At the beginning of this month, an employee of Broward County was promoted to the position of transit superintendent. While this is a celebrated accomplishment within any local government agency, it would not normally be newsworthy.
However, reaction to the promotion has caused anger among other employees of Broward County. It seems that less than one year ago, the newly-promoted superintendent was suspended and nearly fired for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.
According to disciplinary records and personnel files, he was one of four men found to be in violation of the county's harassment policies, as well as other policies about appropriate use of company property and the internet.
An investigation showed that the four men regularly exchanged emails containing sexual jokes and images, as well as videos and comments that were offensive and degrading to women.
Of the four men, one was fired and a second one quit. The new superintendent and a fourth man were both given a last-chance warning and suspended for five days. Oddly, the superintendent was praised as a "positive role model" in a performance evaluation that took place shortly after the incident.
News of his promotion angered coworkers, and the assistant transit superintendent quit because of the decision. In a letter to the county, he wrote: "I cannot in good conscience work under an individual who does not respect the women serving under his authority."
It is not uncommon for a "boy's club" culture to exist in the private sector. What is surprising, however, is that this incident took place in a government office. It is likely that many will now be watching to see whether history repeats itself, or whether the new superintendent has truly become a good role model.
Source: Sun Sentinel, "Broward promotes supervisor disciplined for explicit emails," Brittany Wallman, July 30, 2011