June 17, 1994
IRS & NTEU Address Disciplinary Differences
WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service and the
National Treasury Employees Union today announced the first federal labor-management
program to address the problem of disproportionate discipline of minority employees.
An IRS/NTEU task force completed a study of disciplinary actions taken during Fiscal
Year 1991. The group recommended changes to enhance management information and
accountability, modify disciplinary systems and enhance employee understanding.
Although the task force did not find a clear root cause for disparities in the
discipline of African-American and white employees, it endorsed actions that it believes
will have a positive impact on the problem.
Among the IRS/NTEU actions to be taken are:
- develop in each IRS region a methodology for analyzing the disciplinary system's impact
- gather feedback from employees and managers to identify differences in perceived
outcomes of discipline;
- implement an alternative discipline systems to stress correction of mistakes over
- continue to improve communications on employee obligations and responsibilities, with
NTEU playing a more facilitative role in the disciplinary process.
"We are committed to treating every IRS employee equitably," IRS Commissioner
Margaret Milner Richardson said. "The findings in this report are of great concern to
me. We at the IRS are serious about addressing these issues and working with NTEU to
implement the recommended changes."
"Through disproportionate discipline of minorities is a problem throughout the
federal government, we're proud to be the first union-agency team to develop an action
plan aimed at reducing the disparity," said NTEU President Robert M. Tobias. "We
are charging our local management and union representatives to analyze the local data,
pinpoint the reasons why employees are disciplined and development solutions for the
disparity that can be implemented locally."
The latest task force attempted to give some perspective to a 1991 study of
disciplinary actions taken in 1989 and to identify a root cause for the disparity in
discipline. Although there were concerns that the earlier figures were atypical, the
latest study found that in both 1989 and 1991 black employees were disciplined out of
proportion to their representation in the workforce. In some cases, the discipline rate
was almost three times that of white employees.
The study found three main reasons for discipline: absence and leave abuse,
unacceptable performance and personal tax violations.
Implementing the previous report's recommendations, the IRS has already revised its
orientation program to better inform new employees of their responsibilities, launched
initiatives to enhance managers' interpersonal skills and worked with NTEU to develop an
agency-wide strategy for diversity.
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