Landmark Decision in Battle Against ‘executive Suite’ Bias
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Landmark Decision in Battle Against ‘executive Suite’ Bias

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The Philadelphia Chapter of the American Jewish Committee today hailed what it termed “a landmark agreement” between the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company, a major national insurance company with headquarters in Philadelphia, to broaden the involvement of Jews in the management of that company.

The agreement–under which Provident Mutual will start an affirmative action program–stemmed from a complaint brought by the AJ Committee chapter together with the Jewish Employment Vocational Service of Philadelphia, charging that the insurance company had discriminated against Jews in its hiring and promotion policies, especially at executive levels.

The Human Relations Commission found probable cause in the complaint, and the insurance company, without admitting any violation of the State Human Relations Act, agreed to initiate an affirmative action program to remedy the situation.


Michael Steinig, chairman of the AJ Committee chapter’s executive advisory program, in a letter to Joseph X. Yaffe, chairperson of the Commission, stated: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case of its kind in the country where a Human Relations Commission has found a pattern of exclusion with regard to Jews existing in a company and entered into an affirmative action program with that company to remedy the situation. It is our hope, and indeed expectation, that the process worked out in this instance can serve as a precedent in the battle against ‘executive suite’ discrimination that has plagued the Jewish community for decades.”

Steinig, in a separate statement, pointed out that, as part of the agreement with the Human Relations Commission, Provident Mutual had “agreed to notify all employes of the existence of the agreement, reaffirm its non-discriminatory policy, advertise in media specifically directed toward the Jewish community, and conduct management seminars for officers and supervisors once a year emphasizing its equal employment opportunity policy with regard to Jewish persons.”

The AJ Committee expressed some reservation with regard to a portion of the agreement in which the company stated it would “make every good faith effort” through its hiring, transfer, retention and/or promotion procedures to achieve at least a 5.3 percent representation of Jewish persons in its total officer work force, and nine percent Jewish persons in several of its top job classifications by June, 1979.

Steinig stressed the AJ Committee’s concern that “in the process of broadening the involvement of Jews in the management of the company, the percentage figures not become quotas. The American Jewish Committee is not opposed to goals and timetables except when they lead to quotas.”

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