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News Briefs II

Freddie Mac Warned On Civil Rights

The Washington Post

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is again taking on Freddie Mac, accusing the McLean, Va.based financial firm of showing a "disregard for the civil rights of black employees" in its hiring and promotion practices.

Acting on a complaint filed by a former Freddie Mac manager, the EEOC issued a finding last month saying that black employees at the firm face widespread discrimination and suffer retaliation if they complain about their treatment.

In finding that Freddie Mac has created a "hostile work environment," the EEOC urged the company to take swift corrective action, warning that failure to do so could lead the commission to file a federal lawsuit.

The EECC filed suit against Freddie Mac last year, seeking a court order requiring changes. A federal judge dismissed the suit after determining that the company had taken sufficient remedial action, including better training and the creation of a toll-free hot line for employees to report instances of offensive conduct. Since then, EEOC lawyers said, other employees have come forward with evidence of a pattern of discrimination.

Company officials Wednesday denied the allegations, saying they had acted aggressively to root out isolated incidents of misconduct. In its 30-year history, Freddie Mac has an "extremely good employment record," said David Palombi, the firm's vice president for corporate communications. Palombi said no court has ever found that Freddie Mac engaged in discriminatory behavior.

Northwest Lays Off Workers, Cancels Flights

The Washington Post

Northwest Airlines said Wednesday that it has laid off 27,000 workers and canceled all flights through the long Labor Day holiday. Meanwhile, federal mediators set up a weekend meeting to determine whether it was worth trying to restart negotiations in the five-day pilots strike against the nation's fourth-largest airline.

The airline said it sent layoff notices to 27,000 mechanics, flight attendants, customer service employees and other "groundside employees." Further layoff notices are expected among Northwest's 50,000 employees as the strike continues.

The National Mediation Board said it set up an exploratory meeting in Chicago on Saturday to see whether the two sides were prepared to move on the critical pay issues that triggered the strike.

But even if the meeting produces meaningful results, sources close to the board said Wednesday, actual negotiations probably would not start before Tuesday in either Washington or Minneapolis. That timetable would almost ensure that Northwest's operations would be grounded for all of next week even if negotiators reached a quick settlement.

More than 6,000 members of the Air Line Pilots Association walked off their jobs at 12:01 a.m. Saturday in a dispute over a new labor contract. Northwest immediately canceled its 1,700 daily flights.