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VTA investigates new, hostile workplace complaint from inside one department

VTA investigates new, hostile workplace complaint from inside one department
Photo Credit: vta.org
By Wesley Severson - Published on August 09, 2021.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which was rocked a few months ago by a disgruntled employee’s deadly shooting spree, is now investigating claims of management hostility and harassment inside the agency’s information technologies department. Some employees claim the level of anxiety it has created could lead to another worker losing control and possibly lashing out.

According to San Jose Spotlight, SEIU 521 representative and 26-year VTA employee Tammy Dhanota handed over a petition to the VTA Board that represented 30 IT workers who claim they are subject to harassing and intimidating behavior and that they experience fear daily while working their shifts.

Nine VTA employees were killed in the shooting on May 26th at the agency’s busy maintenance yard. Dhanota told the board, “due to the recent events at the Guadalupe yard, VTA can no longer afford to not act on the many grievances and complaints filed against the upper management in the technology department.”

Bay City News Group got a copy of the petition which reads, “we would like to point out that these repeated instances of harassment have caused us stress and anxiety, and they have caused VTA to lose valuable employees that have been part of our VTA family for many years.” The anonymous individual who leaked the petition spoke to Bay City News Group. “Our main concern is they’re making our department so miserable to be in. How do I know that one of my coworkers is not going to lose it one day?” 

VTA officials sent a statement to San José Spotlight explaining that workers have been under added pressure since the coronavirus began. “Add to that environment a hard-hitting cyber-attack only to be followed by the horrendous tragedy at our Guadalupe Light Rail Yard that will influence everything we do moving forward. To that extent, the allegations brought forward in the recent petition presented to the VTA Board of Directors is being independently and thoroughly investigated by a third party,” the VTA statement said.

The VTA was hit with a cyberattack in April. Workers claim that they didn’t have internet service for weeks and were forced to use hotspots to get online. Complaints about harassment in the IT department were being logged well before that cyberattack. According to Bay City News Group, most complaints that were filed by VTA workers last year were not investigated. Only 11 of the 76 complaints were deemed to be worthy of an investigation.

The petition asks that VTA officials meet with the 30 IT workers who are represented in the claim. They make up around 60% of the workers in the agency’s IT department. It’s unclear so far when those meetings could start.