A few of our stories and columns are now in front of the paywall. We at The Chief-Leader remain committed to independent reporting on labor and civil service. It's been our mission since 1897. You can have a hand in ensuring that our reporting remains relevant in the decades to come. Consider supporting The Chief, which you can do for as little as $3.20 a month.
The City Council has released a long-awaited report to its staffers on the body’s Equal Employment Opportunity policies that include recommendations on how the Council can better combat harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Accompanying the report, produced by Redwood Enterprise for $200,000 and released last week, is a separate Council staff climate survey, conducted in 2020-2021, which revealed that 24 percent of respondents had personally experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace. An additional 33 percent said they were not sure or preferred not to say.
Redwood Enterprise’s audit was commissioned in 2019 after Council staffers raised concerns about their work environment and former Council Member Barry Grodenchik admitted to sexually harassing a staffer and, a year later, Council Member Andy King was removed by his colleagues following a slew of allegations, including sexual harassment complaints, against him. The Council received the report in July but waited until last week to release it so that staffers could conduct a review of the report, suggest changes and provide additional context, according to a Council spokesperson.
The survey, conducted during the previous Council term , also revealed that 80 percent of the 109 staffers who responded consider the Council to be a safe workplace while 24 percent said they had witnessed discrimination or harassment while at work. Another 23 percent said they were unsure or preferred not to say if they had witnessed harassment or discrimination.
“These numbers are higher than what I expected,” an anonymous Council staffer said. “I was shocked to see that even a quarter of [staff] had experienced that.”
The report’s general recommendations include expanding training, increasing staffing levels in the Equal Employment Opportunity office, having a third party conduct investigations instead of the Council’s Office of General Counsel, conducting the biennial survey and others. Council staffers received a new staff climate survey last week.
According to a Council spokesperson, staffing levels in the Council’s EEO Office have tripled since Redwood began their review and the office no longer reports to the OGC. The spokesperson added that the Council has instituted new training, improved record keeping and now uses a third-party to conduct certain EEO investigations.
“This Council is committed to fostering a workplace free from any discrimination and harassment in violation of its Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policy. We are proud of the investments and work conducted to strengthen our EEO office and EEO-related policies and procedures to advance this goal, which has included addressing many of the same issues in Redwood’s recommendations,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “This important work will continue, considering the insights, input, and feedback from Redwood based on the review conducted last term and the staff climate surveys from the past and moving forward.”
Most Council staff are represented by the Association of Legislative Employees, which is currently bargaining for staffers’ first contract through which they hope to include a more streamlined process for filing grievances and harassment claims.
In a statement, ALE’s executive board praised Council Speaker Adrienne Adams for “finally releasing” the report but called it “long overdue” in that its findings and recommendations are based on 2018-2019 survey data.
“The union views itself as an essential partner with Council management in eliminating harassment,” the statement continued. “ALE receives many complaints from staffers who encounter inappropriate workplace behaviors, but who do not feel they can report them because of confidentiality concerns, fear of employer retaliation, and an arcane Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) process that is controlled by management.“
Representatives with the ALE will meet early in the new year for another bargaining session
The anonymous Council staffer sensed that more information than what the report and survey contains would shed needed light on harassment and discrimination.
“I personally want to know where these instances are taking place and where people are experiencing this,” the staffer said. “I think that will help us better understand as a Council where we need to improve.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here