Black city employees voice concerns of discrimination, workplace mistreatment in report


Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler

Black city employees published a report detailing inequitable and unjust practices in the workplace on Nov. 1.

Selena Kuznikov, Assistant City Editor

After approximately 30 Black city of Evanston employees hosted an internal meeting in August to share their workplace experiences, Black city employees have now published a report alleging inequitable and unjust practices in the workplace.

Written by employees across various departments, divisions and ages, the 39-page report, released Nov. 1, states Black city employees face racial discrimination and institutional inequities and barriers.

The City of Evanston Black Employee Action Group published the report and said it aimed to highlight inequities and provide a “solution-based framework” to improve city workplaces for all employees. The report’s authors remain anonymous, with the group requesting protection for employees behind the letter under whistleblower protection laws.

“What we identified at (the August meeting) is that our experiences may seem singular, but are actually part of a deeper systemic racial issue rooted in the policies and politics of our workplace,” the report said.

The report cited anonymous lived experiences from Black employees. Employees alleged a culture of racist comments and microaggressions from co-workers, unfair hiring practices, inequitable workloads and a lack of upward mobility or opportunities in the workplace, among other discriminatory practices.

The report alleged that the city’s Human Resources department failed to adequately investigate complaints filed by Black employees, stating that many incidents reported to HR had little to no follow-up under previous and current Evanston leadership.

The group also referenced the 2022 lakefront report published by Salvatore, Prescott, Porter & Porter, which found the city HR department and city officials had failed in addressing systemic sexual misconduct and physical abuse along Evanston’s lakefront employees. The lakefront report alleges inadequate documentation of reports, inconsistent complaint responses, a lack of necessary training and capacity to handle investigations, among other issues.

“This is a call to awareness, accountability and action to correct historical wrongs,” the report said.

According to the report, many Black city employees alleged that they are under-compensated for their work, citing unfair pay compared to their white peers, increased duties without higher compensation and improper job classification.

The document cited a 2019 Daily story with payroll data showing full-time white city employees received a median income of $91,089 in 2018 — nearly $5,000 more than the city’s overall median salary and roughly $15,000 more than Black employees, the next largest racial group.

Employees outlined an action plan with 20 demands to help improve city workplaces for Black and brown staff. The demands included pushing for racially equitable hiring practices, increasing the number of HR employees, implementing recommendations from the lakefront report and creating a Pay Equity Ordinance.

“Sadly, we commonly see and experience inequitable actions by other city staff that contribute to the marginalization of Black lives, Black bodies and Black voices,” the report said. “We have decided that for this work community to function equitably, silence is no longer an option.”

The report detailed a range of deadlines for its 20 demands, from immediate action to 18 months from now. While the group requested the city immediately hire more HR employees, it asked for the creation and implementation of a Pay Equity Ordinance within 12 to 18 months.

The group said it is looking for systemic change and a culture shift in all Evanston workplaces, not just in local government, to promote equity, diversity and inclusion citywide.

“We are asking that the City of Evanston…address and repair the social harms that have been inflicted on Black employees internally,” the report said. “Dismantle your own system of oppression.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @selenakuznikov

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