The federal government announced yesterday that it will no longer prosecute private or public employers simply for technical violation of equal employment laws.
Instead, it will focus on "the bottom line - the total, overall effect of employment practices" in private firms and government agencies.
That means the government "will usually not proceed against an employer who has successfully hired and promoted minorities and women, even if not all aspects" of the employer's hiring procedures "have been validated," said Eleanor Holmes Norton, head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Norton spoke at a joint press conference with officials of the Civil Service Commission and Labor and Justice Departments. They unveiled Uniform Guidelines on Employe Selection Procedures which, for the first time, will apply to all employers in the public and private sectors.
The new guidelines are intended to streamline the enforcement and administration of equal employment laws. They are designed to replace competing sets of hiring regulations administered separately by EEOC and the Justice Department.
All the guidelines have been signed by Norton, Attorney General Griffin B. Bell, Labor Secretary Ray Marshall and Civil Service Commission Chairman Alan Campbell.
Norton called the new rules "a complex and delicate balance of the interests of the various groups affected: the civil rights groups, the public and private employers, the labor organizations and the various government agencies."
She said, "They emphasize performance and results, instead of imposing specific procedures on employers."
Under the old guidelines, for example, an employer frequently became entangled in a web of paperwork - filing records with various agencies on hiring programs, procedures, and the racial makeup of its work force.
Much of that paperwork is expected to be eliminated.
"These guidelines very clearly give the employers the option to hire enough minorities and women so that they won't have to become involved in the whole compliance enforcement mechanism," said Al Blumrosen, an EEOC consultant and special assistant to Norton.
He said the rules will focus enforcement proceedings on public or private employers who have serious race-sex discrepancies in hiring and promotion rates, or whose hiring and promotion practices unduly hurt minorities or women.
Blumrosen denied speculation that the guidelines would encourage employers to reduce their minority and female workforces because of relaxed government oversight.
"There's absolutely no backing away" from equal employment enforcement on the part of the government, he said. Also, he said the guidelines were not affected by the Supreme Court's Allan Bakke decision of June 28.
That decision struck down the use of rigid racial quotas at the University of California-Davis Medical School, where Bakke was turned down for admission, while endorsing the principle of affirmative action.
"This set of new guidelines would be just about the same if Bakke had never been decided," Blumrosen said.
He said the guidelines are supposed to ensure the rights of workers to be hired and promoted "on the basis of job-related standards - without regard to race, sex, or ethnic background."
"That is just a statement of the law," said Blumrosen.
The new rules would:
Uphold the Supreme Court requirement that employers justify the use of tests or other selection procedures that disproportionately exclude women and minorities.
"Focus government enforcement to achieve tangible results . . . rather than paper compliance" with equal employment laws.
Keep paperwork to a minimum for example, by doing away with the requirement that an employer keep records on a "racial or national origin group which constitutes less than 2 percent of the relevant labor force."
Simplify compliance by allowing an employer to eliminate a racially "adverse" hiring procedure and develop a "practical" alternative.