The following editorial appeared in Friday's Washington Post:
WASHINGTON -- If the Justice Department had moved quickly in 1984 to settle claims of sex discrimination by 1,100 women against the U.S. Information Agency and Voice of America, it might have cost the government as much as $20 million. That was the year a trial judge found the government liable in a 1977 lawsuit alleging wide-ranging discrimination against women applying for jobs at the two agencies. This week the government -- that is, the taxpayers -- finally settled the case for the eyebrow-raising sum of $508 million. The difference? Twenty-three years of accumulated back pay, plus interest payments estimated to account for one-third of the total, mounting ever higher as the government lost appeal after appeal. Money for plaintiffs' lawyers and court costs will jack the total up to some $550 million, and that does not count the government's own legal costs.
Not only is this more than twice as large as the next largest discrimination settlement in civil rights history, it's about 25 times the largest such settlement the federal government has ever paid. You don't get to a number like this without a serious lack of management. The merits of the case appear ultimately to have left little justification for two decades of expensive stubbornness. The discrimination, found by a series of courts to be serious, pervasive and well-documented, was no trivial matter: Women allegedly were routinely denied employment in high-paying professional jobs in favor of less-qualified men, had their scores changed on in-house tests if they had scored higher than male applicants, and were told a variety of untruths including that their applications had been lost.
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