The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, May 16, 1995
Letters to the Editor: Our Noble Mission Is Still Viable
Opponents of the active enforcement of our civil rights laws for some time have sought to brand
nearly all antidiscrimination efforts with the "quota" label. A recent example is James Bovard's
April 27 editorial-page piece "The Latest EEOC Quota Madness." As chairman of the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), I must set the record straight. Mr. Bovard's case
is both weak and misinformed. His argument apparently is based on the erroneous notion that the
use of statistical evidence in discrimination cases -- something that has been approved by the
courts for many years -- is tantamount to the imposition of quotas. As a matter of fact and law,
this is not true.
Furthermore, Mr. Bovard discusses only five cases of the hundreds of thousands that have been
filed with the commission over the past decade. His premise that these five cases suggest a general
EEOC enforcement policy that cares only about numbers and abstract statistics without regard for
legitimate business interests is without basis. Moreover, he leaps to the conclusion that this
alleged abusive and overbearing policy is enforced wholeheartedly by the "Clintonites."
Unfortunately, in his zeal to criticize President Clinton, Mr. Bovard conveniently ignores the fact
that four out of the five allegedly "abusive" lawsuits were approved by EEOC commissioners
appointed by Presidents Reagan and Bush, including Clarence Thomas, with the fifth dating back
to the Carter administration. I did not vote on any of these cases, nor did either of my two
colleagues appointed by President Clinton.
That said, after carefully reviewing our files on these cases, I can state with certainty that they
were not frivolous or abusive. Not one of them involved a quota. There was no hiring by the
numbers, no demand to bring in unqualified workers, and no effort to achieve racial balance. Of
the five, two were resolved favorably and one is still pending, and of the two we lost, we received
a favorable ruling at the district-court level only to be overturned on appeal. Furthermore, I am
particularly bothered by Mr. Bovard's vilification of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, which
received the underlying charges and was responsible for the lawsuits. The Chicago office has an
admirable enforcement record, having obtained more than $100 million in relief during the past
five years for real victims of discrimination.
In his effort to stoke the fires of the current national debate over affirmative action, Mr. Bovard
fails to acknowledge either the extraordinary challenges facing the commission or the monumental
changes we "Clintonites" have made in the past six months to fundamentally reform the way the
agency operates. We have made enormous strides in reversing the course of the EEOC, including
rescission of a number of enforcement policies adopted in the 1980s that contributed in great part
to the administrative bottleneck. Just two weeks ago, by unanimous commission vote at a public
meeting, we adopted priority case handling to allow our staff appropriate discretion in
determining which cases merit our time and resources and which should be dismissed early on.
Furthermore, last week we unanimously adopted a position supporting the use of mediation-based
alternative dispute resolution in our administrative process. And we have taken all of these steps
only after making our best efforts to consult with and be responsive to our many constituencies --
employee groups, the civil rights community and business. While these actions may not sound
revolutionary, I can assure you they illustrate profound changes in the way this agency will
operate in the future.
More than 30 years ago, the EEOC was created and charged with a noble mission -- to eradicate
unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, despite what many would like to believe,
employment discrimination continues as a widespread and pernicious problem. The almost
100,000 employment discrimination charges we receive annually provide abundant testimony of
the extent of the problem.
Gilbert F. Casellas