CareerSource Employee Claims Workplace Bullying Caused a Stroke

Jose Bonilla spent 35 years working at CareerSource South Florida, a public agency that uses $70 million in state and federal funds to help local job seekers. But the way he tells it, his job became unbearable after Roderick "Rick" Beasley took over and Bonilla's supervisor began systematically harassing him — to the point where he eventually resigned and even suffered a stroke.

“As soon as Mr. Rick Beasley was hired as director, management culture began to transform since Mr. Beasley fosters and supports bullying,” Bonilla says. “Many supervisors' behavior progressively got very hostile, arrogant, and bullying, which reflected Mr. Beasley’s mindset.”

Bonilla's accusations — which county investigators looked into but later dismissed — are the latest to come to light against CareerSource and Beasley.

Three months ago, after considering multiple complaints, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that Beasley had subjected female employees to "a pattern of harassment, intimidation, exclusion, bullying... conditions due to their sex." Since then, more employees have come forward in New Times interviews alleging they too had also been subjected to verbal abuse and harassment under Beasley's leadership. Complaints of religious, ethnic, and disability discrimination had also been lodged against the agency.

County attorneys have not responded to New Times' messages seeking comment and in a recent board meeting instructed CareerSource's board members not to speak to reporters. Beasley has repeatedly denied the allegations, stating, "I treat all men and women, black and white, fairly." 

Bonilla says he used to enjoy his job as an accountant in the finance division at CareerSource. He used to be friends with his supervisor, Christine Garcia (who didn't reply to New Times' messages seeking comment for this story). Once, Garcia even recommended him for Employee of the Quarter. According to Bonilla, everything changed once Beasley began working there and promoted Garcia to supervisor in 2007.

"From 2007 to 2014, my life became an inferno," Bonilla says. "Ms. Garcia became my supervisor, and she did not speak [kindly] to me during the entire seven years."

He claims Garcia suddenly began issuing negative evaluations and writing him up to try to get rid of him. He contends Garcia told him that he was "too old" and made "too much money for doing nothing." They would often shout at each other in the office. Bonilla says he would complain to human resources but says little was done.

In 2008, he went to the Office of Fair Employment Practices. He told investigators that at least two other employees had witnessed "the demeaning way" that Garcia spoke to him. OFEP interviewed ten employees, including Garcia, but determined three months later that there was "no reasonable cause to believe that [Bonilla was] subjected to unlawful retaliation or discrimination." Everyone interviewed had stated they were treated fairly and could not corroborate Bonilla’s claims, so the investigators concluded the "findings reflect that Bonilla is actually the person who demeans Garcia."

But Bonilla says the county investigators were wrong. "She would email me work assignments without proper and complete instructions, thus setting me up for mistakes," he insists. "Ms. Garcia created a folder with my mistakes to use against me."

Bonilla isn't the first CareerSource employee who claims to have been rebuffed by the county. Garcia is being investigated by another employee who claimed she was bullied for being pregnant. In recent years, at least four employees at CareerSource South Florida filed complaints about workplace bullying to the Office of Fair Employment Practices. There were no findings of discrimination in their reports either. But after the EEOC investigation, the complainants point to an alleged conflict of interest between Lucia Davis-Raiford, director of the Office of Fair Employment Practices, and Beasley.

In fact, Bonilla wishes he never filed the complaint. He says it only made things worse. Three months after the report, Bonilla says, he had to be rushed to Baptist Hospital. Doctors said he suffered a micro-stroke, or transient ischemic attack, and the entire right side of his body was numb. His medical report states that the symptoms happen at work and that he’s experiencing "emotional abuse... and being harassed at work by [his] supervisor.”

After the health scare, Bonilla demanded to meet with Beasley and requested a transfer.

"I explained to him that I needed to transfer to another division or department due to the years of bullying," Bonilla says. "Mr. Beasley told me that he had mentioned this to Dade County Personnel and I just needed to suck it up. I don’t know how I survived."

Last fall, Bonilla retired and left the agency for good.