City touts boost in minority hiring

The NAACP is unimpressed because the latest diversity report doesn’t  include a racial breakdown.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

The City of Daytona Beach has been under fire for diversity and equal opportunity practices in its workforce, which has resulted in discrimination lawsuits.

While one fired employee fights to recover lost wages, benefits, attorney fees, damages and injunction relief, the city recently issued a diversity memo showing improvements in regards to hiring and promoting minorities compared to a 2015 diversity in the workplace report it conducted.

Late last month, Sonja Wiles, a White woman who spent 23 years as a city employee, filed a lawsuit against the city for harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Two lawsuits
The lawsuit states that her First Amendment rights were violated.

Her suit claims harassment by former city architect Jim Hanis and former deputy city manager Ronald McLemore. It further states that she supported another city employee, Thomas Huger, in his discrimination case and was retaliated against after she complained that one of the members on the hiring panel – which she was a part of – made racist comments.

Wiles’ lawsuit also lists City Manager Jim Chisholm as a defendant.

Huger, a Black male, also has sued the city for race and age discrimination. His suit states that the city had knowledge of discrimination in its workforce, ranks and hiring practices. The suit also states the city has retaliated against Huger.

EEOC claims filed
In 2015, at age 63, Huger was passed over for the city’s deputy public works director job. The city hired David Waller a 39-year old White man.

Both Wiles and Huger are represented by Kelly Chanfrau of Chanfrau & Chanfrau, L.L.C.

In an email last month, Chanfrau said, “I am proud and hon- ored and humbled that they chose me for their attorney. We hope to achieve justice.”

In another email last week, Chanfrau confirmed both lawsuits are in litigation.

In 2015, both clients also filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims against the city that charge racial discrimination.

‘Making strides’
In the meantime, Human Relations Director Jim Sexton is touting the city’s numbers. Sexton responded to the Daytona Times via email.

“The city is making strides to diversify its workforce. It is well established that diversity in the workplace strengthens an employer and the city will continue to make a conscious effort to diversity its workforce within the confines of applicable equal employment laws,’’ he stated.

Forty-one percent of all new hires (between Nov. 1, 2015 and Jan. 31, 2017 were minorities, “which is a significant increase from the minority hiring rate from November 2013 through November 2015,’’ he related.

At that time, 29 percent of all the new hires were minority. Additionally, 38 percent of all promotional opportunities have been filled by minority applicants compared to 33 percent during November 2013 through November 2015, he added.

28 percent minority
Sexton pointed out that the city’s overall workforce is currently comprised of 28 percent minority and 72 percent non-minority compared to 25 percent minority and 75 percent non-minority in November 2015.

The city has approximately 800 regular full-time and part-time employees. Casual or temporary event workers are not included the report.

The 2015 diversity report was released by the city shortly after EEOC complaints were filed against the city and the local NAACP branch raised questions about Daytona Beach’s hiring and promotions practices.

The 2015 report showed then that while Daytona Beach had a Black population at 35.4 percent, only 18.7 percent of the municipality’s workforce was Black. The city’s total minority workforce stood at 25 percent.

NAACP not impressed
The local NAACP branch would like to see a breakdown of race.

“The recent one-page memo only provides a summary of new hires and promotions of minorities and non-minorities. However, it does not provide a breakdown of these new hires or promotions by race or ethnicity,” Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP stated.

“The NAACP’s belief that the City of Daytona’s Diversity in the Workplace report that showed a 3 percent net gain in the increase of minority hiring between November 2015 and January 2017 is not acceptable and does not provide an accurate picture of the demographics of hiring,’’ she added.

The NAACP also believe that the city should be more transparent with its diversity practices.

“As president of the local branch of the NAACP it is my opinion that this one-page report after a year and three months is deceptive and minimizes the real issues that current and potential employees face. Additionally, I have not seen the results of the employee satisfaction survey that was provided by the city over a year ago.” said Slater.

‘Proactive measures’
In his email to the Daytona Times, Sexton cited that the following “proactive measures’’ are being taken.

Once the certified list of internal and/or external candidates is established, internal applicants, minority applicants, and veterans (that claim veteran’s preference) are required to be interviewed; and
On the promotional certification list of candidates (e.g., sergeants, lieutenants, driver engineers, etc.), the highest-ranking minority is required to be interviewed. “Taking these proactive steps ensures that the City is interviewing a diverse applicant pool to fill positions identified on the underutilization report,’’ he stated.

Banned the box
Recent changes to the city hiring practices include a policy that “bans the box,” which means the city no longer requires applicants to divulge criminal background history unless offered a position with the city.

Additionally, due to a recent case law, the city has ceased pre-employment drug-testing for most classifications.

“Positions which are considered safety sensitive are still required to submit criminal history at the time of application and submit to pre-employment drug-testing, if hired.  While these changes may not have any direct impact on minority hiring, it could help eliminate some of the perceived barriers to City employment,” he explained.

Other efforts
The city also recently began sending job postings to Florida’s historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS).

To recruit a more diverse police officer applicant pool, the city implemented a sponsorship program in which it pays the costs of the academy and actually pays the candidates while they attend.  To date the city has sponsored 20 candidates through the academy (75 percent minority vs.  25 percent non-minority), he added

To prepare employees for future career advancement opportunities, the city offers a tuition reimbursement program that will pay up to $1,000 per fiscal year. The city also will pay an education incentive to employees that obtain a degree in a major that will benefit the city.

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