An increase in the number of discrimination complaints by government workers reflects a growing attitude among federal employers that they will not be punished for unfair labor practices, black leaders have charged at a conference here.
Officers of Blacks in Government, a 20,000-member organization that promotes the interests of black workers in government, are proposing several changes in the way the government handles discrimination complaints and launching a campaign to raise members' awareness of grievance procedures.
"We're asking really for some accountability, for some fairness," organization President Rubye S. Fields said yesterday on the five-day convention's opening day. "We're asking the government to stop wasting human resources and spending much-needed money on discrimination suits that could be used on other segments of the country."
Fields and Oscar Eason, chairman of Blacks in Government, on Tuesday called on President Reagan to issue an executive order overhauling the equal employment opportunity enforcement process. The officials recommended the establishment of a new agency independent of any single department to investigate government discrimination complaints, while maintaining the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate only private sector complaints.
Government equal employment opportunity offices currently in place in federal agencies are hopelessly backlogged, poorly staffed and inhibited by a conflict-of-interest between defending workers and protecting the government, Eason and Fields said.
A study by the Washington Council of Lawyers showed that the 180-day time limit for investigating discrimination complaints is hardly ever met, they said. In fiscal 1985, for example, the Veterans Administration took an average of 1,110 days, the Department of Agriculture 1,105 days and the Department of Health and Human Services 771 days, the study showed.
Blacks in Government also plans to use the conference to distribute kits of information the organization has assembled on job discrimination in order to heighten members' awareness of their rights.