator were basically ignored."

          "Though concerned about discrimination, many Democratic Committee members balked at what they saw as a politicized and unfair hearing. "In this venue ... I do not see the sincerity of this committee; instead, I see a political stunt that is truly regrettable in my eyes," said Rep. Bernice Johnson (D-Texas).

          "Committee Republicans pushed ahead though, with most harshly criticizing the EPA and holding Browner's feet to the fire. "While we do not expect Administrator Browner to prevent every misdeed, we do expect the administrator to ensure that appropriate disciplinary actions occur and that claims are adequately investigated," Sensenbrenner said."  ( 10/05/00 by Joel Melstad)
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EPA officials deny discrimination (10/05/00 - no link)

          "Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency vigorously defended their agency's commitment to diversity yesterday during a House hearing that focused on allegations of widespread discrimination and retaliation.

           "The House Science Committee heard testimony from a black senior manager at EPA who won a $600,000 verdict in a race and sex discrimination suit against the agency in August, and other witnesses who provided egregious examples of alleged discrimination throughout the agency.

           "EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner cited her agency's accomplishments in promoting diversity within the agency's higher ranks and in ensuring fairness throughout EPA.  "We have changed the composition of EPA's highest senior level advisory committees to better reflect the agency's workforce. In addition, minority representation in grades 13 and above has increased by 116 percent since 1993 from 1,086 in 1993 to 2,348 in 2000," said Browner.

          "Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a black senior policy analyst at EPA, won a race and sex discrimination suit against the agency this past summer. Testifying at yesterday's hearing, Coleman-Adebayo said her colleagues at EPA regarded her as "an honorary white man" and was told her managers considered her "uppity."

          "While working in EPA's Office of International Activities, Coleman-Adebayo, who has a doctorate in international and African development, said she was replaced by a white man with no background in Africa.

          "Other allegations of discrimination and retaliation at EPA involved a female black environmental specialist at the agency, who said she was singled out by her supervisor during a 1993 business trip to North Carolina and asked to clean a toilet before Browner's arrival. The woman was the only black employee on the trip.

          "Another incident involved Rosemarie Russo, director of the EPA's Office of Research and Development laboratory in Athens, Ga. Russo alleges the agency retaliated against her by "reassigning her to Washington, D.C." after she testified before Congress about problems with EPA science and the harassment of an employee.

          "Browner defended her agency's strong commitment to a fair and diverse workplace. "We have undertaken an intense and sustained level of activity, designed to build an institutional culture that is fair, equitable and supportive of each member of our workforce. These efforts have included the collaborative creation of diversity action plans, training programs and a thorough review of hiring, promotion and award practices," she said.

          U.S. Representative Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.) "asked agency officials how the EPA compares with other federal agencies in terms of the number of EEO complaints it receives. "I believe the agency compares favorably with other agencies," said Romulo L. Diaz Jr., assistant administrator for Administration and Resources Management at EPA.  Diaz said the EPA has had 623 discrimination complaints since 1993, and 57 percent of those complaints were resolved early on.

          "Since 1993, EPA has terminated 112 people for misconduct. This misconduct included repeated absences without leave and poor performance. Of the 112, 67 percent were minorities."   ( 10/05/00 by Kellie Lunney)
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EPA Chief Seeks Probe Of Discrimination Claim (09/01/00)

          "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner called yesterday for an inspector general's investigation into an African American employee's assertion that a supervisor ordered her to clean a toilet for Browner during a 1993 agency event.

          "Anita Nickens, an environment specialist, made the claim Wednesday during a rally held by dozens of EPA employees to protest what they called rampant bias at the federal agency.

          "The EPA was hit recently with a $600,000 verdict in a race and sex discrimination case. The protesters said they are planning to file a class action discrimination lawsuit against the agency.

          EPA Administrator Carol Browner, a strong Clinton supporter and pro-quota advocate told the committee "I find the allegation by Anita Nickens so abhorrent and blatantly discriminatory that I have asked for a full-scale investigation into this matter.  It is even more disturbing that this may have been done in my name by some supervisor, since I had no knowledge of the incident and obviously would never condone such behavior."  (Washington Post 09/01/00, Page A25, by Michale A. Fletcher)
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Rampant Bias at EPA Is Alleged (08/31/00)

          "Dozens of Environmental Protection Agency employees staged a rally yesterday to protest what they called rampant bias at the federal agency, which was hit earlier this month with a $600,000 verdict in a race and sex discrimination case.

          "Framed by supporters holding placards saying things such as "End Racism at EPA," about 10 current and former agency employees related personal stories of discrimination while other EPA workers looked on at Freedom Plaza.

          "Anita Nickens, an environment specialist at EPA, fought back tears as she spoke about being ordered to clean a toilet during a 1993 EPA event in North Carolina. Nickens said that she was among six employees staying in a lodge during the business trip. She was the only black employee on the trip and the one singled out by a supervisor to clean the toilet in anticipation of the arrival of EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner.

          "She does not use the toilet behind anyone else," Nickens said she was told. Worried about the ramifications of defying a directive, Nickens said she reluctantly followed the order, only to be devastated when her supervisor later bragged about it to others.

          "Still other employees complained about arbitrary performance evaluations, retaliation from supervisors for speaking up about unfair working conditions, being passed over for promotions or having to endure retaliation after complaining about environmental or other hazards on the job.

          "We have made these complaints known to EPA, but so far they have fallen on deaf [ears]," said Leroy W. Warren Jr., an NAACP national board member and chairman of the civil rights group's federal sector task force, which helped organize the rally.

          "Earlier this month, a black senior manager at EPA won a $600,000 verdict in U.S. District Court, after what she called years of harassment."  (Washington Post 08/31/00, Page A29, by Michael A. Fletcher)
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*  We use the term reverse discrimination reluctantly and only because it is so widely understood.  In our opinion there really is only one kind of discrimination.