NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EEOC Bully's Small Businesses

March 26, 1997

The owner of a small retail food market in Akron, Ohio, says actions taken against him by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are a perfect example of why small businesses are desperately crying for relief from federal government harassment.

After an amicable and constructive visit to the store by a local NAACP attorney in 1991, the EEOC charged the owner in 1994 with failing or refusing to hire black employees for all positions because of their race. In fact, the family business did have black employees.

  • In 1995, the EEOC demanded that the store's owner buy full-page ads aimed exclusively at blacks, imposed a 33 percent minority hiring quota, and required that it pay nearly $100,000 to 24 black applicants it had failed to hire.
  • The store's own internal investigation revealed that it had hired blacks at rates expected of its location, labor pool and industry needs, and at the same rates as other local food retailers -- and, in fact, two of the 24 black applicants cited in the EEOC charge had been offered jobs, but turned them down.
  • As news spread of the store owner's decision to fight the EEOC charge spread, prominent local black leaders circulated petitions supporting the store and the local NAACP chapter wrote to the EEOC, attesting to the store's support of the minority community.

After Congress passed an amendment last year allowing small firms unjustly prosecuted by the federal government to recover legal costs, the EEOC backed down -- sort of -- and agreed to accept a settlement on the store's terms.

  • The original 24 applicants would be invited to reapply, the store would be free to accept or reject them based on their qualifications, any applicants hired would stay for a full year and receive a $1,000 scholarship.
  • Not one of the 24 applicants reapplied.
  • The owner estimates that the case cost taxpayers more than $200,000 and the store spent more than $67,000 in legal fees, as well as hundreds of hours of labor.

He charges that "bureaucrats are conducting a reign of terror against those of us who pay their salaries."

Source: Russell Vernon (President and CEO of West Point Market), Wall Street Journal, March 26, 1997.


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