Race Bias #11 - "Minority Layoff Protection"

The following excerpt is a classic. Seniority as a criteria for layoffs is abandoned by American business when it results in dismissal of new minority hires. Translation - We now have race- conscious layoff policies as most large corporations.

A long list of bad guys raise their heads up out of the foxhole including General Motors (again), GM Hughes, AT&T, Honeywell, Nynex Corp. and DuPont.

But the shift to performance reviews to select who stays and who goes raises fascinating questions:

Can performance reviews be objective when their purpose is to select white males for dismissal? Is the shift to performance reviews recognition that you must increase the competence of the remaining pool of whites, and make them work harder, to limit the economic damage to the company inflicted by retaining less competent minorities?

Are the costs of early retirement window programs really a cost of diversity efforts?

The focus of the excerpt below is on older white males being discharged in corporate downsizings. But note the charmingly frank quote from an EEO officer at DuPont that "women and minorities must constitute at least 45% of all new hires."

The sad truth is that nearly all large corporations have rigid quotas, just like DuPont's. Those hurt most are young White males who have never enjoyed any of the "benefits" of the system, and who have never had any opportunity to discriminate against anyone.

In fact, you will never see top executives give up _their_ positions. And that, dear reader, is what makes quotas work in this country. As long as the top bosses jobs aren't threatened, look for them to turn their backs on their own kind without a peep of protest!


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Companies Alter Layoff Policies to Keep Recently Hired Women and Minorities

Sept. 18, 1992 Wall Street Journal p B1



When companies lay off employees these days the last person hired isn't automatically the first one fired.

That's a big boost for women and minorities--but it can leave senior white men out in the cold and employers in a quandary. Major corporations are dropping their "last hired, first fired" rules in order to preserve their carefully cultivated ranks of women and minorities, typically the newest hires. Employers don't want to risk job-bias suits from women and minorities nor jeopardize government contracts tied to affirmative-action efforts. Business leaders say they also must retain women and minorities to compete for an increasingly multi-ethnic and female customer base.

"Many companies are finding a 'last hired, first fired' policy is too damaging to minorities and women," explains Judith Katz, vice president of Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, a management- consulting firm in Cincinnati. "They're having to resort to other means when downsizing." Among them: sweetened pensions to encourage voluntary retirements, job sharing, reduced workweeks and performance appraisals.

'Only Fair Way'.

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But many businesses that once cut jobs largely through seniority - including Honeywell Inc., Du Pont Co. and American Telephone & Telegraph Co. --say they must trim differently today to protect women and minorities. Honeywell for instance, now uses performance appraisals rather than seniority.

AT&T employed an early-retirement sweetener in 1989 to usher 12,500 managers, largely white males, out the door. It isn't alone. About 40% of the nation's largest companies offered early- retirement programs to employees during 1990 and 1991, according to an August survey by consultants Wyatt Co.

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Caught in the Crunch

The changing corporate strategy means that older white men like James J. Klinikowski, who is 61 years old, are often caught in the crunch. The former AT&T technical-staff engineer and 12-year veteran says he was laid off in 1990. "I won't take anything away from women and minorities," Mr. Klinikowski says. "But there are lots of people like myself who are getting squeezed out. It doesn't seem fair."

Even some white males who survive job cuts feel disheartened. This can be seen at Nynex Corp., which launched an aggressive diversity program in 1986 and which has eliminated 1,700 jobs over the last year through performance reviews and cutting out unnecessary positions. The downsizing largely has affected senior white men. One 52-year-old white Nynex operations manager who remains says he lives in constant fear of losing his job. "You can't help but feel that no one cares about us," he says.

That feeling is also likely to be strong among senior white men at General Motors Corp.'s Hughes Aircraft Co. unit, especially since its new chairman, C. Michael Armstrong, laid down the law. Last June, Hughes announced plans to cut 9,000 jobs over the next 18 months. But the proportion of minority and female employees won't decrease during the layoffs, Mr. Armstrong later told senior management, according to company officials.

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On top of this, the big defense contractor is eager to retain its lucrative federal and state government contracts, which usually require hiring goals for women and minorities. Hughes plans to use performance appraisals and other non-seniority strategies in making job cuts, Mr. Barclay says. The company is providing severance packages that will cost about $17,000 per terminated employee.

Honeywell, which began restructuring its operations in 1987, has relied on its performance-appraisal system to reduce employment. Under this approach, the Minneapolis controls-systems concern first determines that a particular department is overstaffed. After exempting critical jobs, Honeywell managers decide which positions can be performed by others or are unnecessary. Then they cut posts based on individual performance.

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"Performance appraisals are a fairer process" than seniority, explains Barbara Jerich, Honeywell's director of work-force diversity. "They help weed out insidious biases against women, minorities or people with disabilities," she explains, adding that the performance appraisals "have concrete criteria on which everyone is judged."

Still, Honeywell's practice disturbs some white male managers, who contend that they are being dismissed disproportionately. Ms. Jerich recently met with a group of these managers to allay their anxieties. She spelled out Honeywell's layoff strategies and explained why a diverse work force is important. Other companies, such as AT&T, are setting up special classes and programs to help these demoralized white male managers.

But hostility can get intense. A black female banker in Los Angeles found that she was the only one in her 12-person department who didn't get laid off last year. All of her other colleagues were white men. Since transferred to another division, she says her new white male colleagues are angry that she was given a job.

"I don't get asked to join them for lunch. They look at my work harder. They don't think I deserved to keep my job," she says. In some cases, a new approach to layoffs has helped to boost the ranks of female and minority employees. Philadelphia Electric Co. reports that the share of its supervisors who are women has increased to 12% from 5% in 1989 while the proportion who belong to minority groups has risen to 9% from 6% three years ago. In 1989, the utility largely abandoned its seniority-based policy in favor of an early retirement program.

When Du Pont drafted its downsizing plan in mid-1991, the Wilmington, Del., chemical maker largely wanted to reduce staffing costs by $1 billion without destroying its 13-year effort to recruit more women and minorities.

"Historically, in manufacturing plants a seniority system has been used to reduce the work force," says Faith Wohl, who manages Du Pont's diversity and family programs. But with a corporate policy that women and minorities must constitute at least 45% of all new hires, she adds, "we weren't eager to lose something that we had worked on so carefully" since 1979.

Du Pont wants to cut 700 of its 72,427 U.S. jobs by the end of 1993 through a sweetened early-retirement program. The company is looking for excess positions in each unit and then asking eligible individuals to retire early.- Company wide, Du Pont's early-retirement push has trimmed 7,600 jobs since summer 1991, saving about $700 million. * * *

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