A City of Madison employee development survey found workplace harassment and discrimination to be a common theme, with 25% of respondents reporting experiences of harassment, bullying or discrimination in the last year while on the job.

An employee climate survey was conducted by the Women’s Initiative Committee and the Multicultural Affairs Committee  June 2019. The survey showed of the 25% who experienced harassment, less than half of them reported it.

Carla Garces-Redd, Multicultural Affairs Committee Chair, said the survey was designed by MAC and WIC and released to the entire City of Madison staff. Garces-Redd said 930 employees responded to the survey.

Victoria Larson, WIC Chair, said all city workers had the option to participate in the survey which included numerous professionals who work in the Attorney’s Office as well as departments including Civil Rights, transit, engineering, police and fire. The survey was optional for full-time, part-time and seasonal workers.

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Larson said all city employees, including supervisors, are required to go through APM3-5 training by the Department of Civil Rights every three years to learn about the city’s harassment and discrimination policies.

According to Larson, there have been talks about strengthening the training for supervisors. Larson said peer-to-peer harassment in the survey was higher than harassment by supervisors, but the harassment by supervisors was not far behind

“Sometimes, things don’t reach to the level of harassment or discrimination, but there is still bullying behaviors that disrupt the workplace,” Larson said. “We talked about perhaps strengthening the criteria around that. There are situations when folks have reported being stalked by the public, actually assaulted by the public. Are there things we can do to strengthen policies in relation to that?”

WIC and MAC met with the Mayor’s Office to discuss the results of the survey and to learn about what has been done already, Garces-Redd said.

MAC is meeting with departments and other groups within Madison to try and collaborate on the recommendations released with the results of the survey, according to Garces-Redd.

“We’ve already met with the Mayor’s Office about this, and she really wants to look at this and take some proactive steps to address the results of the survey,” Larson said. “We’re really hopeful. We’ll be continuing meeting with the leadership over the next month or so to talk about our findings. I know she’s designated groups that she would like to start looking at these issues and working on these issues.”

According to Garces-Redd, there is a list of three primary areas the MAC would like to act on. Within the three areas, MAC had anywhere between three and seven specific recommendations for things that need to be focused on. The big focus for MAC, Garces-Redd said, is raising the voices of people of color and the aim of their committee as MAC.

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In addition, MAC recommended a pay equity study that looks at gender, race and ethnicity for large gaps to target and address. Garces-Redd added MAC also wants to see what groups are targeted and affected more by looking at demographics.

“We knew this was going on, so I wouldn’t say this is a complete shock to us,” Larson said. “I think that 25% of respondents, we were a little shocked by that … it’s good that we have data now, and we’re really hopeful through some of the initial conversation we’ve had with the city leadership that the city’s gonna take the right steps to address some of these concerns throughout the city and within our departments.”

According to Larson, investigators are responsible for looking into any instances of harassment or discrimination that have been reported. If they find an incident has occurred, the investigators work with departments and individuals to step in and take care of the situation.

In addition, Larson said other groups like human resources also work with departments to address concerns related to harassment and discrimination.

“I think, ultimately, we feel really fortunate to work at a place that is asking these types of questions, and so we really want to make sure that people know that the City of Madison is a great place to work at and we want to continue to diversify our workforce,” Garces-Redd said. “This is a theme that is really proactive and challenging and kind of the way things are because I believe from the way we work, change is possible.”