Report Uncovers Culture of Harassment, Discrimination At San Diego's Largest Employers
Speaker 1: 00:00 A recent report from the San Diego union Tribune has uncovered a pervasive culture of harassment and discrimination at a number of the city's largest employers, including the city of San Diego Qualcomm and Scripps health. All had complaints of sexual harassment discrimination based on race, gender, age, and a number of other challenging factors. Joining me with more is Lindsay. Wigley a watchdog reporter for the union Tribune, Lindsey. Welcome. Speaker 2: 00:29 Hey, thanks for having me. So Speaker 1: 00:31 To start, how did you go about collecting this information? Speaker 2: 00:34 This project was actually born sometime ago, more than a year, and we wanted to take a look at specifically sexual harassment and workplaces. And so what we did was we put together a pretty massive CPRA request to the state department, the department of fair employment and housing, which handles sexual harassment cases. Um, but we figured, you know what, while we're at it, we might as well just request all of the claims that they get. You know, there's a lot of employers in San Diego, so we sort of tailored it to the largest ones. And we got a whole bunch of claims back Speaker 1: 01:11 Where some of the largest employers named in Speaker 2: 01:13 Your report, we ended up covering 11 of the largest employers that includes the city and the county San Diego unified script's health Qualcomm, a couple of universities, including SDSU and UC SD, and then several hospital systems. So Rady's hospital, Kaiser and sharp as well as Poway unified. We also got stuff from them. And Speaker 1: 01:35 As the report indicates the largest number of complaints come from employees of the city of San Diego. Why do you think that is? Speaker 2: 01:43 It is notable that the city of San Diego accounted for almost 30% of the claims that we received from the DFEH and they only account for about 7% of all of the employees that are part of these large companies. We did speak with a couple of lawyers who represent plaintiffs, who did feel in certain ways that the city of San Diego had sort of a culture problem, particularly when it came to women and people of color. Speaker 1: 02:12 As you mentioned, women of color were among those who alleged discrimination based on things like race and gender. Can you tell us a little bit more about that Speaker 2: 02:22 In the DFEH claims race is not something that is always included. It's not like a consistent thing within these forms. So we really had to do some deep digging to get a sense of who specifically these people were. Um, because of all, all of this stuff is redacted. And so, you know, by moving through lawyers, we were able to sort of identify some of the things that women and people of color had experienced in the story. We actually talk about several cases. There was a case from Qualcomm that was pretty egregious, according to the claim that we looked over, um, it was a woman had worked at Qualcomm for many years and she was very persistent in trying to get a raise and she did everything she could. She sent in her claim to move forward and she just faced consistent gender discrimination. According to the climate she filed, there was a man who told her that her vagina was alienating people. There was a supervisor that told her that she wouldn't be considered for a leadership position because husbands and wives are good at different things. Uh, she had another supervisor tell her that she should have been meeting invisible goals. And so these are the kinds of things that we read a lot of in these kinds of claims Speaker 1: 03:40 Attorney who handled some of these cases say, this is only really a fraction of the kinds of rights violations that occur. So why aren't there better systems in place to protect employees at these institutions? Speaker 2: 03:52 You know, it's really interesting because you talk to lawyers who represent plaintiffs and they are very quick to say that the kinds of cases that end up in the courtroom are such a small fraction of the kinds of cases that we could see in courtrooms. And there's a lot of reasons for that. First of all, especially when you're going head to head with a very large employer, that employer has a lot of resources. Um, they have a lot of resources that they can spend on very good lawyers. It's an expensive process to, um, take your claim to court. These sorts of cases are also sort of mired in secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements. Sometimes those are because the plaintiff wants that, but a lot of times it's because big companies want it and it makes it a lot harder to establish a pattern of behavior because you can't see any of the claims that had previously been settled. Speaker 1: 04:44 There's also a pretty clear link between an employee who files a complaint then being denied career advancement. So what can you tell us about that? Speaker 2: 04:54 Yeah, I mean, that was something that we saw sort of consistently across the board. Um, many of the people who had filed claims with the state were denied career advancements, or they were transferred or they were demoted, or they were terminated. And in some cases the claims indicate that these actions were only taken after the alleged misconduct was reported. Again, Karen is a good example of that case. You know, she had a supervisor who she alleged was belittling. He said, things like you're worthless and no one wants you here. She went to her human resources department and they opened up an investigation. Well, he was demoted. She was the one who was forced to transfer to a different department after that incident happened. And we saw incidents like that throughout the claims. Well, Speaker 1: 05:41 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter, Lindsey wrinkly, and Lindsay, thank you for joining us. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.