'Nightmare’ workplace | Employees gamble and 'get high' while 'KKK' sign hangs in office

Employees gamble and 'get high' while 'KKK' sign hangs in office

An organisation that regulates ‘gambling entities’ has been accused of having a “toxic” culture where racial discrimination, sexual harassment, political favouritism and bullying are rife.

Allegations include a Ku Klux Klan and swastika image hanging in the organisation’s headquarters for weeks in 2019, and workers ‘getting high’ and gambling on the job.

The organisation’s Inspector General documented findings that were kept confidential for years. These reports were later released and publicised last year. The reports include a myriad of cases where employees participated in sexual harassment and misconduct, with one case outlining a time a worker made “suspect” communications to horse racing participants while officiating events.

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Another case outlined a time the organisation delayed administrative action in response to allegations made by a staff member, and another case where an employee was “retaliatory” towards a whistleblower.

The allegations surface as the organisation finds itself in at least four lawsuits, having previously settled two age-discrimination lawsuits and a sexual and racial discrimination lawsuit.

The allegations

The US government-affiliated New York Gaming Commission is known to have high turnover and poor retention because it is “known across agencies” how difficult it is. The Gaming Commission is currently facing multiple allegations, these include:

  • Offensive signs referencing the Ku Klux Klan hung on the wall at the organisation’s headquarters, the same workers who hung the signs sending “white supremacist” messages to the one who filed a complaint.

  • A former horse racing judge at the commission said he was told by other employees that he was hired because it would “really annoy” state officials to work with a Black man. The same worker said he had letters containing racially derogatory words mailed to him from other employees.

  • In 2018, a former employee sued the agency for racial discrimination and “disparaging” her biracial child, in addition to colleagues making sexual advances to her and offering promotions in exchange for a physical relationship.

  • One former employee alleged that an executive at the organisation asked her to travel with him on work trips that made her feel uncomfortable. The same employee said female workers would “hide in the bathrooms” to avoid advances from male workers. She also said that a colleague had a Playboy magazine hanging in his office cubicle.

  • Two staff members described a situation where a female colleague was told by a supervisor that his state authority allowed him “access” to her blouse.

  • Multiple former employees reported occasions where coworkers used drugs or 'appeared high' whilst working.

Addressing grievances properly

Many NY Gaming Commission workers reported no changes being made after their complaints, many feeling their problems were ignored or insufficiently addressed. They reported feelings of helplessness and that they had nowhere to turn to. As a result, many staff members felt that workers were hired and promoted based on their political affiliations rather than their skill set.

The apparent negligence around this case highlights the importance of HR’s impartiality and need to address grievances sufficiently.

Recent research from StandOut CV found some of the most common employee complaints centre around workplace toxicity, bullying and complaints about management. Employees should therefore be encouraged to approach HR over people in management to prevent their complaint from being disregarded.

If workers feel like they are unable to trust the confidentiality of HR, they might wait until they leave the company to give an anonymous review on sites such as Glassdoor, or could take to social media to air their grievances.

Andrew Fennell, Founder of StandOut CV, advises workers: "As an employee, you should be careful about what you share online about your workplace. Employers can, and do, easily find the information you share which could end in disciplinary action or lead to you getting a negative reference when you move on.

If you are looking to raise a complaint at work about your manager, go to HR, or a more senior member of staff to raise your concerns, this way the business can assess how best to support you both to overcome the issues you may be having.”

As a result, HR should make obvious to staff who they should report to if they have a grievance and what will happen as a result of their complaint.

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