Oregon Democrat Kate Brown bills herself as one of the most liberal governors in America, but a new investigative report from Willamette Week is raising questions about Kate Brown’s ability to offer state employees a safe workplace. Willamette Week describes a toxic “Bro Club” culture in Brown’s economic development agency, headed by her handpicked director.
Over a dozen employees describe “toxic working conditions” with “discriminatory practices toward senior career employees, women, budgetary and program abuses and a hostile work environment.” These employees allege that pregnant women and mothers are being denied promotions, and that employees who speak out have been “subject to retaliation.”
These allegations are incredibly troubling, and Kate Brown owes the people of Oregon answers.
Gov. Kate Brown this week pledged to launch an investigation into the state’s economic development agency, Business Oregon. The move follows a letter from a dozen current and even more former employees who describe toxic working conditions.
“We are reaching out to you to make a formal complaint regarding a series of allegations: discriminatory practices toward senior career employees, women, budgetary and program abuses and a hostile work environment,” says an April 5 letter to Brown.
The allegations center on the agency’s director, Chris Harder, whom Brown hired in March 2016 from the Portland Development Commission. Harder’s critics, who are anonymous, say in their letter to the governor that the agency shifted under Harder’s leadership to “encouraging a young/male ‘bro club’ environment.”
…”We have experienced the highest employee turnover in our history due to the caustic work environment and blatant discriminatory behaviors and practices,” the letter says. “In the past 24 months, more than 27 career employees have left the agency.”
The complainants say Harder and his team were particularly tough on women and older employees.
“Men and younger staff had been promoted, coached, assisted or given alternative internal job opportunities,” their letter says. “Management has undermined female employees’ authority…and pregnant women or new mothers experienced lost promotional opportunities. All have exited the agency.”