WASHINGTON (May. 15)
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America has officially announced its opposition to the civil rights bill proposed by Democrats in Congress, contending it would result in quotas.
In doing so, the Orthodox Union became the second major national Jewish group to oppose the bill, which is backed by most American Jewish organizations.
The only other major national Jewish group to oppose the bill is Agudath Israel of America, which is also Orthodox. The Council of Jewish Organizations in Civil Service and the National Conference of Shomrim Societies have also come out against the bill.
Agudath Israel argues that the bill’s provisions on unintentional discrimination would lead employers to impose hiring quotas to avoid expensive lawsuits.
Unlike Agudath Israel and the other groups, the Orthodox Union is a member of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, whose 12 other member national agencies and 117 local community councils support the bill.
Last year the Orthodox Union indicated concerns about a similar bill, but did not take a public stand against it. President Bush vetoed that bill, saying it would have resulted in quotas.
The bill was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in January as the first act of the Democratic-controlled 102nd Congress. A vote is expected soon.
At a Capitol Hill news conference last week, NJCRAC and other major Jewish organizations strongly denied that the bill would result in quotas. They said Jewish organizations had worked with the drafters of the legislation specifically to ensure that there would be no quotas.
WILL PUSH FOR ALTERNATIVE BILL
The Orthodox Union, in a statement issued Monday, stressed its support of every other major civil rights bill in the last 30 years.
It said it would “actively support a civil rights bill that does not compel or have the effect of encouraging, directly or indirectly, the use of racial, religious or gender quotas in hiring or advancement in employment.”
But the group said the current bill “includes provisions that might lead many employers to conclude that they should use racial, religious or gender quotas in hiring and promoting employees to avoid expensive litigation with unpredictable potential liabilities.”
The statement went on to say that this could happen “even though the hiring standards and practices of these employers are based on appropriate business considerations relating to job performance.”
The Orthodox group said its Institute for Public Affairs would work with the other national Jewish organizations, the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, Congress and the Bush administration to help draft legislation “which we can support.”
The civil rights bill seeks to circumvent five 1989 Supreme Court decisions that make it more difficult for people to prove they are victims of job discrimination.
The bill also would allow persons discriminated against because of their sex, religion or national origin to sue for monetary damages. While victims of racial discrimination currently can seek compensatory and punitive damages, women and religious minorities can only receive back pay and compensatory damages.
However, supporters of the bill have indicated that to avoid another veto by Bush they might be willing to accept limits on the money that could be awarded.