The track record of Washington law firms in hiring women and minorities is generally regarded as relatively good, but a group of secretarial and clerical workers from Covington & Burling say that isn't so and they have asked the city's Human Rights Commission to investigate the legal profession here.

Five workers from Covington, four of them women and three of them black, contend that the firm systematically discriminated against them and that they would be better off if there were more women and minority partners in the profession.

In a complaint filed recently with the commission, the workers cited statistics showing that while the percentage of women associates at firms here is high, only a few have been made partners.

The workers, four of whom were fired in the last year, "feel that the issues are interconnected because firms that have more women or minority partners would be more sensitive to the concerns of support staff," said David Honig, attorney for the group.

Covington partner Jeffrey G. Huvelle, who is handling negotiations with the group, said, "The record will show that the firm has been very good on affirmative action." Huvelle said the firm has done nothing improper and commented, "When you fire employes, some are going to feel bad and they have a right to file a complaint."