CSEA responds to recent complaints

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Priscilla Hopper media manager

Mikaela Rabizadeh staff writer

At the Jan. 16 board meeting, California School Employees Association (CSEA) members accused departmental management of wrongful workplace harassment. In later board meetings, other employees of the custodial staff came forward by speaking or devoting time to those willing to voice their concerns about the conditions in which they work.

According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (CDFEH) Workplace Harassment Guide, California law (The Fair Employment and Housing Act) requires that employers “take reasonable steps to prevent and correct wrongful (harassing, discriminatory, retaliatory) behavior in the workplace (Cal. Govt. Code §12940(k)).”

“First and foremost, we have a basic expectation for all staff to conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner.  If a concern presents itself, we ask staff to report this to their immediate supervisor.  In the event an issue involves an immediate supervisor, we ask staff to report the issue to a cabinet member at the District Office,” Executive Director of Human Resources Luke Pavone said.

The CSEA leadership submitted a statement regarding the recent issues to the board’s meeting minutes

“When employees publicly share experiences of bullying, harassment or hostile work environment, it does not in any way mean that that is the experience of all workers, nor does the opposite as other employees might express glowing reports of how work is for them daily,” vice president of the CSEA Colleen Davenport wrote. “My responsibility is to support and encourage those who have a great work experience and represent and advocate for those employees whose rights are being taken away.”

In many cases of misconduct claims, providing or gathering concrete and usable evidence of such accusations can be difficult. The CDFEH Workplace Harassment Guide for Employers suggests nine credibility factors: inherent plausibility, motive, corroboration, extent a witness was able to perceive, recollect or communicate about the matter, history of honesty/dishonesty, habit or consistency, inconsistent statements, manner of testimony and demeanor.

“Once information is received, the district will conduct an investigation, gathering facts and meeting all individuals involved. We ask all respondents for a detailed statement of the allegations,” Pavone said.

However, the investigations may not yield the outcome the accuser hopes to see. One employee who spoke at a board meeting pleaded for protection.

“I am here to ask for protection because I know [my supervisor] and I know he’ll retaliate against me.”

“CSEA believes in this District,” Davenport wrote, and Pavone confirms the CSEA and BHUSD School Board have a “good working relationship.”

“We believe that this district and its Board of Education have a responsibility to respond to claims that are brought to your attention.  We are thankful for the investigations, conversations and professional responses from our district staff members,” Davenport added.

Highlights reached out to various members of the custodial staff for comment, all of whom declined.

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