Ondray Harris, the African-American executive director of the Public Employee Relations Board of the District of Columbia, stepped down last week.
His resignation letter provides a disturbing look at alleged discriminatory and partisan conduct by the members of the board tasked with overseeing labor issues and the D.C. government’s relations with public employees.
Harris claimed in his letter that two members of the board, Don Wasserman and Ann Hoffman, complained over his hiring of a white female, Erin Wilcox, because they perceived her “as being conservative or politically right-of-center.”
According to Harris, at a meeting on Nov. 8, 2012, Hoffman declared that “somebody with a resume like hers doesn’t belong here” and “should never work here.”
Harris said he was “rebuked” by Wasserman for hiring white male employees despite the fact that no challenge was ever made by the board members to their professional “qualifications, competency, or efficiency.”
In fact, Wasserman told Harris to “refrain from hiring white men” in the future to fill open attorney slots, according to Harris.
As a civil rights lawyer and the former Deputy Chief of Employment Litigation in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, Harris vehemently opposed these “illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory comments and hiring demands,” telling the board that it was asking him “to hire in a discriminatory fashion based on race, gender, and political associations.”
He warned the board that he would resign rather than carry out such policies.
At another executive session of the board, Harris claimed, when he informed the board that he would be losing the services of Ms. Wilcox for several months because she was pregnant, Wasserman commented, “good, maybe we can get rid of her that way.”
When Harris hired another white male, board members were “hypercritical” of that new employee. And Harris said he was highly offended by other remarks made by Hoffman such as the claim that “the military is full of people belonging to white supremacist groups.”