Federal class action lawsuit challenges preferences for women and minorities
Washington, D.C. – Employment preferences for women and minorities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development came under fire today from a class action lawsuit filed in federal court. Worth v. Martinez charges HUD and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — which encouraged and approved HUD’s affirmative action plan — with intentional race and sex discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. The plaintiffs, HUD employee Dennis Worth and a class of similarly situated federal employees, are asking the court to end the discriminatory preferences at HUD, as well as the EEOC’s encouragement and approval of such preferences throughout the federal government. The plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR).
“The basis of the lawsuit is HUD’s mechanical use of goals and preferences to remedy even slight disparities in minority and female representation in its workforce, without any evidence that such disparities are the result of discrimination,” explained Curt Levey, CIR’s Director of Legal & Public Affairs. For instance, Asian males represent 3.4% of the Department’s professional workforce, but 3.5% of the comparative civilian labor force. This tiny difference triggers preferential hiring and promotion goals for Asian males.
Moreover, HUD often sets preferential hiring and promotion goals for women and minorities where they are already overrepresented. As an example, HUD has set goals to remedy what it calls a “manifest imbalance” of Black females among the Department’s construction analysts. The Department ignores the fact that the percentage of Black females in HUD’s Administrative job category — of which construction analysts are a part — is four times their proportion in the comparative labor pool. “No stone is left unturned in HUD’s zeal to discover instances of minority and female underrepresentation,” commented Mr. Levey.
In contrast, HUD overlooks the underrepresentation of white males in all major categories of its workforce. For example, it is of no concern to HUD that white men make up only 5% of the Department’s technical employees, despite comprising 36% of the technical civilian labor force. “This lack of evenhandedness runs afoul of Supreme Court precedent,” explained Mr. Levey.
Plaintiff Dennis Worth is one of only three white males remaining among 20 employees in the multi-family housing division of HUD’s St. Louis office. Mr. Worth has been turned down by HUD for the last dozen promotions he applied for, despite always making the “best qualified” short list of finalists. With one exception, each of those positions went to a female or minority candidate. But, says Worth, “I don’t want to dwell on the past. All I’m asking for is an end to the discrimination.”
Michael Rosman, CIR’s General Counsel, explained that “HUD’s indiscriminate use of preferences to eliminate any instance of female and minority underrepresentation, simply for the sake of ‘diversity’, falls far short of constitutional standards.” “CIR has challenged some pretty egregious racial and gender preferences in high-profile cases against the University of Michigan, the University of Texas, and the FCC,” added Curt Levey. “But even we were surprised by HUD’s flagrant disregard for the law.”
Levey noted that the percentage of minority employees in the various federal agencies averages about twice their proportion in the labor pool. Nonetheless, he said “the EEOC requires each of these agencies to implement affirmative action plans aimed at minorities and women.” “HUD is not alone in needing a reminder that neither EEOC directives nor repetition of the diversity mantra can exempt federal bureaucrats from compliance with the U.S. Constitution,” added Mr. Rosman.