October 2, 2002

A Marine takes on HUD

Ward Connerly

Former Marines aren't the kind that complain much. Especially a former Marine like 55-year old Dennis Worth who saw plenty of combat during his Vietnam tour of duty in the late 60's. But what happened to Mr. Worth at his job at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in St. Louis was more than even a veteran leatherneck could take.

Since 1995, Mr. Worth has been turned down for every promotion he sought at HUD even though he received either "outstanding" or "highly successful" ratings for his job performance. In fact, he was deemed "best qualified" in each of nearly a dozen jobs to which he applied, but he still never got a promotion.

What was the problem with Dennis Worth? Simple. He was the wrong race and the wrong sex. With only one exception, each of the jobs Worth applied for went to a female or a "minority" candidate. You see, since Mr. Worth is white, he doesn't fall into a "protected" group category and the jobs at HUD supposedly needed to go to people who had a different skin color or gender than Mr. Worth.

Sound fair to you? Well, it's not. And fairness matters a lot to Dennis Worth.

So the next step for Worth was to file a class action lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia challenging the employment "goals" and preferences for women and racial minorities at HUD. Additionally, the lawsuit also targets the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)--- the principal federal agency that acts as cheerleader and enforcer for "affirmative action" quota plans like the one at HUD.

Without a doubt, this is going to be a nasty legal fight because if HUD's race-based affirmative action program is struck down, it is just a matter of time before every governmental agency from coast to coast will be forced to reexamine theirs. The defenders of gender- and race-based employment preferences won't roll over in this case. They have too much to lose.

HUD claims it uses hiring and promotion goals to remedy instances of a "manifest imbalance" or "conspicuous absence" of women or minorities in certain sectors of its workforce. But the truth is that HUD mechanically uses quotas and preferences to balance even the slightest statistical disparity in minority and female employment in every single job category. This policy results in an attempt by HUD and other government agencies to achieve perfect racial proportionality in their workforce. Moreover, this kind of racial balancing act is unlawful unless HUD can show it previously discriminated against women and minority employees.

What's even more incredible about the quotas at HUD is that women and minorities are already substantially over-represented as a percentage of the Department's current employees. Although the percentage of minority employees in HUD's workforce is more than twice their proportion in the comparative civilian labor pool, preferential minority hiring goals are the rule rather than the exception at HUD. According to the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), the public interest law firm representing Mr. Worth, in 2001, HUD officials calculated that Asian males represent only 3.4% of the Department's workforce in the professional job category, whereas the figure for the comparative civilian labor force was 3.5%. This tiny difference - a tenth of a percent - was deemed by HUD to be a "manifest imbalance." So the solution for HUD is to set up preferential hiring and promotion goals for Asian males.

But what about the overwhelming "manifest imbalance" of white men in HUD's workforce? Forget about it. HUD overlooks much greater under-representation of white males. Though white males comprise 36% of the technical civilian labor force, they make up only 5% of the technical employees at HUD.

And heaven help the manager at any federal agency who doesn't toe the line to ensure just the perfect percentage of women and minorities. According to HUD's internal affirmative action employment plan, any HUD manager who fails "to take the necessary actions to ensure that [these affirmative action] goals and objectives are achieved" may receive an unacceptable rating in his performance appraisal, which may result in reassignment, grade reduction or removal.

It is ironic that an agency assigned one of the primary responsibilities of promoting "equal opportunity" throughout our nation should find itself discriminating in the interest of promoting "diversity." When will HUD and the federal government learn that "diversity" should not be an excuse to discriminate? When will the federal government start providing the requisite leadership to lead our nation away from race-based decision-making and race-based outcomes and the collection of race data as a condition for the receipt of federal grants and loans?

Worth's lawsuit does not challenge the under-representation of white males, nor does it challenge the overrepresentation of any other group. What is at issue here is that HUD's use of race and gender in its employment decisions is simply wrong. Unfortunately for Dennis Worth and other job applicants, just the opposite is true

There were a couple of different legal roads Dennis Worth could have taken in his fight against the employment policies at HUD: first, he could have filed a lawsuit on behalf of just himself and, if successful, he might have received a better job and some money for lost compensation.

But instead of that, he filed a suit on behalf of all current and future employees who may have experienced the same kind of discrimination as he did, which means he isn't asking for a new job and any financial damages for himself. "I don't want to dwell on the past. All I'm asking for is an end to the discrimination," Worth said when the lawsuit was filed a few weeks ago.

That doesn't seem like too much to ask for.

Ward Connerly is founder and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, a member group.

Contact Ward Connerly | Read his biography

2002 American Civil Rights Institute