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Complaint Against LOC Draws 700-Plus Signers

Four weeks after it was initially filed, more than 700 employees have added their names to an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint that alleges racial discrimination at the Library of Congress, the grievance’s lead organizer said.

The complaint, filed May 28 with the Library’s Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office, asserts wide-ranging discrimination against black employees and against other minority groups employed at the institution.

Lead complainant Christine Mills, an employee in the Library’s Collections Access, Loan and Management Division, said at least 700 employees had added their signatures to the complaint as of Tuesday afternoon.

An employee in the Library’s EEO office, who refused to be identified, could not confirm that figure Tuesday but said the five-page complaint had received more than 600 signatures.

The complaint lists 16 separate allegations, including charges that minority employees are subject to stricter discipline than white employees; denied training; are less likely to be considered for promotions or advancement; and subject to retaliation for filing complaints.

In a recent interview, Mills also criticized the Library’s use of contract employees and temporary workers, asserting that those practices are used to block advancement opportunities for long-term minority employees.

“We’re not getting the opportunity to grow,” said Mills, who has previously filed two EEO complaints, one of which was dismissed.

The new complaint, which Library officials described as a “pre-complaint” or “informal complaint,” will be assigned to an EEO counselor for review and informal discussion.

If the complaint is not resolved through the initial process — which can take up to 90 days, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — the employees may file a formal complaint, which will be forwarded to the EEOC and assigned to a complaints examiner for further review, and, potentially, an administrative hearing.

In a statement responding to the initial complaint, LOC spokeswoman Jill Brett said: “The Library of Congress is committed to providing equal opportunities in hiring, professional development and advancement of employees and applicants for employment.”

The Library, Brett continued, “has committed substantial resources to the training and professional development of its employees” through programs such as its Leadership Development Program, Affirmative Action Intern Program, Affirmative Action Detail Program, Affirmative Action Tuition Support Program and Mentoring Program.

Library officials also point to statistics showing that the agency employs African-American, Asian and American Indian workers at levels above those of the government as a whole.

Black employees account for 38.6 percent of the the LOC’s workforce, which, as of February 2004, totaled more than 4,100 permanent employees. Asian workers account for 6.1 percent of that total, followed by Hispanic employees at 2.1 percent and Native Americans at .5 percent.

In 1995, the Library instituted numerous changes to its hiring and promotion practices under a settlement agreement to Cook v. Billington, a long-running discrimination case which had included more than 2,000 black employees.

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