By Doug Parker, Worksafe

On Tuesday, the California State Auditor released the agency’s report on its investigation into complaints of misconduct against Department of Industrial Relations former Director Christine Baker.

Boxer & Gerson partner Julius Young describes the report as a “sordid tale” of nepotism, disregard for merit-based hiring, attempted retaliation against whistleblowers, race and national origin-motivated perceptions of staff, and an overall culture of fear and reprisal. Julius provides highlights and commentary on his excellent blog, Workers Comp Zone, and I won’t try to outdo him here. Read it for yourself.

A department tasked with protecting workers from labor law violations and employer retaliation must operate with the highest standards. It must hold its own compliance with labor and employment law as a core value, expected of every employee and incorporated into every employee’s performance standards — starting at the top. This was obviously not the case at DIR.

I’m curious how workers and the regulated community will respond to the story. For industry, the report provides an easy and justifiable target for pointing out arrogance and hypocrisy in a key enforcement agency. For workers, it likely confirms the experiences of many that structures of power in this society are stacked against them unless they are “connected” or have the right background.

I’m saddened to see the comments from online readers of media coverage of this story. The responses reflect a perception that this sort of behavior is typical of government officials. If these comments are representative of broader opinion, it is no wonder that so many citizens would come to tolerate political leaders who view their jobs as transactional — and nepotism as a job perk.

The last thing we need is further corrosion of trust in our institutions, and the auditor’s report on DIR warrants a decisive response. We are optimistic that the new Labor and Workforce Development Secretary, Julie Su, will take this on as she settles into her new role.

We work to protect people from job-related hazards and empower us all to advocate for the right to a safe and healthy workplace.