To: Media Point of Contacts for Government Affairs
I am writing this letter to shed light on the racial discrimination that minority employees have been subjected to at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority over the past decade. Supervisors and managers have taken deliberate actions against minorities to deny senior level promotions and restrict opportunities to gain experience necessary for these promotions within several departments at VTA. Hires for these senior level positions have been Caucasian.
As you probably already know, VTA has a history of racial discrimination. The organization lost a racial discrimination lawsuit in 1988. Despite the judgment and the resulting requirement for sensitivity training, racial discrimination remains a serious problem.
Yolanda Wayne has filed a federal lawsuit that details her experiences at VTA as well as experiences of other minority employees. Ms. Wayne along with other minorities were told by supervisors that they were not qualified for Senior Transportation Planner positions, because of a lack of experience in the areas of transit planning and transit oriented development. However, Caucasian individuals with no or limited experience (i.e., having less experience than Ms. Wayne and other minorities) in these areas of expertise were hired. Since 1996, when the planning office began to expand, they have been discouraged from applying for the Senior Planner positions and repeated requests to Supervisor(s) for projects to gain the necessary experience have been met with no success. In an orchestrated attempt to force them to leave, they were given low-level assignments similar in nature to work given to clerical staff, given no projects at all, or given projects that dont provide them with the experience they were told was needed. This unfair treatment has prompted the other minorities within the department to resign
There are a couple of specific examples that show how opportunities provided to Caucasian co-workers have not been provided to Ms. Wayne and other minorities. A Caucasian female hired as a Senior Planner admitted to not having transit planning experience. During the 1-* years that she occupied this position, she was given projects that provided her with the experience necessary to advance to a Principal Planner position (the next level) within the department. Another example of unfair treatment is the fact that when a Caucasian male was hired as the Transit-Oriented Development Senior Planner, his transit-oriented development experience was very limited. After he interviewed for the position, the supervisor stated that they could not find anyone that met the qualifications for the position. Ms. Wayne and other planners were subsequently told that although this individual was not qualified for the position, he would be hired and allowed the opportunity to gain the necessary experience while working in the position.
In addition to being told that they did not qualify for senior level positions, they were told that maternity leave could hurt their opportunities to advance. However, after one of their white female colleagues, a senior level planner, took 1 * yr. for maternity leave and was allowed to work part-time for an additional 5 years, she was promoted and suffered no adverse impacts to her career.
Several other minorities, who will act as witnesses in the lawsuit, have also experienced racism at VTA and some have resigned as a result. These individuals worked or are currently working in departments throughout the organization including Purchasing, Real Estate, Personnel, Marketing and Service Planning. It is disturbing that these issues have been brought to the attention of VTA board members (high profile government officials, including Ron Gonzales), and not one offered a response. They have turned a deaf ear to the problem.
It should be noted that the federal and state governments are contributing a significant portion of funding to assist in the implementation of VTAs multi-billion dollar capital improvement program. It is deeply unsettling that despite government funding, VTA continues to deny promotional opportunities for minorities.
The case is currently proceeding through federal court with United States District Judge, the Honorable Jeremy Fogel presiding over it. Because of difficulties in obtaining an attorney, Ms. Wayne has undertaken the seemingly insurmountable task of representing herself. However, Judge Fogel has strongly recommended that she obtain an attorney. The case number is C01-20427-JF. If anyone can help, it will be greatly appreciated. She can be reached at (510) 881-5238 to further discuss these issues in greater detail.