The parks are very much a part of the culture in Minneapolis. When news broke recently about alleged racial discrimination within the Minneapolis Park System, many people in the Twin Cities felt outraged.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the local NAACP alerted the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board in December that it had received more than 160 discrimination complaints from employees as well as community members who frequent the parks. The numbers may not have been too much of a shock to park board leadership, who had already brought a consulting firm on board in the fall to study similar issues.
The Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, based consulting firm interviewed more than 100 people involved with the park system, and noted that employees described various types of unfavorable treatment of black and minority employees. Among specific complaints were an under-representation of employees of color in upper management, a disregard for cultural differences, and discrimination against minority employees–as well as problems within the human resources department.
The consulting firm presented a report and recommendations to the board of how it might immediately fix these very serious, and potentially illegal, elements of the park system. The park board has since announced a series of meetings to address complaints and promised to combat these issues.
It was not clear from the news report how long the park board has been aware that park employees may be experiencing discrimination and cultural disregard at work. In the Star Tribune report, the park superintendent is quoted saying that many of the issues noted in the consulting firm’s report have existed for years.
Both federal and state law prohibits discrimination against an employee based on age, disability, race, religion, national origin, pregnancy, gender or sexual orientation. These laws apply to things like hiring, tenure, compensation, terms, promotion decisions, working conditions and much more. And, workers who experience such problems have the right to pursue legal recourse.
Source: Star Tribune, “Minneapolis Park Board cited for racial rifts,” Nicole Norfleet, Feb. 8, 2012.