Shelby Co. employee challenges Equal Employment Opportunity rules - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby Co. employee challenges Equal Employment Opportunity rules

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Shelby County IT administrator is challenging the county's Equal Employment Opportunity rules after its purchasing department refused to pay workers who'd already finished projects.

The administrator, Mike Pachis, asked the county attorney if the purchasing department was breaking laws by not paying vendors who failed to meet EEO requirements.

Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, also a constitutional law professor, is familiar with the dispute between the two government departments.

"The purchasing department told our IT department that they couldn't pay these vendors, even though they'd already done the work, because they didn't have a valid Equal Employment Opportunity number," Mulroy said.

In order to do business with the county, the EEO policy says your staff must be diverse.

"Whatever the minority percentage is in the census area where you do business - if it's local, Shelby County - if you're a Utah firm, then in Utah - you have to have at least half that percentage of minority employees," Mulroy said.

The county attorney Friday said the county must honor all contracts.  

But Pachis took it a step further.

"While they were at it they also said 'Hey, wait a minute, isn't this EEO system we have unconstitutional anyway?'" said Mulroy.

The county attorney's opinion says the EEO system is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court says such a policy can only be in place if there's an established track record of discrimination against minorities. Shelby County has no such track record.

"We need to have a record that proves that we've discriminated in the past," said Mulroy. "Right now, we don't have that. We just have everyone's common knowledge. So, maybe we need to do a study."

Mulroy says the legal opinion is the first step in an action that could change the county's contracting policies.

An attorney opinion is not legally-binding, so the county can keep using the EEO policy unless someone sues and a judge declares it unconstitutional.

Pachis did not return Action News 5's calls for comment Saturday.

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