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Written Testimony of Renette Anderson
Executive Assistant to the General Manager
Director, Equal Employment Opportunity Services
LA Department of Water and Power

OPENING STATEMENT

  • A quick overview of LADWP:
    • LADWP is a Public Utility with the City of Los Angeles that provides power (electricity) to approximately 1.4 million customers, and water to 679,000 customers with an annual budget over $6 billion
    • Our customer-base is extremely diverse and multi-cultural
    • LADWP's workforce consists of 10,000+ employees that reflects our community and represents individuals from all races, cultures, ages, and both genders. Our employees consist of generational and sexual orientation differences, various levels of physical and mental abilities, and many other diverse characteristics

PROBLEM RECOGNITION

LADWP recognized that having and maintaining a diverse workforce, employee dynamics and challenges were a reality. One key challenge that surfaced throughout the years was "real" and "perceived" beliefs of unfair treatment by employees. LADWP, like other organizations faced allegations of workplace harassment, and other forms of inappropriate workplace behavior. In 2002, the EEOS had approximately 221 active internal EEO cases that were mostly related to workplace harassment based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and disability with a backlog status dating back to 1996. In addition, a new filing rate of approximately eight (8) cases per month contributed to analyst case assignment strain. The workplace harassment allegations were largely egregious and included most of the protected class violations of State and Federal EEO law. At that time, LADWP was also investigating cases using the standards set forth by State and Federal EEO law, which presented a problem in substantiation of allegations of inappropriate behavior, as analysts were unable to identify certain behaviors as being "severe or pervasive."

PROBLEM ADDRESSED

This trend caused a real concern by LADWP's leadership including the General Manager and the Board of Commissioners. Our management team realized that something needed to be done to eliminate the number of workplace harassment allegations and internal cases that existed, and manage the workplace climate in a way that would mitigate future employee allegations, while simultaneously increasing tolerance and mutual respect for co-workers.

A key organizational value is fair treatment, and two major components of treating employees fairly are establishing and maintaining respect of the individual, and ensuring a workplace free of all forms of workplace harassment. Using these two values as a foundation, management agreed that additional action was necessary to demonstrate our commitment to the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity, valuing and accepting differences among our workforce, customer base, and community/professional partners, and ensuring a quality workplace free of harassment for all employees.

In 2002, to effect such change, management established a proactive strategy that safeguarded the personal dignity of our employees, and empowered them to contribute to a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. In that year, LADWP:

  • Employed a new leader with high level skills and experience
  • Reorganized our Equal Employment Opportunity Services Office, and established a clear, neutral relationship which enabled an impartial investigative protocol and eliminated employees' perception of partiality
  • Created and enhanced the Organization's EEO policies and procedures that specifically addressed workplace harassment
  • Informed/educated employees about EEO laws, employment policies and procedures, workplace harassment as a form of discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity
  • Equipped supervisors, managers, and lead personnel with the tools to identify behaviors that may escalate into formal complaint processes, and established a formal complaint process so that employees and supervisors were clear with respect to how to appropriately report concerns
  • Established an evaluation process through its training efforts to receive peer-level recommendations

I was hired to drive organizational change in the way LADWP managed EEO matters. Through my direction, my team is also responsible for elevating employees' awareness and understanding of workplace harassment and its organizational impact and effect on employees. We understood the need to strengthen our policies and procedures, as well as, those day-to-day practices to identify the various forms of workplace harassment to respond to allegations. Furthermore, LADWP wanted to operate from a proactive position rather than being constantly in a reactionary mode.

We recognized that LADWP never trained our entire workforce of 9,500+ employees in workplace harassment and other forms of discrimination. We also determined that our EEO policies and procedures, at the time, were not designed to reinforce organizational values and modify employee workplace behavior. Consequently, LADWP established an EEO strategy that allowed us to:

  • Better identify the root causes of workplace harassment and other forms of discrimination
  • Properly measure existing trends and the impact of workplace harassment

We discovered that our employees did not fully understand the nature of workplace harassment, nor other forms of discrimination. They were guided more by their personal feelings and misguided beliefs about partiality and how things had been in the past. We also realized that our work environment and the nature of work (mostly technical and blue collar) performed by employees promoted the assumption that women did not belong in occupations that were traditionally held by men, or that women could not perform as effectively in said positions. This perception led to workplace harassment towards women, and in some cases towards men, through inappropriate jokes, language, hostile treatment, and bullying.

We used training to educate our workforce about harassment and other discrimination dynamics; training was tailored to our specific needs which were to:

  • Define harassment and demonstrate how it impacts the workplace
  • Inform employees of their responsibility to help ensure a dignified workplace
  • Refer harassment issues to the appropriate responsible supervisor/manager or EEO coordinator
  • Explain EEOS' process of investigation and the Department's complaint procedures, as well as offer external filing options, and our Department's Employee Assistance Program as additional resources

The following is the Department's training efforts made over the past 13 years:

TRAINING

  1. "Mutual Respect - The Bottom Line" for All Employees
    • Offered in 2003 and completed in 2004, this 8-hour mandatory training was provided to approximately 9,000 employees by an instructor-led classroom environment
    • The training sought to encourage a healthy discourse about perceptions, working relationships, and how people interacted with one another
    • The training is focused on:
      • Why Mutual Respect is important to you and others
      • EEO Laws and LADWP's Zero Tolerance Policy and how it applies to you
      • Individual Differences related to diversity and cultural characteristics
      • Identifying and resolving workplace interpersonal conflict
      • Roles and expectations of employees and leaders
    • As a result of the Mutual Respect training, it was determined that LADWP employees were unaware of the philosophy of "Zero Tolerance" and its purpose. Consequently, it was clear that additional training and a written policy were needed.
  2. EEO Training for Executives, Managers, Supervisors, and Lead Personnel
    • Offered in 2004 and completed in 2005, this 8-hour mandatory training was provided to approximately 2,580 supervisory personnel in an instructor-led classroom environment
    • The training took a more practical approach to the issues and trends of Equal Employment Opportunity laws for executives, supervisors, lead personnel, and provided them with tools and techniques to address inappropriate behavior
    • EEO also worked with its consulting firm to establish an EEO Boot Camp that was designed to quickly address employees' inappropriate conduct related to acts of possible discrimination and harassment of others. One-on-one coaching and group training was provided to the Power Group employees
    • LADWP partnered with the EEOC to help train our supervisory personnel in workplace harassment. The EEOC local office worked with us to design and deliver a quality learning process that focused on defining workplace harassment, its causes and impact, and also remedies for resolving complaints

    WRITTEN ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY ISSUED

    In October 2007, the LADWP Workplace Equal Employment Opportunity Anti-Discrimination and "Zero Tolerance" Policy was issued to all employees. It stated that discrimination, harassment, retaliation and hazing are prohibited and will not be tolerated, that prompt action would be taken, and that appropriate disciplinary action would be issued. This policy was developed to stop the behavior at the lowest possible level before it reached the higher, more severe levels of State and Federal violation. Therefore, with the Zero Tolerance Policy, even a single infraction could lead to disciplinary action, thereby correcting inappropriate behavior. Today, it is the foundational policy which EEOS uses when investigating allegations of workplace harassment and other forms of inappropriate workplace behavior.

  3. EEO and ADA Training for Managers, Supervisors and Lead Personnel - "A Manager's Guide for a Respectful Workplace"
    • EEO/ADA and Reasonable Accommodation mandatory training was offered to approximately 3,500 executives, managers, supervisors and leaders within a three-year time period from 2010 to 2013
    • This training provided more specific examples of handling discriminatory complaints such as harassment at the supervisory level, and provided them with the tools to address workplace conflict, and conduct meaningful and confidential first-strike intervention to avoid extended problems of harassment and unfair treatment
    • The training included three hours of EEO factors, one hour of workplace harassment and subject matter theory, as well as two hours of ADA compliance procedures and best practices
    • This training focused on:
      • Defining Federal and California State Equal Employment Opportunity Laws, DWP's EEO policies and procedures, e.g. "Zero Tolerance" policy and EEO practices
      • Understanding of workplace harassment and its organizational impact
      • Basic concepts of Americans with Disabilities Act, and Reasonable Accommodation needs
      • Warning signs of discrimination, harassment, hazing and retaliation behaviors in the workplace
      • The consequences and liabilities for non-compliance of EEO laws, and DWP's "Zero Tolerance" policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment, bullying and retaliation
  4. Workplace Diversity Training for All Employees - "The P.O.W.E.R. of Diversity"
    • Follow-up 4 hour refresher training for all employees
    • Beginning in October 2014 and continuing until 2016, approximately 10,000 employees, including Senior Management and Executives will be attending this mandatory training

      This training focuses on:

      1. Recognizing the importance and impact of workplace diversity in maintaining a respectful workplace
      2. Defining the concept of diversity, its' dimensions and characteristics beyond race and gender
      3. Defining sexual harassment and other forms of workplace harassment
      4. Understanding the dynamics of sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity including transgender individuals being subjected to workplace harassment
      5. Understanding more about LADWP's Zero Tolerance Policy and EEO laws
      6. Defining workplace harassment types and examples
      7. Recognizing roles and responsibilities as well as accountability as an LADWP employee
      8. Embracing the power of diversity helps ensure a quality workplace and supporting a multi-cultural customer base
  5. Targeted Training Opportunities for Smaller Groups
    • The EEOS also provides in-house instructor-led training for small and mid-sized groups and provides such training as a result of a request from a division, recommendation within an investigation, or as part of our best practice to mitigate complaint activity when issues "brewing under the surface" appear
    • Harassment and Discrimination Awareness
      This two-hour training opportunity explores the inappropriate behaviors that can lead to full-blown formal complaints, and explains to participants how such behavior harms our organization
    • Sexual Harassment Awareness
      This two-hour training opportunity provides participants with specific information about sexual harassment, including the policies and prohibitions that are in place to arrest such behavior. This has been offered in an instructor-led environment, as well as, online as part of a computer-based training opportunity
  6. Training Assessment Tools/Results

    LADWP measured the results of its training efforts by using the Kirkpatrick Evaluation process. We wanted to make sure employees valued the training and its content. Employees reacted very favorably to all training through Kirkpatrick's Level 1 Assessment instrument. We also wanted to make sure employees learned about workplace harassment and other forms of discrimination, valuing individual differences and how all employees are accountable for ensuring a dignified workplace. Through Kirkpatrick's Level 2 assessment we found that employees learned about LADWP's Zero Tolerance Policy and how to register complaints of workplace harassment and discrimination. The employees expressed a better appreciation of the efforts that LADWP took to make the work environment a better place. Kirkpatrick Level 3 provided LADWP with a better understanding on how the behavior changed in the workplace.

USE OF EEO/ADA DIVISION COORDINATORS AS LIASIONS TO EEOS UNIT

LADWP has employed approximately fifty (50) administrative personnel who serve as Division EEO/ADA Coordinators as one of their responsibilities. These employees are trained by EEOS as "first strike" staff who may be notified first about any problems in the workplace, and who may parse and internally investigate those workplace conflict issues from those that may be EEO-related.

Working with EEO/ADA Division Coordinators, EEOS is able to use best practices when engaged in employee complaints. As a standard EEOS will:

  1. Obtain vital information from EEO/ADA Coordinators as to the nature of the allegation
  2. Examine the information provided for clarity and action
  3. Contact the employee who raised the complaint
  4. Ensure that the complainant feels safe and out of harm's way and if not, employ an interim plan to remove him/her from an unsafe work environment
  5. Implement a fact-finding investigation to determine the validity of the complaint
  6. Prepare a detailed report that offers a conclusion with recommendations
  7. Discuss investigation results with management personnel and if required, help to determine appropriate actions as a follow up

CONCLUSION

Our methods have proven to be quite successful. Today, our employees are better informed about workplace harassment. They understand how our Zero Tolerance Policy works and employees know where to go (EEOS) with their concerns and complaints. Employees are becoming more accountable for their workplace behavior and realize there are consequences for inappropriate actions.

At our highest point of internal complaint filings in 2006, we have systematically enjoyed a decrease in case initiations of 70% by our current year, and much of this is due to our tenacious and steadfast commitment to our training efforts. In addition, the types of workplace harassment cases we received have decreased in severity throughout the years. LADWP will continue to seek new ways to maintain a workplace free of workplace harassment and other forms of discrimination. We will also continue to work with the EEOC and local agencies when cases reach your level.

I want to thank you for this opportunity to discuss LADWP's EEO philosophy and workplace strategies.