The Justice Department has asked the United States District Court here to throw out a landmark disrimination suit brought by Sears Roebuck & Co. against 10 government agencies, claimin the Sears complaint is a "political essay, not a lawsuit."
In court papers filed late Monday, Justice alleged that the court does not have jurisdiction over Sears allegations. The government does not comment on the merits of the allegations.
Sears, the largest retailer in the U.S., had charged in January that the government's own policies had created an "unbalanced workforce" dominated by white males.
Thus, Sears charged, private employers could not be blamed for having too few women or minority workers when government actions dating back at least to the depression have given white men a head start in the race for jobs.
That suit was filed in apparent anticipation of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit that was being prepared against Sears, reportedly highlighting "patterns of sex, race and national origin at all levels" of the company.
That EEOC complaint, which has not been filed in court, contends that there was reasonable cause to think Sears was violating federal law in 69 specific ways.
The asserted violations, according to published accounts in The Washington Post, included "restricting blacks and Spanish-surnamed Americans to lower-paying, less desirable jobs": "failing to hire blacks and/or Spanish-surnamed Americans" for jobs in certain stores "in proportion to their rate of application"; relegation women to lower-paying, less-desirable jobs and in some cases paying women less than men and blacks less than "Anglos" for the same work.
In its filing this week, The Justice Department contends that "the issues which theoretically may be raised by the EEOC in some future suit ... may be addressed by Sears and by the courts when (or if) those adjudications occru."
But, in the meantime, Justice contended, a court action "cannot be founded upon 'if's and 'maybe's',"
Further, the government claimed, "Sears has failed to satisfy the threshold requirement imposed by Article III of the Constitution, that one who seeks to invoke the power of a federal court must allege an actual 'case' or 'controversy.'"
The Justice Department contends that the discrimination issues raised by Sears don't deal with a specific case against the company, but involved "abstract questions of policy, traditionally committed to the Legislature and the Executive" branches of government, not the agencies that must enforce those policies.
"Article III doest not give this court a roving commission to inquire generally into the activities of the two other branches, or to provide government by injunction," Justice states.
If the government does take enforcement action against Sears in the area of discriminatory practices, Justice contends, at that time time "Sears will have an andequate remedy at law."