In a report released Tuesday, a survey revealed that many minority employees of the city of Madison perceive they are treated differently than their white co-workers.
The “Workplace Climate Survey,” conducted by the city’s Multicultural Affairs Committee, surveyed 708 city employees in summer 2015 about their opinion on workplace culture and climate, particularly in areas of concern for employees of color.
The survey’s results found 60 percent of black employees agreed they are treated differently by co-workers because of their race. This is compared to 6 percent of white employees.
One city worker in the anonymous survey wrote, “I have certainly observed other staff of color being marginalized consistently in other departments and divisions.”
The survey also found nearly half of black employees and more than 20 percent of Hispanic and multiracial respondents felt they were not accepted for differences in personal characteristics, and many felt they had to “change things about [themselves]” to fit in.
Questions about the ability of supervisors to address race-based incidents in the workplace also arose in the report. Many respondents felt they could not bring concerns to superiors in fear of it affecting their employment.
“I witness harassment on a daily basis,” one anonymous employee said in the survey. “People including myself have brought it to management’s attention and it either falls on deaf ears or is swept under the rug. Eventually, you just accept that this is how you’re going to be treated daily.”
Many employees also felt there would be negative consequences if they were to report unfair treatment, according to the survey. The report found that almost 50 percent of black employees said they had witnessed an incident instigated by race while working for the city of Madison.
Gloria Reyes, Madison Department of Civil Rights interim director, said the city had heard concerns from employees and were not surprised by the survey results. The results are disappointing and the city wants to work toward an inclusive environment for all, she said.
“Race has been at the forefront of pretty much everything we [the city of Madison] do,” Reyes said.
In the coming weeks the Multicultural Affairs Committee will be meeting with Mayor Paul Soglin to discuss what the next steps will be to address concerns raised by the report, Reyes said.
Part of the solution will be training for managers, supervisors and co-workers, but Reyes said recommendations by the Multicultural Affairs Committee is a good first step to making the city a more inclusive place to work.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said city policy makers were interested in the Multicultural Affairs Committee’s report, and are eager to discuss the survey findings to address concerns.
“Some of the conclusions in the survey are very troubling and it is important that policymakers take the survey results seriously,” Verveer said. “The committee’s recommendations should be a priority for the city’s leadership moving forward.”