A U.S. District judge here has ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to grant retroactive promotions and pay increases totaling as much as $35,000 to an employe beacause it discriminated against her on the basis of her national origin.
Judge Thomas A. Flannery noted in an earlier ruling in the case that the EEOC had violated the same laws it was established to enforce by failing to promote Puerto Rican-born Aida Berio and retaliating against her when she complained.
Attorneys for Berio called Flannery's final decision. delivered last week, "one of the biggest, most comprehensive judgments ever handed down against a government agency." It promoted her from a GS-12 to a GS-14, gave her pay increases dating back to 1974 on the basis of the two promotions she never received, and allows her first refusal of any available GS-14 position in the agency. The accumulated difference in salary between the grades she should have received and the GS-12 she had will be between $30,000 and $35,000, her lawyers said.
Berio's case, which has dragged through almost five years of administrative and legal battles, has become an emotionally charged symbol for the many Hispanics who feel that they are discriminated against by the EEOC.
The alleged discrimination is a particularly sensitive issue among Hispanic leaders because the EEOC's bureaucracy is dominated by blacks. Many observers feel that any emphasis on conflicts between blacks and Hispanics can only weaken both groups in their efforts to obtain equal rights.
Baltasar Luna of Image, a national organization of Hispanic public employes, called the EEOC treatment of Berio "an outrageous action" that "just proves the lack of faith with which they have been operating."
Daisy Voigt, director of the EEOC public affairs office -- which also is where Berio now works -- yeaterday defended the agency's record. While some 51.4 percent of its employes are black, 10.5 percent are Hispanic, Voigt said. "That's 60 percent minority and I think that's strong evidence that the agency practices what it preaches," she said.