Delaware governor signs anti-discrimination executive order

 Gov. Carney signed an executive order creating a uniform anti-discrimination policy in state jobs. (Newsworks/Zoe Read)

Gov. Carney signed an executive order creating a uniform anti-discrimination policy in state jobs. (Newsworks/Zoe Read)

Gov. Carney signed an anti-discrimination in the workplace executive order Wednesday.

 

Gov. John Carney, D-Delaware, signed an executive order Wednesday updating anti-discrimination policies within state agencies.

“One of the big priorities for me is we embrace the diversity in our state and we make inclusion for folks of all walks of life into the business of state government,” Carney said.

“I’m committed to building a state government that’s representative of all the people we serve with a cabinet and staff that’s mindful of inclusion and diversity—not just diversity, but inclusion—making sure everyone feels valued in the work they do.”

Carney’s executive order makes some amendments to a 2009 anti-discrimination in state government executive order signed by former Governor Jack Markell. Markell’s order required each state agency to develop its own anti-discrimination policy.  The changes from Governor Carney create one uniform anti-discrimination policy for all state agencies to abide by.

“As state employees move from agency to agency you want to be clear they’re operating under the same set of rules. I think it sends a strong message when it’s one message that everyone understands,” Carney said.

“You want to invite people into the grievance procedure so you can identify things before they get out of control, and when that’s one consistent policy I think it’s better understood by employees, and maybe utilized more often.”

The policy, to be updated by the Human Resources Management Division of the State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget, will include anti-discrimination guidelines and complaint procedures. The new policy must be in place by April 1st. Carney said he will make clear discrimination won’t be tolerated and ensure the grievance procedure is known to employees.

The executive order follows about two years of work by the DE Faith in Action Coalition to research discrimination in state government workplaces, and work to advocate for new anti-discrimination measures.

The group of religious and civil rights leaders formed after a group known as the Committee on Racism in State Government released a report on discrimination and racism in state agencies.

The committee was made up of members from IMAC, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Dover & Vicinity, the Interdenominational Faith Coalition of Sussex County and the NAACP.

After interviewing more than 100 state employees the committee released a report in January, 2016 alleging racism and discrimination, and claiming workers feared retaliation if they reported a hostile work environment.

According to the report, the greatest complaints came from Department of Labor workers, and participants were most fearful of retaliation in Kent and Sussex counties, where the report says blatant racism was more common.  

Following the report, the group released several recommendations; request the U.S. Department of Justice Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division to launch an investigation into employment patterns and practices in state government, urge remedial action for state employees filing retaliation complaints, ask the General Assembly to put aside funding for an independent assessment of human resource management at the Office of Management & Budget and HR, create a task force focused on racism in state agencies, create a uniform anti-discrimination complaint process, review and revise Delaware’s discrimination laws and establish a civil rights commission.

Of those recommendations, Carney’s executive order is the second to be enacted. In December, an independent firm conducted an assessment of the Office of Management & Budget and HR. Carney’s executive order also came out of the several recommendations the Ivy Planning Group put in place during the assessment, and it was something Carney’s transition team made a top priority as well.

Carney said there’s more work to be done—including the possibility of reinstating the State’s personnel office, separate from human resources.

Alicia Clark, part of the committee that released the initial report on discrimination in state agencies, said she agrees.

“This executive order is a necessary step in the right direction, however we will know we have made progress when policy becomes practice,” she said.

Several state and local political leaders also were in attendance at Wednesday’s press conference, including Hanifa Shabazz, D-Wilmington, Wilmington City Council President and president of the Delaware Black Caucus.

“Today, with the signing of this executive order, our state takes a positive step forward, and we applaud Gov. Carney for his commitment and action to establish a work environment where individuals are treated with respect and dignity, free from harassment, discrimination or retaliation,” she said.

“Today also sends a strong message to victims, those who came forward to file complaints and those who chose to remain silent, your voices have been heard and Delaware will be a better place to work because of them.”

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