Workplace Bullying Report: Structural Racism at Connecticut Valley Hospital

This column appears in the December 19 – January 2 edition of the Hartford News. Due to the holidays, the Hartford News will not be published next week… Community Update: Hartford City Council President Shawn Wooden, who usually avoids the subject of race, actually talked about Black/Latino unemployment during the Fox CT Capitol Report program last Sunday; the topic was the one-year anniversary of the Newtown school shooting. Wooden was asked about possible solutions to gun violence in Hartford. Time will tell if this was merely lip service… I was disgusted by how Face the State host Dennis House treated Kennard Ray during Ray’s appearance on the show. Instead of examining Ban the Box and why it’s important, House grilled Ray about his already well documented legal history. House didn’t ask Ray about then Waterbury mayor Michael Jarjura hiring convicted felon John Rowland to be the city’s economic advisor in 2006, and how Ray feels about this double standard. Shameful… In an incredible display of hypocrisy, the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the Manchester Police Department’s conclusion that they don’t engage in racial profiling. The MPD released a report last week.,0,5333497.story  ACLU legal director Sandra Staub is a member of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, a bastardization of the Community Party’s Penn Act advisory board provision that was passed by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2012. The advisory board colluded with lawmakers to repeal CP’s enforcement language this year. In my opinion, Staub isn’t interested in stopping racial profiling. She’s using the issue as a political football to advance her career. We’ll keep an eye on this story. The advisory board has recently met a couple of times; we’ll comment on the meetings after we review the videos, which are available on the Connecticut Network website. Enter “racial profiling” in the search engine.  CP will introduce our Trayvon Martin Act in 2014.

This week we’ll present data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request which we submit as proof that Connecticut Valley Hospital, like the Department of Children and Families, is engaging in structural racism. The data analysis was done by Adam Osmond. Adam found that CVH fires Black employees 42% more often than whites. Overall Blacks are terminated at a rate of 71%, compared to just 22% for whites. Blacks are subjected to disciplinary action at a rate of 10% more than other workers. 70% of the CVH employees who make $120,000 per year or more are white, only 3% are Black. CVH initially withheld the race of workers when they sent us the disciplinary records; we had to make a second request. Now it’s easy to see why. Emails that my co-worker John Hollis and I have obtained from CVH show that CVH managers are constantly monitoring my social media activity in an attempt to manufacture some type of complaint against me, either internally or through legal action. Our co-workers at CVH report that one of the managers who is spying on me was recently suspended for falsifying documents. After reading a couple of emails I was so disturbed by the level of hyperscrutiny, I immediately informed John and the president of our union local that I wanted to file a grievance. A CVH affirmative action “investigative report” described me as having a “preoccupation with race and racism.” The facility ruled that I was discriminating against a white co-worker who in my opinion received preferential treatment from CVH. This employee filed an affirmative action complaint in retaliation for me filing the same complaint against her. My complaint was denied. I’m currently going through more emails with the intention of filing additional grievances, based on whatever else I find. “Highlights” include a discussion about my 2012 column on CVH employees Rosa Badillo and Carlos Vargas, who complained about racism by their bosses. The email revealed that my column was forwarded to Rosa and Carlos’ bosses and that CVH attorneys had been consulted about a possible “response” to me (whatever that means). There was zero discussion about investigating Rosa and Carlos’ allegations. Another CVH manager said that “something must be done soon” about me because I filed a grievance, which is my right as a state employee. This is the same manager who called the CVH police on me in retaliation for one of my columns about workplace bullying at the facility.
Yet another CVH manager talked about wanting to put me on the “hot seat” after I filed a grievance about my 2012 service rating. I consider this language, like the aforementioned comment by the other manager, to be threatening. The Office of Labor Relations recently sustained my grievance, changing my Fair rating to Good. Finally there was an exchange where CVH managers talked about targeting me for doing an interview with a radio station on the same day that I called in sick. Apparently they believe that calling in sick is the equivalent of house arrest. The emails show that the managers continued listening to the interview even though it was obvious to anyone that I was on the phone, and was not present at the radio station. The managers knew from monitoring my social media pages that the interview was going to be about the latest developments with the state racial profiling law; the manager who said “something must be done soon” about me quoted my post promoting the interview verbatim. My question to DMHAS commissioner Pat Rehmer is why were so many managers spying on me when they should have been working? John discovered a breach of his confidential health information in an email where he was being disparaged by (you guessed it) the CVH manager who wants “something done soon” about me. The breach was pointed out by another CVH manager who was clearly annoyed at having to respond to a work email at 6:30 in the evening. Cornell Lewis filed an FOI request and obtained emails from the Department of Children and Families which showed that DCF used similar tactics against him. Cornell was fired by DCF in retaliation for speaking out about structural racism at that facility, a claim which has been supported by hiring, promotion and disciplinary records he obtained from DCF through FOI requests. If you would like to file an FOI request to get information from your employer, you can get details here.   Despite the results of CVH’s own workplace bullying survey (which they tried to suppress) that found 80% of employees view managers as bullies who perpetuate an abusive work climate, and the disciplinary data we have obtained which they also attempted to conceal, CVH management continues to deny, deny, deny. THIS IS MADNESS.  CVH supervisors and managers portray John and I in emails as potentially violent, incompetent troublemakers, while workplace bullies among the rank and file who act as their agents receive preferential treatment, including swift promotions and glowing service ratings.
Workplace bullying is the equivalent of domestic violence. The Department of Health and Human Services is quite clear on this issue. “(Workplace bullying) has many of the same characteristics of domestic violence – the abuser uses intimidation and manipulation to get what he or she wants.”  CVH is the poster child for workplace bullying in this state. The Connecticut General Assembly must pass strong anti-bullying legislation in 2014. CP’s Safe Work Environment Act includes a provision which would establish an advisory board that will work every year to address abusive workplace conduct. Workplace bullying is a layered issue; one bill will not eliminate this problem. Currently the laws are totally rigged in favor of the employer. Workers are powerless. Legislators, the ball is in your court. Visit Cornell’s DCF Plantation blog. has started an online petition in support of Verizon employees who are being subjected to workplace bullying.  My message to CVH management is do your worst. CVH employees continue to provide John and I with information about discrimination and bullying by you. You’re also being watched closely. The content of your emails, coupled with the ongoing reports by our co-workers, support our belief that your “Achieving Excellence Together” campaign, which includes”Building Collegiality” training, is a smokescreen designed to defeat workplace bullying legislation. The information that we have obtained via FOIA is further proof that the concept of an employer policing itself is preposterous. We’re building a coalition to support the bill. We intend to educate the public and legislators about the cowardly, reprehensible management practice of manipulating policy and procedure for the purpose of targeting employees, especially Black males. Happy hunting.
State Representative Matt Ritter will host a workplace bullying town hall on Monday, January 27, 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm at the Albany Branch library, 1250 Albany Avenue in Hartford. If you’re being bullied at work by co-workers and/or your employer, this is an opportunity to tell your story and be a part of a discussion about solutions. Check out the link to the Albany Branch website in our Resources section for directions. Stay tuned for info on the Safe Work Environment Act and the Trayvon Martin Act, coming in 2014. Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for public service announcements on CP’s racial justice initiatives. Visit CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines.  You can contact us at 860-206-8879 or .
My 2012 Hartford News interview with Connecticut Valley Hospital employees Rosa Badillo and Carlos Vargas about racism by CVH managers against Latinos:
Albany Branch library website:
Adam Osmond’s CT Lottery Watchdog Twitter page:
David Samuels
Community Party

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