Affirmative Action:

National Institutes of Health Does Not Fully Meet Federal Requirements

HRD-86-37: Published: Mar 5, 1986. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated equal employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative action activities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to assess how: (1) the reorganization of the Division of Administrative Services affected black employees; (2) the discrimination complaints process is working; (3) the affirmative action program is working; and (4) minorities and women are represented in the work force.

GAO found that, although the reorganization of the Division of Administrative Services caused anxiety among all of the employees and some blacks felt that they were treated unfairly, there was no evidence that minorities were treated differently than nonminorities, and no employees were downgraded or dismissed as a result of the reorganization. NIH took longer to investigate, render a decision on, and resolve discrimination complaints than other public health agencies because of internal management and personnel problems involving those responsible for the investigations. Although NIH appointed a new division director who initiated actions to improve processing, it needs to sustain its efforts and attention to ensure further improvements. NIH has not fully complied with four of the eight requirements for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Affirmative Action Program. Specifically, it has not: (1) established numerical hiring goals for underrepresented groups; (2) consistently implemented minority and female recruitment strategies; (3) collected key data to monitor the program; and (4) completed analysis of impediments to EEO. GAO believes that: (1) this noncompliance may have contributed to the continued underrepresentation of minorities and women; and (2) NIH management needs increased effort, strong commitment, and active support to bring its affirmative action plan into compliance.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation was addressed to Congress as a whole; to GAO knowledge, no committee to date has initiated any action to consider this recommendation. GAO has no reason to believe that any consideration will be given to this recommendation, therefore, the recommendation will be closed.

    Matter: Congress should explore the situation with the Office of Personnel Management and EEOC to clarify what these agencies' current positions are concerning the collection of flow data.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 1986, NIH circulated its numerical hiring goals to all of the bureaus, institutes, and divisions for implementation during fiscal year (FY) 1987.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) should direct the Director, NIH, to comply with EEOC Affirmative Action Program directives by establishing numerical hiring goals for all underrepresented groups.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Director, NIH, instructed the five organizational components without minority and female recruitment plans to prepare them. These plans were implemented by March 31, 1987.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director, NIH, to comply with EEOC Affirmative Action Program directives by developing and implementing minority and female recruitment plans in organizational components that do not have them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: By the end of FY 1986, NIH completed barrier analysis studies of all of the targeted occupations in its affirmative action plan. During FY 1987 and FY 1988, NIH: (1) took action to improve the representation of minorities and women in these targeted positions; and (2) collected applicant flow data to improve the quality of future barrier analysis reviews.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director, NIH, to comply with EEOC Affirmative Action Program directives by identifying and eliminating employment barriers for minorities and women.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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