Mikulski wants policy prohibiting sex bias


WASHINGTON -- It's not enough for federal agencies to have a general understanding that discrimination and sexual harassment don't belong in the federal work force, which is why Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski wants the prohibitions in writing.

The Maryland Democrat has moved to make each federal department and agency establish a written policy to rid every government workplace of such insensitivities. Prohibitions against discrimination and sexual harassment were included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but Ms. Mikulski saw many differences in the ways different agencies respond to violations.

"Workplace discrimination and sexual harassment unfortunately still flourish in the federal workplace," she said in a statement.

Recent controversies at Veterans Administration hospitals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sparked the senator's ire, said her spokesman, Bill Toohey.

Her proposal would give all executive branch departments and agencies and the U.S. Postal Service until next summer to write new policies that use anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws more forcefully. Last week, a key Senate Appropriations subcommittee approved language in a bill that would accomplish Ms. Mikulski's requirements.

Each newly written policy would improve prevention, education and enforcement, under Ms. Mikulski's guidelines.

Officials of federal employee unions said that the education requirement is key to their support.

The American Federal for Government Employees would back the bill with enthusiasm "if this language would also include some type of sensitivity training for employees and managers alike, on top of a written policy," said Diane Witiak, AFGE spokeswoman.

Such training could be part of the education guideline in the written policy, said Mr. Toohey, but the language is not likely to request explicitly a retraining program.

AFGE's other concern is that complaints have to be filed at the equal employment opportunity branch of the very agency where the violation is alleged to have occurred. "You wind up filng it with the agency that you work for," Ms. Witiak said.

That process might discourage some victims from coming forward and also might discourage the most rapid response from supervisors, she said. "We want very much to reform the equal employment opportunity complaint process," Ms. Witiak said.


Federal employees who serve as labor union officials could soon get a chance to have their lobbying efforts included as fully paid work-time rather than having to give up vacation time.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that Local 122 of the National Federation of Federal Employees could count their annual four-day lobbying trip to Capitol Hill as "official time."

For the past 13 years, the two representatives that the Atlanta local sent to the union's Lobby Week had to take "annual leave," or vacation time, to attend. The ruling has brought relief to Virginia Pope, the local's president.

After arbitrators and impasse panels had thwarted the request for years, Ms. Pope fought for the provision and finally won on July 12.

Union lawyers fought for "the use of official time by Union representatives to represent federal employees by visiting, phoning and writing to elected representatives," according to the ruling.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had argued that in national contract negotiations, the union and the government had deadlocked over the use of official time for such lobbying efforts. The department is expected to appeal the ruling, a NLRA official said.

Ms. Pope said that the ruling sets no specific amount of official time for lobbying, and predicted that the issue of whether the government can pay employees for more than just the Labor Week junket will come up in the next contract negotiations.

I= "I would faint if they offered a day a month," she joked.

Job cuts:

Vice President Al Gore predicted the Clinton administration's effort to streamline government would cost over 100,000 federal workers their jobs, the Washington Post reported today.

The newspaper quoted Mr. Gore as saying that the workforce cuts were inevitable and would exceed President Clinton's initial pledge to trim the bureaucracy by 100,000 jobs.

Mr. Gore said the cuts would be through attrition.

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