Meeting of October 23, 2008 – Issues Facing Hispanics in the Federal Workplace
Madam Chair and Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the status of Hispanic1 employment in the federal workplace.
My name is Carlton Hadden, and I have the privilege of serving as the Director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations. The EEOC has charged the Office of Federal Operations with two major responsibilities. One is adjudicating on an appellate level the EEO complaints of federal employees. The second is overseeing Executive Branch agency efforts to promote workplace policies that foster an inclusive work culture and prevent employment discrimination.
In the course of these remarks, I will provide an overview of specific issues affecting federal Hispanic employment. In particular, I will: (1) provide background information, (2) address leadership development, (3) discuss niche employment, (4) note some retention issues, and (5) discuss how Hispanics fare at the agencies with strong participation numbers.
As a representative government, the federal workforce should reflect the greater society it serves. Hispanics account for approximately 45.5 million of the nation’s population. They are also the fastest growing and youngest segment of the population.2 During the last census in 2000, Hispanics represented 10.69% of the civilian labor force and more recent estimates show that the Hispanic population has grown considerably since the 2000 census. Despite the robust presence of Hispanics in our society, Hispanic participation in the federal workplace is only at 7.79%.3 The participation variance between the civilian labor force and the federal workforce is one of the largest of any historically under-utilized EEO group.4
While the Hispanic population has increased by 50% since 1990, the participation of qualified Hispanics in the federal workplace has lagged. Ten years ago, in FY 1998, Hispanics represented 6.59% of the federal workforce. Five years ago, in FY 2002, Hispanics represented 7.1%. Today, as I mentioned before, Hispanics comprise 7.79% of the total workforce. These growing numbers are somewhat encouraging, but much work remains to ensure that Hispanics fully participate in the federal workforce. Census projections indicate that the Hispanic population will grow exponentially over the next forty years.5 Government agencies must engage in succession planning now if we are going to be prepared for the future.
The Chair launched this year the Federal Hispanic Work Group, in partnership with the Social Security Administration, to examine on a larger scale the community’s concerns about federal sector employment, including leadership development, hiring, and retention. The members of the Work Group represent a cross-section of federal agencies. Already, the Work Group has made various recommendations designed to promote the advancement of Hispanics in the federal workplace. Other speakers will talk more about those recommendations later today. Suffice it to say that the Work Group brings fresh and exciting ideas that can make a practical difference in attracting, advancing, and retaining a greater number of qualified Hispanic federal employees.
The Office of Federal Operations initiated the OFO Hispanic Strategies Group. The Strategies Group is organized into two sub-groups, each with a different focus. One aims at improving the retention rates of Hispanic employees already in government. The other works with schools and Hispanic student advocacy groups at improving the recruitment rates of qualified Hispanic students and recent graduates. The Strategies Group works closely with the Federal Hispanic Work Group and a broad array of organizations such as the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers.
The challenge of low Hispanic participation rates in government service is one that the Executive branch has long identified and attempted to address through various initiatives. Nearly forty years ago, President Nixon implemented the Sixteen-Point Program for the Spanish-Speaking to address the recruitment, appointment, and training of bilingual Hispanic federal employees.6 Eventually, this program became what is known today as the Hispanic Employment Program. Over time, the federal government adopted more efforts to improve the number of Hispanics in the ranks of government service. In 1978, the law establishing the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program (FEORP) was passed.7 In 1997, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) launched its Nine-Point Plan to recruit qualified Hispanics for government service and improve their opportunities to advance into management and senior executive service positions.8 Finally in 2000, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13171, titled Hispanic Employment in Federal Government. This Executive Order specifically instructed federal agencies to establish appropriate agency advisory councils that include Hispanic Employment Program Managers (HEPM).9
Today, as part of an agency’s management team, HEPMs serve to identify discriminatory practices insofar as they impact Hispanic employees and applicants; monitor workforce data for areas of low Hispanic participation; evaluate policies and practices to assess their effects on Hispanic employment; and recommend changes to managers so as to eliminate known barriers. Despite these significant duties, few Cabinet level and other major federal agencies have full-time HEPMs. The average grade for collateral-duty HEPMs ranges from GS-9 to GS-13. The highest grade level of those who are full-time HEPMs does not exceed GS-14. In addition, most HEPMs lack formal training on the very issues they are charged to tackle, and most lack the resources to adequately fund Hispanic employment initiatives. Unfortunately, the reality is in many agencies that that they have been reduced to coordinating Hispanic Heritage Month activities.
This past August at the EXCEL conference in Chicago, the EEOC partnered with the National Council for the first Hispanic Employment Program Managers Summit. At the Summit, which was well attended, we discussed the issue of low Hispanic participation rates in government; held workshops on the hiring and development of Hispanic employees; and shared the progress of EEOC’s Federal Hispanic Work Group. We look forward to continued collaboration with the National Council of Hispanic Employment Managers.
One area of particular concern is the low participation rate of Hispanics among senior level management, in particular, among the ranks of the Senior Executive Service (SES). In 2007, Hispanics represented only 3.6% of all SES positions – 0.10% fewer than the previous year.10 In our 2007 Annual Report on the Federal Work Force, we pointed out that Hispanics made up 3.63% of employees at the Senior Pay level – those holding top managerial, supervisory and policy-making positions, including the SES. We reported that this number dropped from the prior year in FY 2006 when Hispanics comprised 3.66% of the Senior Pay level. The National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives points out that this number is even lower – 2.5% - if we focus solely on career SES employees and do not consider political appointees, who are temporary employees, and other non-managerial employees who earn senior pay.11 Viewed in this light, the level of Hispanic representation at the SES level has remained unchanged over the past ten years.12 These numbers are troubling because a measure in determining whether a group has been truly included is its representation within the highest ranks of government. Ensuring that senior management reflects the diversity of the population is critical to achieving the ideal of a representative government and to serving the needs of the growing Hispanic population.
Another area of concern is that over the next several years the federal government will experience a drain of upper level management as large numbers of senior federal employees retire. OPM estimates that 63.5% of all SES employees will retire in the next ten years.13 The loss of these employees represents both a challenge and an opportunity for agencies to increase diversity, including Hispanic participation among the SES ranks. If we focus on the key leadership feeder ranks – the GS-14 and GS-15 grade levels – we see that Hispanic participation has grown slightly. According to OPM, the number of Hispanic GS-14 employees increased from 4.3% in 2006 to 4.6% in 2007. However, the number of Hispanic GS-15 employees dropped from 4.1% in 2006 to 3.9% in 2007.14 It is of utmost importance that agencies implement strong diversity measures and mechanisms to ensure that all qualified employees at the GS-14 and 15 levels, including Hispanics, have ample and equal opportunity to develop into qualified candidates for future appointment to SES positions.
According to the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, the total number of Hispanic new hires in the federal workforce from FY 2001 to FY 2005 was 47,381. The cumulative number of separations of Hispanic employees during this time period was 20,410. Therefore, taking into account the number of Hispanic employees leaving government service, the net cumulative growth of Hispanic employees in the federal government from FY 2001 to FY 2005 was only 26,971. This means that the number of separations has reduced employment gains by 45%.15
Many in the Hispanic community believe that Hispanic separations are due to a dearth of advancement opportunities and the continued existence of workplace discrimination. The term “sticky floors” has been coined to illustrate that Hispanics remain stuck in low-wage positions for prolonged periods of time. Moreover, federal sector appellate decisions show that Hispanics face challenges in terms of staffing appointments, lack of recognition, harassment, retaliation, English-Only rules, and involuntary separation.
To tackle these issues, the EEOC recommends that agency leaders demonstrate commitment and accountability to EEO ideals. If management creates a work environment in which employees feel accepted, respected, and fairly treated, it is likely employees will be more satisfied with their job and remain with the agency. Agencies should therefore train managers and supervisors in EEO and personnel laws and recognize the value of having a management that is willing to establish a model EEO workplace. Agencies should also consider establishing Special Emphasis Programs and collaborate with affinity groups, such as the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, to raise awareness among employees of the agency’s commitment to diversity. Lastly, as highlighted by the Federal Hispanic Work Group, agencies should require exit interviews and hold managers accountable when employees leave the agency because of poor management and the lack of EEO compliance. Successful retention rates result if agencies place high value on having a respectful and inclusive work environment.
Another area of concern is the fact that although some agencies have excellent overall Hispanic participation numbers, upon closer examination, it is clear that Hispanics are not equally participating throughout the organizations. Instead, what we often find is that Hispanics are clustered within specific job categories, interacting to a large degree with the Hispanic public. Such niche employment is evident at many agencies with high Hispanic participation rates.
In addition to this niche employment, we often further find that the jobs Hispanics hold are fairly low in pay. OPM noted in its 7th Annual Report to the President on Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government that most Hispanic employees are concentrated within the GS 5-8 pay grades.16 Moreover, Hispanic women are employed at lower grade levels than their male counterparts. The average grade for a General Schedule federal employee is GS-10.17 More research is needed regarding the intersection of national origin and sex to determine whether discriminatory patterns exist.
To better illustrate the current status of Hispanic employment in the federal government, I will now highlight the agencies with the highest levels of Hispanic participation – the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). I caution, however, that we not draw drastic conclusions about these figures as they present only a snapshot of each agency and do not take into account factors such as hiring opportunities and the retention and development of employees.
The permanent Hispanic workforce at DHS makes up 19.41% of its total permanent workforce. 27.6% of its Hispanic employees are Customs and Border Protection Officers. Hispanic males make up the vast majority of the Hispanic workforce at a rate of 13.37%, compared to 4.76% participation rate of Hispanic women. Within the higher ranks, Hispanics make up 8.78% of GS-14 and 15 employees and hold 6.15% of SES positions.18
Part of DHS’ success among Hispanic employees is due to its proactive community outreach, recruitment and career development initiatives. DHS has established various community programs giving the agency a human face within the Hispanic community, and it has held career expos to recruit Hispanic talent. DHS also established a successful mentoring program that reached out to many lower grade Hispanic employees.19 I note that another healthy trend at DHS is the high number of Hispanics in management. Hispanics make up 30.64% of first-level, 16.56% of mid-level, and 7.49% of senior-level management.
The agency with the second highest Hispanic participation rate is EEOC at 13.31%. 19.44% of these employees are General Investigators. Unlike at DHS, Hispanic women outnumber Hispanic men at the EEOC with respective representation rates of 8.90% and 4.52%.
Looking at EEOC’s higher grade levels, Hispanics make up 10.28% of GS-14 and 15 employees at the EEOC and an impressive 17.24% of SES positions. I am proud to say that Hispanics figure more proportionately among EEOC’s management ranks than among management ranks in other agencies: 15% of first-level management, 11.11% of mid-level management, and 12.71% of all senior-level management.20
EEOC’s success in having a high Hispanic participation rate is due in part to the leadership’s commitment to MD-715 principles. EEOC requires that management must demonstrate sensitivity to EEO and cultural diversity, and recognizes that EEO is our strategic mission.
SSA has a high Hispanic participation rate of 13.03%. 23.12% of these employees are Contact Representatives who serve Spanish-speaking communities. Like at the EEOC, Hispanic women at SSA outnumber Hispanic males. Hispanic women make up 9.47% of the workforce, while Hispanic men are at 3.56%. Within the higher ranks, 6.37% of GS-14 and 15 positions are held by Hispanic employees as are 4.77% of all SES positions.21
SSA’s success at ensuring Hispanic participation has been credited to its proactive recruitment and career development efforts. SSA has participated in various Hispanic Youth Symposia and the agency’s Hispanic advisory committees have engaged in Hispanic student mentoring. SSA has also encouraged Hispanic employee participation in training and developmental programs. In FY 2007, the agency reported 14% Hispanic participation in such programs.22
Last, but not least, the AAFES has a high permanent Hispanic workforce at 12.96%. Most of these Hispanic employees hold Retail Operator or Hospitality and Restaurant positions (10.8% and 10.41% respectively). Hispanic women also work in high numbers at the AAFES at a rate of 8.39%, and Hispanic men are at 4.57% of the workforce. Looking at the higher grade levels, we see that Hispanics hold 7.11% of GS-14 and 15 positions at the agency. However, there are no Hispanics in the SES.23
Agencies Must Do More
Despite the strong Hispanic participation rates at some agencies, some Cabinet-level agencies have participation rates as low as 3.58%.24 Unfortunately, we have found that these agencies fail to identify the causes for these low rates in their workforce data. Many are not investigating whether barriers exist to impede participation of Hispanics in the federal workforce.
The Office of Federal Operations is committed to educating agencies on how properly to conduct barrier analysis under MD-715. This commitment includes providing training to EEO professionals, providing written feedback, and highlighting important issues at meetings such as this.
In addition to MD-715, the Office of Federal Operations is embarking on a new project aimed at holding agencies accountable for making progress. This year we will be giving a scorecard-like tool to those agencies profiled in our Annual Report on the Federal Work Force. This tool is called an EEO Program Compliance Assessment (EPCA).
While we will not be giving agencies any scores or “grades” in this first version, we will assign points based on how well they fare on selected metrics from the MD-715. We also will provide agencies workforce analyses based on race, national origin, sex, as well as targeted disabilities.
These analyses will show how the particular agency’s workforce is composed by major occupation and compare it to the civilian labor force, provide an odds ratio analysis25on promotions in the senior grade levels, and show agencies how they compare to the federal government as a whole on various other issues. Our intention is that this tool will provide new and useful ways for agencies to look at their data and to provide a benchmark upon which each agency can measure its progress toward becoming a model EEO workplace.
Ultimately, to make progress on the issues facing Hispanics in the federal workplace agencies leaders must demonstrate a commitment to MD-715 principles. These principles are the essential elements of a model EEO program. They include: (1) demonstrated commitment from agency leadership; (2) integration of EEO into the agency’s strategic mission; (3) management and program accountability, (4) the proactive prevention of unlawful discrimination; (5) efficiency, and (6) responsiveness and legal compliance. When agencies fully integrate MD-715 principles into their mission, a more inclusive workplace will naturally result
Overall, more work with stakeholders is needed to make a difference in removing barriers and leveling the federal employment playing field for Hispanics. Agencies must also develop innovative strategies and solutions to keep pace with the Hispanic national civilian labor force and tap into the resources that the Hispanic community provides. We all need to come together to make the federal government the model employer for all Americans. Agencies only stand to benefit if they open their doors to all talent, including that available in the Hispanic talent pool.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today. I look forward to continuing to work vigilantly with the federal sector community toward accomplishing our goals. A model federal workforce that fully reflects the contributions of all of this nation’s peoples safeguards an unfettered freedom to compete and provides steadfast protection of civil rights.
I welcome any questions from you, Madam Chair and the Commissioners.
1 While I am mindful of the public debate over the use of the term “Hispanic” versus “Latino,” I use the word “Hispanic” as it has been the term historically used within the Federal Government to refer to individuals who identify themselves as of Mexican, Puerto Rican (living on the mainland), Cuban, Central American, South American, Caribbean or of other Hispanic origin or decent. See, e.g., Office of Personnel Management, Seventh Annual Report to the President on Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government 4, n.3 (Dec. 2007).
2 U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates, available at http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/011910.html.
5 U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates, available at http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/011910.html.
8 OPM Proposes 9-Point Plan to Reverse Hispanic underrepresentation (Sept. 18, 1997), available at http://www.opm.gov/Pressrel/html/pr-9-pt.htm.
10 See OPM 7th Annual Report to the President on Hispanic Employment in the Federal Government (OPM Annual Report) at 12. According to the EEOC’s Annual Report on the Federal Work Force, Hispanics composed 3.65% of all SES positions government-wide in fiscal year 2007. In fiscal year 2006, Hispanics held 3.71% of SES positions.
11 See National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives, Statement to the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia on “Diversity in the Senior Executive Service, the Postal Career Executive Service and the in the Top Levels of the Federal Government,” available at http://www.nahfe.org
16 In its 7th Annual Report to the President, OPM also notes that most of the permanent Hispanic federal workforce is concentrated at lower pay levels. The highest number of Hispanics are within the GS 5-8 pay grades (9.5%). See OPM Annual Report at 12.
25 Odds ratio is a method of comparing whether the probability of a certain event is the same for two groups. As applied in EPCA, each EEO group is compared to the rest of the agency workforce and the event measured is promotion to GS-15 or SES. An odds ratio of 1 implies that a promotion is equally likely. An odds ratio greater than 1 implies that a member of the EEO group is more likely to be promoted than an employee in the rest of the workforce. An odds ratio less than 1 implies that a member of the EEO group is less likely to be promoted than an employee in the rest of the workforce.