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Troubling survey results on discrimination for FEMA

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2021 | Employee Discrimination

There are any number of key reference points that can be spotlighted in a recently released study of discrimination at a prominent federal agency. In sifting through them, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor opted to forgo any particularized initial comment. He underscored instead what is immediately obvious in a general sense.

The bottom line, noted Gaynor concerning takeaways from an in-depth study conducted by the nonprofit research group RAND, is this: Findings regarding varied violations of FEMA employees’ workplace rights are “alarming and simply not acceptable.”

That dire assessment is amply borne out by a wealth of hard empirical data culled and analyzed by RAND. Here are a few central conclusions that jumped out to researchers relevant to a recent measuring period:

  • Approximately one-fifth of the agency’s vast workforce has reportedly suffered from sexual or gender-based violations
  • Close to one in five FEMA employees have also been forced to work in conditions where racially tied harassment is prevalent
  • Fear of retaliation discourages many workers from reporting maltreatment
  • High percentage of targeted workers who do report wrongdoing are “rarely satisfied” with the agency response
  • Reportedly, gender discrimination targeting women increases commensurate with promotion to higher pay grades
  • Comparatively high distrust features for Black employees

FEMA managers seem duly chastened by RAND’s data, and vow to implement timely and purposeful changes. Among other things, the agency states that its recently announced “culture improvement action plan” will focus on a number of enumerated platforms and policies aimed at reducing workplace toxicity and ensuring fundamental fairness.

Time will tell, of course.


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