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Bush to Veto Civil Rights Bill, Submit Alternative

October 21, 1990|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush announced Saturday he will carry out his pledge to veto major civil rights legislation designed to combat job discrimination, saying the bill would prompt employers to use hiring quotas.

"The measure remains a quota bill because inescapably it will have the effect of forcing businesses to adopt quotas in hiring and promotion," Bush said as the Administration unveiled its alternative version.

Bush urged lawmakers to accept the alternative, but it came under attack from bill supporters.

House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) was dubious about chances of enacting an alternative, while Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said Bush seemed to be "moving even farther away from the strong measures that are needed."

The bill approved Wednesday by Congress arrived at the White House on Saturday. Bush said he would veto it on Monday.

The bill represented the civil rights movement's top priority over the last six months. It would overturn six Supreme Court decisions in job discrimination cases last year.

Provisions range from a ban on racial harassment in the workplace to punitive damages in the most extreme discrimination cases.

The most controversy, however, has focused on language that would make it easier to take employers to court in job discrimination cases. Bush calls the provisions so stringent that employers would turn to quotas to have a ready-made defense--something sponsors dispute.

White House legal counsel C. Boyden Gray said Bush's alternative would:

--Cap at $150,000 total damages an employee could win in a job discrimination suit. As passed, the bill would allow unlimited compensatory damages in some cases and cap punitive damages at $150,000 or the total of compensatory damages plus back pay, whichever is greater.

--Allow those filing suit to press their cases if employers could not explain their hiring methods in legal terms.

--Place on employers the burden of proving that hiring practices with a disparate impact on women and minorities were required by business necessity.

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