Is Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty an Equal Opportunity Employer?

BBG Watch Commentary

We went through the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) website but could not find any significant references to RFE/RL being an equal opportunity employer or links to its full equal employment opportunity policies. All we found was very brief EEO statements at the bottom of the company’s job announcements for Americans, but not for foreigners.

“RFE/RL is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to workforce diversity. Positions at RFE/RL are considered Public Trust Positions, with appointment contingent upon the positive outcome of a background investigation.”

It is strange that RFE/RL’s EEO statement is so short and so vague and not easily found on the RFE/RL website. The federal agency that funds and manages RFE/RL, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), clearly states that it is an equal opportunity employer and posts its EEO policy on its official website.

Equal Employment Opportunity

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG or Agency) is firmly committed to equal employment opportunity (EEO), diversity, and the promotion of a strong affirmative employment program.

It is the policy of BBG to provide equal opportunities in employment for every employee and job applicant, and to ensure a workplace that is free of discrimination on the basis of race/ethnicity, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment and sexual orientation), age (person 40 years of age and older), national origin, disability (physical and mental), genetic information, and retaliation (individual engaged in prior EEO activities).

The BBG strongly promotes the full realization of equal opportunity in employment through a continuing affirmative program to identify and eliminate discriminatory practices.

RFA Equal Opportunity EmployerAnother 501(c)3 broadcasting entity also funded and managed by the BBG, Radio Free Asia (RFA), clearly states on its corporate website that it is an equal opportunity employer. The Voice of America (VOA), which is a federal employer, also posts EEO statements and policies.

EEO Policy Statement

The United States Government does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, retaliation, parental status, military service, or other non-merit factor.

Why the RFE/RL corporate website does not post a full text of its EEO policy and specific rules? We are not in a position to check on this, but some of our contributors have pointed out that they may have seen such EEO statements and policies posted in full on the RFE/RL website in the past.

Does the current RFE/RL management violate EEO policies of the BBG?

It certainly does. For example, foreign-born employees in Prague do not have the same employment rights as Czech or American employees. What distinguishes them from Czech and American employees is that they are not Czech or American. Czech employees are protected by the Czech labor laws, some of which — by the decision of the RFE/RL management — do not apply to foreign-born employees brought to the Czech Republic by RFE/RL as contract employees. This practice, which has been in place for many years, was condemned as “immoral” and “fraudulent” by the Czech Helsinki Committee, a premier human rights organization in the country. It has also attracted critical media attention in the Czech Republic, Russia and in other countries to which RFE/RL broadcasts its programs.

The BBG does not allow discrimination on the basis of national origin, but RFE/RL apparently does relying on the old Soviet-era Czech law that allowed such practices for Soviet companies operating in communist-ruled Czechoslovakia. Why?

Another recent potential violation of BBG’s, if not RFE/RL’s, equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy occurred in Russia where far better qualified web editors and multimedia journalists with years of experience were dismissed and replaced by associates of the new Russian Service director, most of whom media reports described as less qualified and lacking multimedia skills. It was also reported that at least two of the fired Radio Liberty journalists in Moscow, including one web editor, were handicapped persons and others were single mothers with children. According to the same reports, the newly-hired team lost about 60 percent of former monthly visitors to the RFE/RL Russian website.

Should RFE/RL executives have the right and the power from a legal standpoint to dismiss qualified employees, including handicapped employees, and replace them with less qualified employees who happen to be professionally connected to one or more executives or managers? This is aside from the moral outrage expressed in Russian media reports and protests from nearly all major human rights groups and opposition political leaders in Russia, not to mention the public diplomacy damage to America’s image and RFE/RL’s reputation.

Is the Broadcasting Board of Governors going to provide answers and solutions or continue to ignore this problem?

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