SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Dozens of African American San Francisco city employees and their supporters attended a hearing Wednesday morning at the Board of Supervisors’ Government Audit and Oversight Committee meeting, alleging instances of racial discrimination across several city departments.
Ahead of the 10 a.m. hearing, several of the employees attended a rally outside of City Hall, donning shirts that read, “I am black and I matter.”
“I’ve been with the city for 16 years and it’s never been as worse as it is today,” Theresa Rutherford, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 vice president of representation and a certified nursing assistant at Laguna Honda Hospital, said in a statement.
“People are being disciplined and passed for promotions for being black and that has to stop. We need legislation to deal with accountability for everyone, in every department,” she said.
According to Supervisor Jane Kim, the hearing was requested by SEIU Local 1021 to express concerns about anecdotes that they’ve perceived to be racial discrimination in the workforce.
During the lengthy hearing in front of Supervisors Kim, Vallie Brown, and Sandra Lee Fewer dozens of city employees spoke out about unfair treatment, being passed-up for promotions, being retaliated against after filing complaints, and the disproportionate disciplining of African American workers.
Madelyn McMillan, who said she has worked with the San Francisco Police Department for 25 years, said she experienced retaliation within the department after she had taken time off work due to an accident.
During her absence, McMillan, a secretary, said she was replaced with a white female police officer.
“When I came back to work, she had taken over my whole desk, all my duties, she was now doing everything that I did,” she said.
When McMillan asked for her duties back, no action was taken, McMillan said. “They kind of just brushed me under the rug, and told me they would investigate. Nothing happened.”
Afterward, McMillan filed a complaint with the city’s human resources department, but said the complaint was found to have no merit.
“Once the complaint went though, I got removed from my desk. I was moved into an isolated area, where no one was and I was isolated; all by myself. That was retaliation to me,” she said.
Also during the hearing, James Harris, a 16-year city employee and former driver for a city health clinic spoke out about being forced to retire following a fatal incident.
Harris was found not guilty earlier this year of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for the 2016 death of a woman in a wheelchair, 38-year-old Thu Thi Phan.
Harris, who is African American, said, “I believe, because of my race, I was forced into early retirement, or be fired.”
Following Wednesday’s hearing, Mayor London Breed announced she had issued an executive directive that would create two full-time positions within the city’s Department of Human Resources focused solely on recruiting diverse employees for all city departments.
The directive would also expand the human resources department’s harassment prevention, implicit bias and cultural communications training. In addition, all city departments will have to report instances of disciplinary action to the human resources department in order to quickly identify and address problems.
Lastly, according to the directive, the human resources department would convene a group of stakeholders representing city departments, labor unions and stakeholders to further discuss ways to improve workplace diversity and equity within city departments.
“San Francisco’s diversity is one of our biggest strengths and our city’s workforce should reflect the numerous communities we serve,” Breed said in a statement. “We have successfully instituted a number of important diversity initiatives including anti-bias training and a nationally-recognized conviction history program that have led to our workforce being more drivers than our local labor market, but there is still plenty of work to be done,” she said.
According to Breed’s office, the city currently lacks a centralized reporting and tracking system that would ensure that city departments are free of harassment, bias and discrimination.
“This Executive Directive will ensure that our city departments have clear, consistent standards for recruiting and retaining a qualified, diverse workforce,” Breed said.
The executive directive goes into effect immediately, according to Breed’s office.
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