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Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson's Statement Regarding GAO Report On Possible Discrimination At The Department Of Energy

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and Ranking Member of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Research, gave the following statement yesterday at a press conference releasing a new GAO report that probes possible discrimination in personnel actions taken at three U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facilities:

"I would like to thank all of you in attendance for coming today. In October of 2000, my colleague on the House Science Committee and current Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Representative Wu and I requested the General Accounting Office (GAO) to review personnel actions at the three national weapons labs of the Department of Energy.

"We did this in response to the DOE's poor handling of the Wen Ho Lee investigation. Representative Wu and I were concerned that the inappropriate handling of the Wen Ho Lee case may reflect the existence of a pattern of discrimination against personnel in other areas of the weapons labs. I have heard individual accounts of discrimination at federal laboratories for years, and the report was commissioned to see if statistical evidence would back up the anecdotal evidence.

"The GAO report that is being released today paints a disturbing picture of inconsistency in the way minorities and women are treated in certain personnel actions at Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. It shows that in some of the weapons labs there are differences in the way that ethnic and gender groups receive salary and merit-pay increases. The fact that these differences exist at federal institutions is very troubling to me. We have laws that encourage equality and diversity in the workforce. The federal labs should serve as a model to other public and private employers, and in this case, they simply don't.

"The report also uncovered a disappointing lack of coordination between the DOE and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCPP). This lack of coordination resulted in one lab receiving an "outstanding" rating on its EEOC compliance from DOE while in the same year the OFCPP cited affirmative action violations.

"In addition to the troubling inconsistencies in personnel actions at the weapons labs, the report draws attention to extremely small numbers of African-American scientists in this country. There are so few African-Americans employed in managerial and professional levels at these labs that African-Americans had to be combined with Native Americans to have a statistically significant group from which comparisons could be made. This is an outrage. I have long held the belief that America's workforce - at all levels and in all sectors - should reflect the face of our country. We as a nation must do everything we can to ensure that Americans from all backgrounds have the opportunities to ascend to a position as prestigious as that of a head scientist at a national laboratory.

"I would like to add that I am puzzled by the fact that the EEOC declined to comment on the report's findings. I simply cannot understand why an agency charged with protecting equal employment opportunities for all Americans would not have anything to say about a report that uncovered discrepancies in employment practices.

"The Department of Energy and Department of Labor generally agreed with the findings of the GAO report and have said that they will collaborate to improve their evaluation and investigation of employee actions. The Department of Energy pledged to take corrective actions to ensure that all employees, regardless of their ethnicity or gender, receive equal treatment at all of its facilities, not just the three labs investigated in this report.

"Just as the civil rights movement in America is not over, Congress's oversight of this issue is not complete. We will monitor the DOE's actions and hold them accountable for their future performance. Thank you."

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

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