WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Senate panel on Wednesday overwhelmingly recommended confirmation of Clarence Thomas to a second term as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The 14-2 vote by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee to send Thomas' nomination to the full Senate came despite criticism that he had not rigorously enforced laws against job discrimination.

Thomas ''has not brought a vigorous determination to enforce the law,'' said Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, who joined with Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., in opposing the nomination.

He has ''failed to to show that kind of leadership which the civil rights community is entitled to,'' Metzenbaum said.

Critics charge that Thomas flouted the law last fall when he ordered EEOC attorneys to stop seeking minority hiring goals and timetables in job discrimination cases.

Thomas, who had called employment goals ''a sham,'' recently pledged to the panel that he would enforce affirmative action statutes now that the concept has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, the panel's chairman, said Thomas ''has been an excellent leader'' who ''incorporated sound management principles'' in the agency.

''He has taken a very troubled agency and put it on a solid foundation,'' Hatch said. ''I think he has greatly improved enforcement activities.''

The panel also approved without objection and sent to the Senate the nominations of Justin Dart Jr. to be commissioner of the Rehabilitation Service Administration; Carol Fisk as commissioner on aging, and Mary McNally Rose as undersecretary of education for management.