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June 1963, Veterans Administration

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June 1963, summary, all other agencies

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Government Complaint System

Prior to the issuance of Executive Order 10925, complaint processing was the primary method by which previous antidiscrimination Executive Orders carried out the Federal policy of nondiscrimination. Consequently, it has been the means by which administering agencies have both implemented a nondiscriminatory policy and have attempted to redress grievances stemming from race, religion, color, or national origin. In relying upon the complaint process, Government action rested heavily upon the willingness and, perhaps in some situations, the temerity of an individual to sign an allegation of discrimination against an employer who had economic power over his welfare and might conceivably retaliate against him for such action. Thus, it is unlikely that the number of cases filed reflected the magnitude of discrimination or even the number of grievances minorities harbored against their employers.

Fear of reprisal may still deter many from filing complaints. The Committee's correspondence tends to support such a view. Anonymous letters giving allegations and detailed supporting evidence; complaints filed directly with the Committee with insistence that the Committee staff investigate; and letters of withdrawal without reasons stated or evidence of corrective action received after the agency begins investigation show that some who feel discriminated against still are fearful of submitting a signed complaint. However, the quantitative significance of this would be hard to determine. Limited educational attainment, particularly illiteracy and low aspiration level, no doubt, also restrict the aggrieved in actually filing formal written complaints.

On the other hand, there is some evidence that the complaint load rises, at least temporarily, as discrimination declines. During the life of this Committee, significant growth in minority group employment has occurred (see Government Employment Census).

When the complaint load is related to number of employees, it is apparent that its numerical significance is small. But it should be noted that, prior to Executive Order 10925, case processing has been virtually the sole means by which discriminatory patterns involving whole business units (and Government agencies) have been changed by various President's Committees, and State and municipal Fair Employment Commissions.

Some Pattern Changes

Illustrative of employment pattern changes resulting from complaints are two cases recently closed by the Committee. One involved the U.S. Patent Office, Department of Commerce. The other involved the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. Treasury Department. These cases are especially significant in that actions taken to resolve them indicate a change in the utilization pattern of minorities and further show that new procedures have been instituted as an integral part of a system aimed at full compliance with the Executive Order. These procedures include a new promotion plan, the posting of all vacancies, employee review of supervisory ratings with right of appeal, selection for appointment from the first three names on the promotion selection lists, extension of area of consideration for promotions and monitoring of promotion practices by the Deputy Employment Policy Officer.

In both instances, the complaints filed by a few have brought about changes in policies and practices which affect all minority group employees.

The complaints received are understandably concentrated in a few larger agencies-as are the employees of the Federal Government. Four-fifths of the complaints received by the Committee, and about the same fraction of the total Government employees, are in seven departments and agencies-Post Office Department, Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, Veterans Administration, Department of Agriculture, and Treasury

had received 1,631 complaints or 81.3 percent of the total received from these agencies. Their total employment was approximately 1,835,303 or 81.2 percent of total Government employment. However, the case load of each individual agency did not appear to be in proportion to the number of persons employed by it. Some had a complaint load which was more than, some less than proportionate to total employment.

Complaints received by the Committee in its first 2 full years vary widely geographically. About one-fourth of them have come from the two civil service regions comprising most of the South, i.e., the Atlanta and Dallas Regions, 23.2 percent. The New York, Philadelphia and Boston Regions, which include most of the populous Middle Atlantic and New England States, account for 24.3 percent of all complaints received. Metropolitan Washington, D.C. has accounted for 18.8 percent, the Far West, 13.6 percent (San Francisco and Seattle Regions); and the Midwest 13.5 percent (Chicago Region).

Case Load and Affirmative Action

If positive approaches are developed and change overall agency-wide or installation-wide patterns positively, the number of complaints should decline at some point because the basic causes for them will have been more effectively reduced. This, however, should not be expected to occur immediately. The rapid development of affirmative action programs which eliminate the basic causes of complaints provides the only permanently effective long-range answer to large complaint loads. Furthermore, this process serves as a check on the compliance approach-failures of particular units or agencies to expeditiously develop corrective procedures may in the long run cause the number of complaints filed against them to appear high as compared with the more aggressive agencies.

Complaint Processing as a Specialized Grievance Procedure

Without regard to the impact of complaint processing on the overall scope of discriminatory practices or agency- or Committee-initiated positive programs, complaint processing will be a very important cog in the machinery used to carry out Executive Order 10925 for some time to come.

plaints on behalf of individuals who feel aggrieved because of alleged discriminations based on race, creed, color, or national origin, is firmly set in the public mind-particularly that of the minority public. Any steps that appear to weaken or threaten the integrity of this assumed "right" would be detrimental to the overall program.

Virtually all of the laws and executive orders established by Government to eliminate discrimination against minorities have been legally based upon rights granted to an individual and, consequently the enforcement machinery of this order has been oriented primarily toward the protection of the individual against unequal treatment.

In some cases these rights are guaranteed under the Constitution. Others are established by legislation; still others result from a mutual agreement appearing as a clause in a contract, e.g., a labormanagement contract or a contract between the Federal Government and a Government supplier. Each of these confers a right to protection upon the individual. Consequently, the initiating force which activates the policy is a complaint, generally from an aggrieved party. There is a tacit assumption that persons should have such protection if they want it and seek it. The complaint process provided by Executive Order 10925, is responsive to our ancient tradition of individual rights.

The procedures established by the Committee for handling complaints provide for:

(1) Filing of the complaint with the Committee or with the agency concerned.

(2) Investigation of the complaint by designated agency representatives.

(3). Hearing procedures.

(4) Review by the Committee of agency actions with the right to concur, reject, alter or

reverse.

(5) Right of appeal to Executive Vice Chairman of Committee for final decision.

Analysis of Complaints Over First Two Years

As of March 1, 1963, the Committee had received 2,005 complaints of discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin.

A total of 1,169 complaints had been closed. Corrective action had been taken in 423 cases (36.1 percent). No discrimination was found in one-half (50.5 percent) of them, while the remaining one-fifth (18.1 percent) were distributed al

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1 Chicago Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin; Philadelphia-Delaware, Maryland, Pennsyl vania, Virginia, West Virginia; Atlanta-Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands; San Francisco-California, Hawaiian Islands, Nevada, Pacific overseas area; New York-New Jersey, New York; Dallas-Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas; St. Louis-Iowa, Kansas, Minnesot a. Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota: Denver-Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah; Boston-Conne cticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont; Seattle-Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon. Washington.

2 As of Mar. 1, 1963 Europe 0.5.

DISTRIBUTION OF EMPLOYEES BY MAJOR FEDERAL AGENCIES AND TOTAL COMPLAINTS RECEIVED BY COMMITTEE IN DESCENDING ORDER

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