It has been two years since the Justice Department first charged the Fairfax County government with discrimination in the hiring and promotion of women and minorities and today the complicated case is in a sort of legal limbo.
The latest development came two weeks ago when U.S. District Court Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. ruled that any further action on the case must wait until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the case. If the court refuses to hear the case, it may be remanded to the District Court for a retrial. A brief chronology of the case:
December 1978. The federal government files suit against the county charging that it systematically discriminated against women and minorities through its hiring practices.
April 1979. The U.S. District Court of Alexandria rejects the Justice Department charges.
November 1979. The Justice Department files an appeal with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
August 1980. The appeals court "vacates" the lower court decision, in effect sending the case back to the U.S. District Court for a retrial.
As the case was about to go back to the district court, the county asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. The justices have not decided whether to hear the case.
One of the major issues in the suit is the size of the area from which Fairfax County draws its employment force. The county claims that most of its job applicants come from Northern Virginia, which has a relatively low percentage of minority residents, thus indicating a lower percentage of minority employes should be hired. But the Justice Department counters that the entire metropolitian area, with a high minority population, is part of the county's employment base.
County officials said earlier this week that the latest employment figures show a "dramatic" increase in the number of minorities and women in the county work force. Officials refused to give specific figures, however, saying the report is scheduled to go to the County Board Nov. 17 and is not public information before then.