IRS News Release  
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 on minorities;
  • 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 punishment; and
  • 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.

Previous | Next

1994 IRS News Releases | News Releases Main | Home