Five Stories of Harassment and Bullying at Miami's Job-Placement Center

Branches of CareerSource, Florida's job-placement service, keep getting caught inflating or inventing their job data. First, it was CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas, which were caught in February taking credit for thousands of job hires they had nothing to do with.

This week, auditors caught CareerSource South Florida — the Miami-Dade/Florida Keys branch of the state jobs service — inflating its numbers. In a Miami-Dade County Inspector General's audit that New Times obtained Friday, one CareerSource subcontractor got caught faking data to make itself look good, and, after the audit, wound up repaying more than $150,000 in taxpayer funds. In other cases, CareerSource listed employees as having been placed in "full time" jobs that in reality lasted only days or weeks.

And this is certainly not the first scandal at CareerSource South Florida. In 2015, New Times reporter Jessica Swanson detailed in multiple stories how still-current branch boss Rick Beasley repeatedly bullied and verbally harassed at least eight of his female employees. In other cases, branch employees working under Beasley were also accused of harsh harassment. In a post-Me-Too world, it's worth taking a second look at the allegations:

1. Eight women called the "Workforce-8" detail allegations to New Times in September 2015.

Roderick "Rick" Beasley earns more than Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The burly middle-aged bureaucrat with a penchant for bow ties runs CareerSource South Florida, a county agency that connects thousands of local job seekers and employers. With a $70 million budget fed by state and federal funds, it's the largest operation of its type in Florida and one of the biggest workforce boards in the nation.

But that's not all. Beasley (who made $179,676 in 2013, compared to Gimenez's $146,023) sits on the President's Council at Florida International University and the board of the Miami-Dade Early Learning Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for children, and in February, he was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council, which Gimenez called "an extraordinary honor." He's even president of the local Pi Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi, a predominantly African-American fraternity with well-known members such as Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

So it's a surprise to hear claims from a group of eight former Beasley employees who call themselves the Workforce-8. They maintain that the 49-year-old regularly bullies, verbally abuses, and even tosses staplers at female employees before pushing them out. "He destroyed our livelihoods," says Linda Pierre, a 36-year-old former research analyst. "We are all strong, smart, educated women of all ages and races, and he just couldn't live with that."

Pierre, who was fired in August 2014, has spent the past seven years reporting Beasley's alleged discrimination to authorities yet getting no traction. She penned scores of pages of comments in response to negative job reviews documenting Beasley's behavior, but no one seemed to care. The Office of Human Rights and Fair Employment Practices determined there was no reasonable cause to believe she was discriminated against, and the Office of the Inspector General and the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust also failed to take action.

Then, finally, this past July and August, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sided with Pierre and others who had complained about Beasley. The commission agreed he had discriminated against Pierre and retaliated against her after she complained. More striking, it concluded that women working for Beasley had been "subjected to the same pattern of harassment, intimidation, exclusion, bullying... conditions due to their sex."

Beasley has consistently denied the claims. Contacted by New Times, he declined to respond to the allegations in detail, saying only, "I treat all men and women, black and white, fairly. Now, I never said I was a perfect boss... Only one of the women worked for me directly... They never interviewed any of the men."

2. One woman says she was bullied by her boss for being pregnant.

Aylen Hidalgo says her supervisor has always been a stickler for clocking in on time and not leaving her desk or making personal calls. As a result, her job in finance at CareerSource South Florida, a county agency with a $70 million budget to help job seekers, has always been stressful.

But she says it got even worse last December when she told that supervisor, Christine Garcia, that she was pregnant. Instead of supporting her, Hidalgo says Garcia wrote her up, docked time from her vacation leave, and gave her negative evaluations.

“I’d tell her that I was not feeling good — throwing up and with nausea — but she didn’t care,” she says. “I was scared that she’d come and see that I wasn’t at my desk and have a fit.”

Hidalgo’s allegations — which are the subject of an ongoing county investigation — are the latest claims of employee mistreatment at CareerSource. A federal investigation recently found that its executive director, Roderick “Rick” Beasley, discriminates against female employees. Hidalgo thinks Beasley is to blame for fostering workplace bullying.

“I was under a lot of stress, and I believe that every problem that happened during my pregnancy was caused by stress from working at CareerSource,” Hidalgo says. “Beasley thinks he’s God on Earth and the supervisors can do whatever they want — good or bad.”

Neither Garcia nor Beasley responded to New Times’ messages seeking comment on Hidalgo’s claims. County spokesperson Michael Hernandez also declined to comment.

Hidalgo, who has worked at CareerSource for a decade, says her pregnancy immediately marked her for unfair treatment. When morning sickness forced her to come in late, the time was subtracted from her vacation. Her regular bathroom trips led to abuse from Garcia, she says.

3. Another employee says the harassment inside CareerSource got so bad he had 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."

4. Beasley was also accused of religious discrimination.

One of those concerned about Beasley’s approach to religion is Daryl Rosenbaum, a former CareerSource director who is Jewish. He contends Beasley ordered him to work at a dragon boat race on a Saturday in 2007. When Rosenbaum said he couldn’t because it was the Jewish Sabbath and suggested moving the event to Sunday, Beasley refused. “He said, ‘No, that’s God’s day,’” Rosenbaum recalls. “I said, ‘And Saturday’s my God’s day,’ but it was like no one else’s beliefs mattered.”

Rosenbaum, like three other employees interviewed by New Times, says Beasley would lead three-to-five-minute prayers at the beginning of every staff meeting. Once, Rosenbaum says, he made a joke after Beasley mentioned Jesus in a prayer. “I said, ‘If Jesus is the only one who is perfect, how do you expect us to have a zero percent error rate?’” Rosenbaum recalls. “Beasley didn’t say anything and just glared at me.”

Not long after that disagreement, in 2008, Rosenbaum was fired. He claimed religious discrimination and filed a complaint with Miami-Dade’s Office of Human Rights and Fair Employment Practices. Like at least four women interviewed by New Times who had complained to the county about Beasley, however, he was rebuffed.

“If you’re Beasley, you think you’re God and you can say and do what you want,” Rosenbaum says.

Andrea Vanias, a former administrator, agrees. She estimates she attended six or seven meetings with Beasley where prayers were required. “It’s a blatant violation of church and state,” Vanias says, “and the law.”

Employees were allowed to leave the room during the prayer, but it was awkward. “No one’s going to walk out,” she says. “Everyone’s going to look at you like a demon child.”

5. The federal government finally chastised Beasley for an alleged pattern of bullying, but Beasley still denied the allegations.

There was yelling, the silent treatment, being passed over for promotions, and being forced to move to different desks. The group came to call themselves the Workforce-8. Though numerous county agencies ignored their claims, this past July and August, the federal government concluded the eight had been "subjected to the same pattern of harassment, intimidation, exclusion, bullying... conditions due to their sex."

Beasley wouldn't discuss the claims in detail but said he treats all of his many employees fairly. "These women are going after me," he said, "and I find it underhanded."

Helena Pivarnik, a 63-year-old placement facilitator who worked under Beasley for nine years, is one of the Workforce-8. She says that in 2011, Beasley chased her after an argument. "He put his finger so close to my nose [that] if I had moved forward, just by a step... he could be accused of assault," she says. She was fired seven months later.

Pivarnik appealed her termination to the Director of Workforce Services in Tallahassee. "Mr. Beasley is categorically an office bully," she wrote. "There is a pattern of intimidating educated, strong women with excellent employment histories to resign or transfer to other areas." But she says no one followed up with her.

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