Tag: SFMTA

SF Muni Ignores Harassment Allegations and open Pandora’s box

By Bobby Mardis

A brief conversation with Muni Transit Car Cleaner Lead Person, Valerie Taybron, led to spewing an emotional colloquy on why she has been unable to retire from SFMTA.  She stated that she and others are victims of the mismanagement of their retirement funds, and of years of service.  When digging deeper into what was seemingly an obvious error in paperwork, or maybe a simple accounting mistake has opened up Pandora’s box of gross internal mismanagement on surprising levels.  Sexual harassment allegations and retaliation has hit transportation giant, San Francisco MUNI.  Court documents show that Key management officials at Muni have been under investigation for not only blatant harassment, but also the mismanagement that has plagued SFMTA that has led to endless litigation.

Richmond Resident Valerie Taybron is preparing her case with authorities to address not only the sexual harassment allegations, but also retaliation and racial discrimination actions.  Most recently Muni Chief, John Haley stepped down from Sexual Harassment charges towards his assistant, Sabrina Suzuki, who filed a suit, which led to his early retirement. In an SF Examiner article released on October 31, 2018, the problem runs deep with approximately 60 women giving written testimony to the SFMTA on October 22 addressing sexual harassment allegations. In 2016 Sherri Anderson, a SFMTA employee was another victim of sexual harassment and retaliation by management that recently settled her case based on court documents. (Case #: CGC-16-555748)

Although Ms. Taybron has her own separate complaints against Muni, it is well documented that her case is not an isolated incident.  She has reported her allegations to Ed Reiskin, General Manager Public Transportation, John Haley Deputy Director, Donald Ellison, Deputy Director of HR, and Hector Cardenas Local of 1021 with no resolution, or an attempted investigation. Employees suggest that not only are a good number of sexual harassment issues ignored by management, but also accusers have been continually retaliated against for their complaints. 

In the case of Joycelyn Lampkin, a Muni car cleaner, who alleged sexual harassment by her supervisor, Darryl Person, she filed an official grievance with the HR EEO supervisor Maria Valdez with no resolve.  After Mrs. Lampkin took some time off, she returned to work and inquired about the results of the investigation and Mrs. Valdez responded to the alleged incident by stating, and I quote, “You will rot in hell before I will do anything,” per Mrs. Lampkin.  Much like in the recent February 12th Examiner article that spotlighted change, women who formed SFMTA change see the first change in the stepping down of Mr. Donald Ellison.

In a complaint written on October 17, to Mr. Ed Reiskin by Ms. Taybron, she alleged that her complaints were intentionally ignored because she was an African-American Female who had previously won a judgment for similar complaints in the past. Lee Summerlot, the Acting Deputy Director at the time, supplied Taybron with surveillance footage of the theft of her personal property along with tracking for her case.   (Continued)…

Ms. Valerie Taybron, Muni Car Cleaner Lead Person, alleges that not only has the harassment continued, but it has also taken on the form of retaliation. “MUNI management, John Catanach, Acting Deputy Director, and Berry Gehret, supervisor, have allowed me to be violated by being sexually harassed, exposed to continued death threats on the job, the stealing of my personal belongings, denied opportunity on promotions, and maliciously stealing from my 40 years of service so that I cannot retire.” stated Ms. Taybron.  Mr. Taybron also alleged that after she took a fall on the job and that Mr. Gehret refused to call an ambulance for assistance. This continued effort to retaliate against her compounds the mismanagement and harassment abuse.

Ms. Taybron has mentioned that she has gone to the retirement board and Michael Guess, Asst. Manager of Retirement for 11 years to date in hopes of retiring with her full benefits. She was repeatedly denied because of suspiciously missing files that substantiate her retirement.  On October 28, she submitted a request for documents to Kate McClure, Senior benefits analyst, which Taybron stated should have only taken three days based on advisement from her union. She has yet to receive the documents.

The HR department is currently under investigation among other issues, for pressuring the closure of pending cases without investigations. As of 11-28-18 Ms. Taybron has yet to receive proper paperwork for her retirement and her complete years of service.  Per Ms. Taybron, Management called her on 11/8/18 to set up a meeting involving a separate issue, however Ms. Taybron would not agree to meet in person without her representatives.  Hector Cardenas, the Union Senior Operations Manager surprisingly informed Ms. Taybron that he did not get involved with retirement issues. Mr. Cardenas also represents the Parking Controllers within the same union who most recently came out in their harassment allegations and blasted him for not supporting them on allegations of sexual harassment with no response.

Muni Execs have their hands full as a result of mismanagement. They are currently also in a racial discrimination case with a Muni employee, Mr. Sampson Asrot who was denied a promotion as a Mechanic supervisor who he contends was purposely overlooked.  This court case is still pending with a continuance in January of 2019.  Per court documents, it appears that a number of issues surfaced in this case within the discovery process have caught the attention of Government officials.  They are currently investigating other serious issues as they have their eyes set on further sanctions. (Case #: CGC16-552737)

Muni is not alone. Sexual harassment is currently going strong in San Francisco, which is even affecting the tech giant, Google. They most recently ousted close to 50 people in the last two years for sexual harassment in the workplace. None of those fired individuals received exit packages.  Muni’s systemic management problems are running deeper than their ongoing discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment issues.  In a September 2018 Examiner article, even Sarita Britt, the former highest-ranking SFMTA female official stated, “They don’t do thorough investigations.”

Muni is just another SF City and County Department that is suffering from sexual harassment and discrimination issues.  After numerous attempts to contact Muni management, Ed Reiskin and Mr. Canatch as well as Mr. Paul Rose in the media division for a statement, they have not responded, or commented to date.

Accusers say that its time SFMTA management to step up and resolve their internal management issues so the company can run more efficiently. Ms. Taybron apparently has to stand in line and wait her day in court. “My lawyer is currently preparing my complaint,” she stated.  Mayor London Breed has gotten involved because these cases and judgments are undoubtedly costing the city significant resources that trickle down to a single bus fare of MUNI customers citywide.

Bullying, verbal abuse, a ‘culture of silence’: independent investigator makes first report on sexual harassment inside SFMTA

San Francisco’s transportation agency is a haven for bullying and verbal abuse — but there is hope for change.

Those are the conclusions of the first report from Mayor London Breed’s independent “ombudsperson” Dolores Blanding, who in October last year was assigned to investigate an alleged culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni.

Blanding’s appointment by Breed on October 5, 2018 followed a series of stories by the San Francisco Examiner that exposed unresolved complaints from women who were groped by colleagues and, in at least one case, bullied into sex by a superior.

SEE RELATED: Harassment investigations at SFMTA go nowhere, employees allege

In her report to Breed on January 30, Blanding finally offered a path forward for the SFMTA after meeting with 55-65 of its employees, while also providing a scathing look inside the agency.

“A number of MTA employees and managers described bullying and verbally abusive behavior as being tolerated in the workplace,” she wrote to the Mayor. “It has been described as a culture of silence.”

At a high level, Blanding recommended more training on cultivating a culture of respect, structural changes in the human resource department, making human resources staff “more visible” to the rest of the agency, holding all employees “accountable” for a safe and productive work environment, and more consistent discipline for staff “up to, and including, termination.”

And perhaps her most startling recommendation, sources said, was to make her own job title permanent, and create an independent ombudsperson who could investigate the agency. She did not say that ombudsperson should be herself.

Blanding’s report received wide praise from all involved.

Since the culture of harassment and assault surfaced, more than 70 women inside the agency have banded together to form Muni’s own #MeToo movement, a group called “ChangeSFMTA.”

The women cut across ethnic and class boundaries, from engineers who redesign The City’s streets to bus drivers. In a statement sent to the San Francisco Examiner, the women hailed Blanding’s report and praised the call for a permanent ombudsperson.

“Her recommendations connect dots on some of the SFMTA’s major workplace issues,” the women wrote. They also were pleased that SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin widely shared Blanding’s findings with all SFMTA staff.

Breed herself said Blanding’s report is the “first step” in providing a better workplace for Muni employees, and also referenced her new legislation strengthening training requirements for city employees.

“Harassment and intimidation do not belong anywhere in our city,” she said in a statement.

The Transit Riders group praised Blanding’s report as a “step in the right direction” to fix the “poisonous” culture at SFMTA.

“Change is very much needed at SFMTA if the agency is going to deliver a world-class transportation system,” said Rachel Hyden, the transit riders’ executive director.

Blanding’s six-page report contained detailed recommendations to fix SFMTA’s culture of harassment.

Perhaps one of the most fundamental disconnects is between the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity division and Human Resources, the first of which investigates discrimination complaints and the latter of which handles other types of complaints. The two departments within SFMTA do not communicate effectively, Blanding determined, and she offered recommendations to shore up their work.

Blanding also recommended robust training from the top of SFMTA’s staff on down, including “respectful workplace” training for SFMTA managers and supervisors which began January 29.

But some of the issues she found were far more basic.

Employees Blanding interviewed were largely unaware of how to report issues to the human resources department in the first place, or thought — mistakenly — that they didn’t have human resources “reps” at all. Blanding recommended raising the human resource department’s profile, partly by holding outreach events within SFMTA itself and sending out newsletters, among other methods.

She also recommended human resources host office hours at one of SFMTA’s dozen-or-so Muni yards, which are far from SFMTA headquarters.

SEE RELATED: Muni chief steps down amid growing pressure over harassment allegations

“I believe it would help identify some workplace issues earlier, and knowing their HR office is onsite and seeing a representative increases visibility,” Blanding wrote.

SFMTA has already made some changes in high-level staff. Human Resources Director Don Ellison quietly stopped working at the agency last week, and in October last year SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley retired after he was sued for allegedly groping his assistant.