· Refer to “New Haven Firefighters” in Chapter 10. Take a position for and one against allowing discrimination in the wake of segregation and discriminating in the name of diversity. Provide one or two reasons and examples to support each side of the argument.
· Review “The Star Award” in Chapter 10. Select three candidates (from the field of five) to receive bonuses. Justify your response with one or two reasons.
In late 2003, a total of 77 firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, took a test for promotion to the rank of lieutenant. Of the 43 whites who took the exam, 25 passed (58 percent); of the 19 blacks, six passed (24 percent); and of the 15 Hispanics, three passed (20 percent). Because there were only eight vacancies, only the top scores were eligible for promotion. None of the six black firefighters with passing scores was eligible.
Upon learning these results, and knowing that the city was nearly 60 percent black and Hispanic, city lawyers advised the city’s Civil Service Board to reject the results, warning the city could be exposed to a race discrimination lawsuit by minority firefighters if it let the exam stand. The board elected not to certify the exam. Firefighters whose scores gave them a good chance at being promoted filed suit, alleging their rights had been violated under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Constitution’s equal protection clause. The lead plaintiff, Frank Ricci, who is dyslexic, said he prepared exhaustively for the test and paid someone to record study material so he could learn by listening.
The U.S. District Court ruled for the city, concluding that the city’s efforts to avoid discrimination against minority firefighters was “race neutral” because “all the test results were discarded, no one was promoted, and firefighters of every race will have to participate in another selection process.”
The firefighters appealed the district judge’s ruling, and the case landed with a three-judge panel at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007. At the end of oral arguments, one appeals judge, Sonia Sotomayor, told Ricci’s lawyer, “We’re not suggesting that unqualified people be hired. But if your test is going to always put a certain group at the bottom of the pass rate, so they’re never, ever going to be promoted, and there is a fair test that could be devised and measures knowledge in a more substantive way, then why shouldn’t the city have an opportunity to look and see if it can develop that?” Ultimately, Judge Sotomayor and her colleagues upheld the district judge’s decision.
In June 2009, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in favor of the white firefighters. Judge Antonin Scalia scoffed at the district court judge’s claim that rejecting the results was racially neutral. “It’s neutral because you throw it out for the losers as well as for the winners? That’s neutrality?”
Some private-sector employers said the ruling might prompt them to use tests more in making hiring and promotion decisions. But the decision had others scrutinizing their existing tests to ensure they are free of bias. The impact of the decision is likely to be more muted in the private sector than in government agencies because private employers are less likely to use a test as the single or predominant criterion for a job promotion.
Ironically, civil service exams were supposed to be the fairest way for cities to hire the best firefighters and police, while opening the doors to more minorities. Exams, it was thought, provided a color-blind way to measure performance and promote minorities into leadership roles within organizations that had clearly discriminated in the past. The problem is that, for reasons not understood, minorities have not performed as well as whites on tests.
But are multiple-choice tests to measure firefighters’ retention of information the optimal way to predict how someone would react at a four-alarm fire? Arguably, the most important skills of any fire department lieutenant or captain are sound judgment, steady command presence, and the ability to make life or death decisions under pressure.
In any event, New Haven city officials concluded that their written test was flawed and that there was another trusted method to select firefighting lieutenants and captains that posed less of a disadvantage to blacks and Hispanics. That method relies largely on assessment centers where applicants are evaluated in simulated real-life situations to see how they would handle them. Supporters of the idea say assessment centers do far better than written exams in measuring leadership and communications skills and an applicant’s ability to handle emergencies. (You will learn more about assessment centers in this chapter.)
Besides the relatively narrow issue of how best to promote firefighters, this case also raises a broader issue posed to Sotomayor during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings in July 2009. Senator Herb Kohl, a Democrat from Wisconsin, asked an interesting question about 2028. By then, according to recent Supreme Court jurisprudence, some kinds of affirmative action may no longer be permissible. In Grutter v. Bolinger (2003), Sandra Day O’Conner upheld race-based discrimination in college admissions, but only for the current generation. Such policies “must be limited in time,” she wrote, adding that “the court expects that 25 years now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” Indeed, by 2023, if current demographic trends continue, nonwhites—blacks, Hispanics, and Asians—will constitute a majority of Americans under 18. By 2042, they will constitute a national majority. In fact, in several large states today, these minorities already constitute a majority.
Is there a difference between allowing reverse discrimination in the wake of segregation and discriminating in the name of diversity indefinitely? How effective was the New Haven Fire Department’s promotional system in 2003? How do the U.S. armed forces handle these issues?
SOURCES: Ed Stannard, “Firefighters Exam at Center of Supreme Court Case,” Hispanic Business News (June 29, 2009); Ronald Dworkin, “Justice Sotomayor : The Unjust Hearings,” New York Review of Books (September 24, 2009); Suzanne Sataline and Stephanie Simon, “Cities Yearn for Clarity on Bias in Hiring,” Wall Street Journal (June 30, 2009); Jess Bravin and Suzanne Sataline, “Ruling Upends Race’s Role in Hiring,” Wall Street Journal (June 30, 2009); Adam Liptak, “Justices to Hear White Firefighters Bias Claims,”New York Times (April 10, 2009); Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Finds Bias against White Firefighters,” New York Times (June 30, 2009); Lani Guinier and Susan Strum, “Trial by Firefighters,” New York Times (July 11, 2009).
As you can see the three primary goals of human resources management (HRM) are to attract an effective workforce to the organization, develop the workforce to its potential, and maintain it over the long term. Most government and nonprofit organizations employ human resource (HR) professionals to perform these three functions. HR specialists focus on one of the human resources areas, such as recruitment of employees or administration of wage or benefit programs, whereas HR generalists have responsibility in more than one area. But, in a real sense, every public administrator needs to be an HR generalist.
Organizations that are truly results oriented—whether public, nonprofit, or for-profit—consistently strive to ensure that their day-to-day HR activities support their organization’s mission and move them closer to accomplishing their strategic goals. That is, they strive to ensure that their core processes support mission-related outcomes. Such organizations rely increasingly on a well-defined mission to form the foundation for what they do, and how they do it, every day. For example, many successful public and private enterprises integrate their HR management activity into their organization’s mission—rather than treat it as an isolated support function. This integrated approach may include such things as tying individual performance management, career development programs, and pay and promotion standards to the organization’s mission and vision.
Before looking at HRM today, we need to review its development in the United States. But this review, which is presented in the first section of the chapter, is not history for history’s sake. The development of what has traditionally been called public personnel administration in the United States has not been a series of revolutions but rather a process of accumulation. This means that some of the practices begun in George Washington’s administration are still followed. So, to make sense of HRM in the early part of the twenty-first century, we must begin in the late part of the eighteenth.
As indicated part of what determines whether a particular HRM activity is effective is the environment that surrounds the activity. The environment can be segmented into its external and internal components. In the second section, as we examine both, it should become clear that the environment is one of the most important factors in determining appropriate HR practices and effective HR management—and ultimately the success or failure of an agency or a public administrator.
As director of the excise audit bureau in the West Dakota Department of Taxation, you have to decide who on your staff should receive a new performance bonus. The legislature created the bonus back in February, and the division of personnel has now issued all the regulations. You have the forms and instructions, and by the end of the month, you have to send your choices to the taxation commissioner, who will forward them to personnel.
Two things motivated the West Dakota legislature to create the performance bonus. First, key legislators had concluded that state employees were simply not working hard enough. Legislators constantly receive complaints about the lackadaisical attitude of state workers, and they concluded that the fixed civil service pay scale was not attracting new talent or motivating existing employees.
Second, West Dakota is running a budget surplus for the second straight year. Naturally, the legislature has cut taxes—twice. But despite those efforts, the budget continues to show a surplus. Consequently, the Speaker of the House decided to use a portion of it to reward the “stars” of state government.
The new Star Award will give the top 20 percent of employees in each unit a $5000 bonus, to be paid in 12 monthly installments during the coming fiscal year. The bonus is supposed to go to those employees who are not only “outstanding” but also genuine stars. The head of each unit must determine the criteria for choosing who the stars are. To ensure that the bonus can be included in the July payroll checks, each manager must submit a “star list” by June 20.
Your audit bureau has 15 employees with a wide range of responsibilities and job classifications—everything from clerk I to senior auditor. And, predictably, they also possess a range of talent, enthusiasm, and effectiveness. Here are the most obvious candidates for the performance bonus:
· Larry Beck, senior auditor. As a 23-year employee, Beck is clearly your most knowledgeable and effective auditor. Everyone goes to him for advice. Everyone looks up to him. But in two years, Larry will be eligible to receive his pension, and he knows it. He can still be a top performer—when he wants to. Recently, however, he has lost a little drive, although most people in the Department of Taxation still think of him as your unit’s star.
· Jim Beatty, auditor III. With an advanced degree in accounting, Jim draws your unit’s tough assignments. He understands the subtleties of the excise tax and thus works with both the department’s legal counsel and the attorney general’s office explaining the intricacies of each case and helping to formulate strategy. He can, however, be condescending toward his less knowledgeable colleagues, few of whom understand the complexity of his work.
· Rachel Gonzalez, auditor I. Straight out of law school with a verve for public service, Rachel is a real go-getter. In fact, she has struck gold several times, having gone over the books of numerous firms in such detail that she found mistakes most other auditors would have missed. Unfortunately, she also discovered some “errors” at a firm owned by the House Speaker’s cousin. The firm refused to acknowledge any error, and eventually the department’s legal counsel decided to settle out of court. The firm paid the taxes that Rachel claimed it owed (plus interest) but admitted no guilt for any tax violations and paid no fine. Rachel would be a gutsy choice on your part, but it might create a few problems politically when the Speaker hears about it.
· Martha Rutledge, administrative assistant II. With 35 years in the Department of Taxation, Martha knows everybody and everything. She runs your life. In fact, she really runs the day-to-day business of the audit unit, permitting you to concentrate on long-term, strategic concerns. You trust both her skills and her judgment; she really functions as your deputy director. Of course, she is still paid as an administrative assistant. It’s hard to imagine Martha slacking off in her duties under any circumstances; it’s also unlikely that an award would make her any more diligent. She’ll be doing her same conscientious job right up until the day she leaves.
· Samantha Black, clerk I. Two years ago, straight out of high school, Samantha passed the civil service exam with flying colors. You immediately hired her, and she quickly became a real team member—both competent and cheery. Every auditor wants to give his or her clerical work to Samantha. Moreover, others in the department have heard of her talents, and she has already turned down several offers as a clerk II. You, however, don’t have a clerk II position into which you can promote her.
The rest of your employees are quite proficient and professional. They’re smart; to do their work, they have to be. Like any other manager in the taxation department, or in state government for that matter, you have a couple of people whom you wouldn’t mind replacing. Still, you have a talented team that does its job without requiring much attention (except when you step on some politically sensitive toes). Your people are overworked and underappreciated. If the bonus is for performance, 90 percent of them deserve one. But you have only three to give.