RIVERSIDE COUNTY: Bullying, racism alleged

19 Jun

 /FILE PHOTO At least two supervisors in Riverside County’s Waste Management Department used racial slurs against black workers, and employees in another county department were regularly bullied by superiors, according to two grand jury reports that found a pattern of hostile work conditions.

The reports released Monday, June 18, detail workplace problems in waste management and a Human Resources program responsible for temp workers. A former waste management worker who is black told the grand jury that he was called the N-word and ordered to eat in a trailer infested with rats and insects.

The report does not specify the race of the person who allegedly made those statements.

WARNING: This document contains language that may offend some readers.Grand Jury Report on Riverside County Waste Management Department

County spokesman Ray Smith declined to comment on the reports pending written responses by county officials. Human Resources Director Barbara Olivier said she was “looking into some of the points” raised by the grand jury. She declined further comment.

The grand jury investigated waste management and the Temporary Assignment Program/Medical Assignment Program, which is part of the county Human Resources Department. Human Resources has 337 employees while waste management employs about 200 staff members.

Waste management operates seven landfills countywide. The jury’s report included testimony from current and former employees who alleged less-qualified workers are hired and promoted “because they are in the right ‘clique.’”

Twenty-one complaints of harassment and discrimination have been filed against the department since 2006, resulting in 13 human resources investigations for misconduct, the jury found. Employees considered senior management to be unapproachable, the report read.

Grand Jury Report on Riverside County Temporary Workers Program

“The jury also found employees feared that old corrective and disciplinary reports could used against them. Those reports are only supposed to be kept for one year,” the report read.

Annual employee evaluations are not being done in a timely manner, according to the jury.

The Waste Management Department has a history of racial discrimination, the jury found. A supervisor at the Lamb Canyon landfill refused to sign a 2004 reprimand of an employee found guilty of making racial comments about blacks to an African American, the report read.

Two operations and maintenance supervisors are known to use racial slurs to describe blacks, and a black former equipment operator said he was called the N-word during his eight-year tenure and told to eat in the filthy trailer, according to testimony cited in the report.

‘Wild West’

The Temporary Assignment Program is the county’s temp agency while the medical program hires temporary medical workers.

“Bullying by supervisors and managers has become pervasive” in both programs and has lead to “fear and intimidation among employees,” the report read.

A group of program recruiters is derogatively referred to as “the wild, Wild West” and targeted for harsh treatment, the report found.

As punishment, seven of those recruiters were put on performance improvement plans or asked to provide doctors’ notes for sick leave, the jury found, adding that documents examined by the jury had language showing “disrespect to employees beyond what would be considered reasonable.”

Performance evaluations were not timely and training was inadequate for supervisors, the report read.

The report recommended a series of steps to improve the departments, including an anti-bullying policy and enforcement of an existing zero tolerance policy on harassment.

County officials will provide formal, written responses to the reports by September. The jury’s recommendations are not binding.

Follow Jeff Horseman on Twitter: @JeffHorseman


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