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Racism, bias allegations roil Texas Parks and Wildlife

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

A black game warden-in-training—one of only two black cadets in her class—has filed an EEOC discrimination complaint against the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). At the same time, the EEOC also granted a white game warden permission to file a federal lawsuit alleging that supervisors instructed him to “distance himself” from black colleagues.

At the 3,000-person TPWD, game wardens are the agency’s public face, managing state parks, enforcing hunting and fishing laws and, in recent years, providing border security. That public face, however, remains predominantly white and male—75% of the wardens are white men—in a state where nine out of 10 new residents are minorities.

The Texas Legislature’s black caucus continues to pressure the TPWD over racism allegations lodged by game wardens and their families. Additionally, a recent an agency-commissioned study shows that only 1% of game wardens in the TPWD’s 50-year history have been black.

Department spokeswoman Lydia Saldana issued a statement saying the TPWD takes all the complaints “very seriously,” but added, “We know we can do a better job. We know that many of the things that we have done in the past have not been effective. We are committed.”

Note: Changing a workplace culture is a long-term, difficult process. Employers faced with such a task should build a change-management team that includes outside consultants and attorneys. When a culture must change, employees often need to hear the message from new voices.

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