Originally created 02/18/99

Study cites employers' prejudice



ATLANTA -- Georgia has the highest percentage of large employers discriminating against women and minorities in the South, according to a study released Wednesday funded by the Ford Foundation.

One of every three employers discriminates against minorities, and one in four discriminates against women, according to the study, which analyzed 1997 job figures employers of 100 or more workers must report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Southern Regional Council, also funded largely by the Ford Foundation, organized a Capitol press conference with two of the study's authors, Alfred Blumrosen of Rutgers Law School and economic consultant Marc Bendick Jr. It plans to use the findings to bolster its call for anti-discrimination legislation to be introduced next week.

"This means that more than 103,000 women and 160,000 minorities in Georgia are being deprived of job opportunities because of intentional discrimination," said Mr. Blumrosen, who has advised government agencies and organizations on discrimination for 30 years.

The authors said this was the first study in the nation to make such a detailed comparison of employers. It compared each job classification in a given industry to other employers in the same industry doing business in the same city.

"We have substantially reduced the chance that an employer could say they couldn't find any qualified applicants because we are comparing them to other employers in their industry who are hiring out of the same pool of workers," Mr. Blumrosen said.

He acknowledged individual employer circumstances could explain why some have more women and minority workers than others, such as education requirements, distance from public transportation or drug testing. It is unlikely random chance would explain the differences, he said.

But one critic discounted the entire study.

"There are some real serious flaws in here," said Matt Glavin, president of the Southern Legal Foundation, which has filed lawsuits over similar studies. "I'm not saying that discrimination does not take place, but this study is bogus and has an agenda."

Wendy Johnson, Southern Regional Council executive director, conceded that agenda will face tough going in the current makeup of the General Assembly, which is unlikely to pass stronger affirmative action legislation.

"We know this is a battle for the long haul, and we will continue until we succeed," she said. "It affirms that discrimination is real."

Employers don't agree this study proves legislation is needed, noting federal law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and sex.

"If business became convinced that this was a valid problem, business would create an initiative to handle this problem, and it would be comprehensive, effective and voluntary," said Lindsey Thomas, president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. "This just doesn't ring true to everything I see."

Mr. Thomas said companies he knows about are so desperate for workers they wouldn't turn away qualified women or minorities.

Most Georgia companies don't discriminate, Mr. Blumrosen said.

"The employers in Georgia should welcome this study because it is only through their good work that the others who lag behind are so obvious," he said.

Study breakdown

A study released Wednesday reports a breakdown of the level of discrimination it estimates occurs in Georgia industries. Here are the industries it labels the worst violators of federal discrimination laws:

The percent of employers in each industry discriminating against women, ranked by the number of women allegedly affected

Industry............women affected...portion allegedly discriminating

Retail grocery stores......8,937..........10.5

Restaurants and bars.......8,080..........17.5

Retail department stores...4,644..........22.6

Computer programming.......3,996..........38.6

Telephone companies........3,915..........51.3

Hospitals..................3,359..........42.4

Wholesaling groceries......1,867..........48.3

Nursing homes..............1,376..........16.9

Wholesale equipment sales..1,315..........31.3

Commercial banks...........1,290..........24.3

The percent of employers in each industry discriminating against minorities, ranked by the number of people affected

Industry............minority applicants..portion allegedly discriminating

Retail grocery stores......20,777............44.2

Restaurants and bars.......16,546............36.9

Retail department stores...10,049............38.1

Hospitals...................7,061............54.5

Retail variety stores.......5,428............42.1

Nursing homes...............4,251............41.5

Telephone companies.........3,602............53.0

Computer programming........3,596............33.3

Commercial banks............2,723............50.0

Wholesale groceries.........2,455............46.7

Source: Study by Alfred Blumrosen and Marc Bendick

Walter Jones is based in Atlanta and can be reached at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.