Had a chat with Transportation Secretary Sue Minter about the discrimination lawsuit filed last week by three former VTrans workers. It creates a real dilemma for her; as head of the agency, she’s constrained from addressing the facts of the case. But as a potential gubernatorial candidate, she can’t be seen as anything less than fully supportive of LGBT employment rights, and she certainly can’t even be suspected of tolerating a culture of, ahem, intolerance.
I understand her situation, but that doesn’t make it any less pressing. It’s the fundamental problem with being an administration official while also exploring a candidacy: your first responsibility is to your employer. I imagine that’s why Deb Markowitz decided she had to choose one or the other.
“Obviously, I cannot comment on the specifics of the case,” she said, and added: “Any allegation of discrimination or harassment is very disturbing, and we take it seriously.” She then pivoted to the steps she’s taken to ensure a welcoming workplace.
“When I came into this job, I learned of some very well-known cases that had gone to the Human Rights Commission. I became very concerned. I’ve visited garages, driven snowplows, washed bridges, I’ve been a flagger. I’ve observed so many things, most of them positive, but I know that in any large organization, not everyone is on the same page.
… “We’ve worked hard to build a culture of diversity and tolerance. There is a very clear zero-tolerance policy. We reinforce that through trainings, and make sure everyone understands that the agency should be free of harassment and discrimination. …We’ve made it clear to managers and supervisors that they should respect all complaints. … About one year ago, we updated the Equal Employment Opportunity policy to include gender identity and transgender status as protected classes.”
Which is all very well, but I have a hard time believing the three plaintiffs fabricated their complaints. There’s no real upside to filing a baseless lawsuit or to allowing yourself to be publicly identified as a complainer.