Statement of Carlton M. Hadden, Director, Office of Federal Operations

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of July 22, 2008 - Issues Facing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in the Federal Workplace

Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair and Commissioners. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to discuss the status of Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders in the federal workforce.

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 drafting decisions on federal employee EEO complaint appeals. The second is overseeing the efforts of all Executive Branch agencies to establish policies and practices that foster an inclusive work culture and operate proactively to prevent employment discrimination.

While there are many facets to our oversight work, we have an unwavering commitment to ensure that Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, like all other federal employees, receive equal opportunity in all aspects of federal employment. Non-discrimination is not enough – Title VII requires federal agencies to take proactive steps to ensure equal employment opportunity. Part of ensuring equal employment opportunity includes assuring that the workplace is open to persons of all race, ethnic and national origin groups.

Under EEOC's Management Directive 715, agencies annually report their efforts to implement model EEO programs and to identify and eliminate barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace.

The federal government can be considered the employer of first choice for Asians and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders. Overall participation of these groups consistently has been above the Civilian Labor Force availability rate and there has been appreciable improvement in the federal government's employment record for this group over the past decade.

The percentage of Asians and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders in the total federal workforce in FY 2006, the latest year for which we have complete data, was 6.06% while the Civilian Labor Force participation for this group is 3.80%. By comparison, ten years ago, Asians and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders represented just 4.71 percent of the federal workforce. This is especially encouraging given that the number of Executive Branch employees of Asian and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander descent increased from approximately 81,147 to 158,236 during this same period.

An important measure in determining the integration of any group is its representation in the highest ranks of government positions. In FY 1997, Asians held 1.98% of federal jobs above Grade 15. In FY 2006, the percentage increased considerably to 3.73%.

Nevertheless, there are still barriers to the employment and advancement of Asians and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders in the federal government. For example, Asians' and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders' share of the senior grades is still well below their overall rate of participation in the federal workforce.

To give some perspective on how federal agencies fare in their employment of Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, I want to present the participation rates of these groups at the five agencies with exceptional records of employment, at the five agencies with the lowest participation rates for Asians and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders, and across the federal government. I caution each of us not to draw drastic conclusions about these figures as they are what we call a snapshot of each agency based only on race/national origin data and do not take into consideration any number of other factors such as each agency's hiring opportunities and recruitment efforts.

The five federal agencies that had the highest participation rates of these groups in FY 2006 were:

  • the Department of Defense Commissary Agency at 16.45%,
  • the Broadcasting Board of Governors at 14.94%,
  • the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at 13.12%,
  • the Department of Navy at 10.55%, and
  • the Department of Commerce at 8.87%.

I have attached a ranking spreadsheet containing the AAPI participation rates of each agency with 500 or more total employees in FY 2006.

I also wish to call your attention to the five agencies that exhibited the greatest percentage increases of participation of Asians and Native Hawaiians over the past five years. The United States Agency for International Development, the Department of State, and the Department of Health and Human Services all had increases of more than two percent between FY 2002 and FY 2006. The Federal Trade Commission went from a participation rate of 3.76% in FY 2002 to 5.15% in FY 2006. Finally, the Securities and Exchange Commission increased slightly each year during this time period, rising from 6.74% to 8.25%.

This taskforce, which was initiated by the Chair, examined the representation of Asians and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders not only in the total workforce but also in the mid-level management and in senior-grade positions. The data shows that while there is a large pool of Asians and Native Hawaiians to choose from in many agencies, their participation rates begin to decline at the higher levels.

In some agencies the difference between Asian and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders' participation rates in their permanent workforce and in their mid-level management is substantial. For example, although the Department of Veterans Affairs has a 6.18% participation rate of Asian and Native Hawaiians in the permanent workforce, it has only a 2.15% participation rate for mid-level officials and managers. Unfortunately, this trend is found in many of the agencies that employ the highest percentages of Asians and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders in their total workforce.

Sadly, the same pattern holds true for senior grades. Some agencies have substantial rates of participation of Asians and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders in GS-14 and GS-15 level positions, but appear to have a glass ceiling when it comes to their employment at the SES level. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has a 9.12% participation rate at the GS-14 level, a 6.06% participation rate at the GS-15 level, but only a 2.19% participation rate at the SES level. This sharp decline in participation of Asians and Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders at the SES level is of concern to EEOC and should be also a wake up call to those agencies where this phenomenon exists.

However, we have found that many agencies are failing to identify these issues in their workforce data and therefore are not investigating what, if any, barriers exist that may be impeding more representative participation of Asians and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders in upper management and senior grades. The taskforce reviewed over 50 agencies' MD-715 reports in order to determine whether agencies had identified barriers to employment for Asians and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders.

Even though the taskforce's analysis of the data revealed anomalies or these groups at each of the agencies reviewed, only about half of these agencies identified the anomalies and even fewer identified any actual barriers to employment. Of the 55 agencies that completed a written survey, only 15 identified anomalies in their workforce data regarding Asians. This discrepancy makes it evident that agencies must increase their level of awareness of the barrier analysis process in order to begin to address barriers to employment and advancement of Asians and Native Hawaiians that may exist.

The Office of Federal Operations is committed to educating agencies on how to properly conduct barrier analysis under MD-715. This commitment includes providing training to EEO professionals, identifying data anomalies in the Commission's MD-715 feedback letters, and highlighting this important issue at meetings such as this.

The Commission cannot undertake these activities in a vacuum. Agency heads must also take the initiative to increase their agencies' recognition of the talents of Asians and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders who, in many cases, represent an untapped pool of talent for upper management. Federal agencies will only benefit by further opening their doors and making full use of the skills and assets of all individuals.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today. I look forward to continuing to work vigilantly with the federal sector community as the federal government moves closer to becoming a model employer – one with a 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 that you may have for me.

This page was last modified on July 22, 2008.