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House Approves Civil-Rights Bill

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WASHINGTON--The House has approved legislation that would give employees more clout in job-discrimination cases, setting up a confrontation with President Bush.

The civil-rights bill passed last month, HR 4000, is almost identical to legislation approved by the Senate in July. (See Education Week, Aug. 1, 1990.)

The President has vowed to veto the bill in its present form. Some lobbyists predict, however, that Mr. Bush will seek to avoid the political repercussions of such a move in an election year and reopen negotiations with Congressional leaders.

The measures would nullify six U.S. Supreme Court rulings that restricted employee rights, and would allow women and religious and ethnic minorities to sue for damages in cases of intentional discrimination. The most controversial provision would require accused employers to prove in court that policies adversely affecting women or minorities are reasonably job-related.

President Bush, many Congressional Republicans, and business groups argue that the provision force employers to adopt hiring quotas.

The House rejected a weaker substitute partially written by Administration officials by a vote of 238 to 188. It passed the bill 272 to 154, just 12 votes short of the two-thirds needed to override a veto. The vote split largely along party lines, with 32 Republicans voting for the bill and 12 Democrats voting against it.

The House added two amendments by voice vote. The first, reportedly sought by the White House in negotiations with Congressional leaders that later broke down, would limit punitive damages against companies with fewer than 100 workers to $150,000.

The other amendment, an effort to draw the votes of conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans concerned about quotas, states that a statistical imbalance in an employer's workforce would not in itself establish a violation of civil-rights law.

A House-Senate conference committee is expected to meet shortly after the Congress returns from its summer recess next week.--J.M.

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