Seattle City Light released the final report today from an independent investigator hired to review claims of employee harassment.
“Today Seattle City Light is releasing an outside independent investigator’s report that was initiated in October 2017 after the City learned of potential workplace harassment issues in one of City Light’s divisions,” General Manager and CEO Debra Smith said. “The investigation took considerable time due to the number of individuals who had signed a workplace petition and the need to also talk with and explore new issues that were raised during the process. We are releasing this in the interest of transparency and creating a safe workplace for all.”
“Working with Mayor Durkan, we will continue building on the steps taken to strengthen our workplace and support the good work that City Light’s employees do,” Smith said. “We can and we will do better. I am committed to making Seattle City Light a great place to work and will continue talking with folks both inside and outside City Light to surface issues and develop collaborative solutions.”
Independent Investigation Overview
- In the Spring of 2017, Seattle City Light Human Resources (HR) decided not to investigate the “petition” from the Customer Energy Solutions group that was originally sent to Susan Coskey. This decision was made because everyone interviewed, other than Beth Rocha, informed the investigator that they did not have specific allegations to raise to HR.
- On October 18, 2017, City Light HR learned that the Seattle Women’s Commission reached out to DaVonna Johnson inquiring about the utility’s handling of the “petition.” Out of abundance of caution, City Light decided to investigate the “petition” by retaining an external investigator, Celeste Monroe, an attorney/workplace investigator, with Karr Tuttle Campbell. The scope of the investigation that Ms. Monroe conducted included any potential allegations that might be raised by employees who signed the “petition.”
- Karr Tuttle Campbell is one of the leading law firms in Seattle, Washington. Ms. Monroe is a member of the firm with significant experience and a great reputation in employment counseling and litigation. Ms. Monroe has been repeatedly recognized by Washington Law & Politics magazine as a “Rising Star” – a distinction bestowed on no more than 2.5 percent of lawyers practicing in the state.
- When an external investigator is retained, City Light HR does not get involved in the process other than logistical matters such as scheduling interviews and distributing reports. The investigation is conducted in a completely independent, neutral, and unbiased manner.
- The investigation conducted by Ms. Monroe closed on Nov. 14, 2018. Employees that were categorized as complainants or subjects received a copy of the first draft of the report in September and were given debriefing opportunities with the investigator. The final report dated Nov. 13, 2018, incorporates information Ms. Monroe learned from the debriefing meetings.
- The first 11-pages of the report titled “critical background information” explains what led to the creation of the “petition” signed by 42 employees and how the media got involved with the issues from Customer Energy Solutions. Below is a quick summary:
- Customer Energy Solutions made great strides with culture work which started in January 2017. Around October 2017, despite what was perceived as momentum by many people in the Division, Ms. Rocha took the Petition and the summaries she had presented to the Women’s Commission to The Stranger.
- A journalist from the Stranger began to contact employees at City Light to gather related information. After this activity came to the attention of DaVonna Johnson, City Light’s Chief Administrative Services Officer responsible for HR, she sent an email to the entire Customer Energy Solutions Division. Johnson told division members they were free to speak to the reporters if they wished and that they also had the right to decline. She noted that one of the ways they were addressing concerns with harassment and discrimination in the workplace was by creating and working with the culture team.
- On Nov. 3, 2017, a reporter from The Stranger provided City Light the “summaries” sheet Ms. Rocha had created. This was the same document Ms. Rocha had given to the Seattle Women’s Commission, and later to The Stranger.
- On Nov. 8, 2017, The Stranger published an article titled, “How Sexism and Harassment Allegations at Seattle City Light Get Lost in the Dark.” The article’s author had changed the names of individuals to protect their identities. However, the article’s central focus was on an employee named “Jasmine” who was, in fact, Ms. Rocha.
- The article caused friction between some individuals within the Customer Energy Solutions Division, as well as some dissention with the culture team. The next meeting of the culture team was on Nov. 15, 2017. Many people were angry with Ms. Rocha for going to the press, but the members of the culture team who were upset said they did not confront her at the Nov. 15, 2017. meeting.
- The next day, on Nov. 16, 2017, Ms. Rocha attended a public meeting sponsored by Seattle Radical Women, an autonomous women’s activist organization. The topic was “The Power of #METOO: Working Women Fight Back Against Sexual Assault.” Rocha spoke about the article in The Stranger and her perception of the culture at Customer Energy Solutions.
- Ms. Rocha submitted her resignation on Jan. 24, 2018. Her resignation was effective the same day.
Here is the report with names of the employees outside of management and investigators redacted: