Investigation finds racial discrimination claims against STA’s HR director to be unfounded

Investigation finds racial discrimination claims against STA’s HR director to be unfounded

An independent investigation into the discrimination claims made against STA’s HR director in June were found to be unfounded.

In June, STA transit workers called for an investigation into practices of the agency after a racially charged thread was discovered on the Facebook page of Human Resources Director Nancy Williams.

Union members expressed concern over STA’s commitment to being an Equal Opportunity Employer, in light of the comments, which prompted STA’s CEO E. Susan Meyer to hire an independent investigator to look into the matter.

The investigation concluded that the claims against Williams were unfounded.

The investigator conducted 17 interviews of 14 witnesses.

According to the investigative report, Williams shared a Facebook video in which “a group of
African American youths are shown inflicting harm on a disabled Caucasian individual” in or around January 2017.

The report goes on to make the following assertion about Williams’ actions regarding that post:

One response to the post, which was made public, came from a close family friend of Ms.
Williams’, Beverly Murphy. Ms. Murphy referred to the perpetrators in the video as “primates.”
Ms. Murphy concluded her response with a reference to then-outgoing President Barack Obama
as a “creature.” Ms. Williams “liked” Ms. Murphy’s post, and in response to another
commenter’s criticism of Ms. Murphy’s post, Ms. Williams offered a defense of Ms. Murphy,
stating that it appeared more people agreed with Ms. Murphy’s sentiment than with the criticism
of the other commenter. Ms. Williams does not articulate any specific endorsement of Ms.
Murphy’s word choice, and has subsequently stated that her endorsement extended only as far as
Ms. Murphy’s sentiment of disgust over the disturbing footage in the video. Ms. Williams has
further stated that on reflection, she believes that Ms. Murphy’s word choice was unfortunate.

CEO E. Susan Meyer, who hired the investigator, released the following statement Wednesday:

“An important part of earning the public’s trust is approaching the organization’s business seriously and diligently, with stewardship in mind.

I applied those principles when allegations of discrimination were brought against STA’s Director of Human Resources by ATU Local 1015 officials in June. As CEO, the Board has delegated responsibility to me for the operation of Spokane Transit, including matters of employment. I hired an independent investigator to conduct a thorough and fair investigation into the claims. While it is unusual to disclose information about a personnel matter, I committed to sharing the investigation results because of the very public way the claim was made. The investigation is now complete and the findings have been reported.

Upon investigation of all pertinent materials available for his review and speaking with more than a dozen individuals, the investigator determined the complaint against Nancy Williams is unfounded. No further action is required and the investigation is closed.

When I was hired by the Board of Directors in 2005, I was entrusted with the responsibility to ensure a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. I have, and will always, take that charge seriously and am committed to fostering an environment where all employees and transit patrons are treated with dignity and respect.”

STA Board Chair Kevin Freeman also released a statement Wednesday:

“When the STA Board learned a claim of discrimination was made against an STA employee, we affirmed our unwavering commitment to diversity and non-discrimination in each and every level of the organization. That commitment will never change. We also expressed our confidence in the CEO’s ability to conduct a thorough and professional investigation into the allegations, as well as confidence in whatever action she deemed appropriate as a result. That confidence carries through to the findings she shared today from the independent investigator who concluded that the claim was unfounded.”