General Business

Port Authority Releases New 25-Point Diversity Plan

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has released a comprehensive report outlining 25 actions and recommendations to be implemented as the agency continues working toward new standards of excellence in achieving racial and cultural diversity in the workplace.

The plan, “Taking Action on Race Dynamics,” is the product of an extensive eight-month revie w of race dynamics at the agency including several dozen extensive employee listening sessions and group interactions. A 10-person leadership steering committee of senior Port Authority executives led the development of theplan in the wake of the horrific killing of George Floyd last May and the local and national demonstrations for racial justice that followed it.

“The Port Authority’s commitment to implement the 25 initiatives recommended by the Leadership Steering Committee on Race Dynamics, which we presented to the board, represents the agency’s fulfillment of its pledge to vigorously address race dynamics within the Port Authority,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “We must unite around a common goal to address racism head on and to remain as allies to one another to combat hate and oppression. The initiatives contained in this comprehensive report will address, specifically and meaningfully, the concerns being expressed across the agency and in the community during these turbulent times.”

“We are at an important crossroads in our nation’s history and we must all do the necessary work to dismantle racism in the workplace and our community,” said Port Authority Vice Chairman Jeffrey Lynford. “I’m thankful for the work of the Leadership Steering Committee, our Diversity and Inclusion team, and countless volunteers who through their collaboration and ingenuity, provided the actionable steps we need to become an even more equitable and inclusive organization now and in the future.”

“This report sends an important message to current Port Authority employees, our future workforce, and the community, that diversity, equity and inclusion are part of the agency’s core values and integral to our success,” said Port Authority Commissioner Leecia Eve. “With the rise of hate crimes occurring throughout this country, the work that we are doing underscores the importance of fighting discrimination at all levels and the continual need to work together to create real and lasting change.”

“The 25 initiatives are real, tangible, and ambitious steps that will make a difference in building an anti-racist and inclusionary workplace throughout the Port Authority,” said Executive Director Rick Cotton. “We can no longer just talk about our abhorrence of racism, but we must all work together to take actionable steps toward dismantling racism, promoting inclusion in the workplace, and taking tangible actions. These initiatives, taken together, represent the most wide-reaching set of concrete deliverables focused on advancing diversity and inclusion in the agency’s history.”

“We are confident that the initiatives recommended in this report – many of which have already been put into place — will help guide the Port Authority in achieving the goal of a truly dynamic, forward-looking, diverse and inclusive workplace,” said Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Michael G. Massiah, who served as the chairperson of the leadership steering committee that developed the report. “We want all of our employees to feel empowered and be supported so that they can be their authentic selves in the workplace.”

The steering committee was established in June 2020 to examine and address elements of race dynamics within the Port Authority. Nearly 30 employee listening sessions were held, engaging approximately 2,400 participants from across the agency, including union employees and Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRG). These sessions produced more than 600 employee comments and recommendations for improving workplace culture, diversity and fairness at the Port Authority as an agency and at its facilities.

The working groups identified immediate, short- and long-term recommendations and initiatives in six key focus areas that can lead to real change:

  1. Evolving Port Authority culture;
  2. Manager and employee development;
  3. Transparency regarding Human Resources practices and functions;
  4. Police diversity and enhanced best practices;
  5. The Port Authority as a good community neighbor; and
  6. Demonstrating a commitment through policy.

Some of the key initiatives therein include the following:

  • Agency management training courses and leadership development programs will have new course content to train managers to mitigate unconscious bias, practice non-discriminatory behaviors and manage diverse teams to affirmatively cultivate, recognize and celebrate a welcoming and respectful work environment.
  • Mandatory anti-racism training for all represented and non-represented employees.
  • Complete overhaul of all Port Authority recruitment programs to ensure highly qualified, diverse pools of applicants for positions ranging from entry-level, operations and maintenance, technical professionals, and executives.
  • Agency will publish an annual report for employees that provides all workforce demographic data.
  • Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) will implement the use of body cameras by PAPD officers, a policy generally consistent with the approaches taken by the New Jersey and New York State Police departments. Additionally, PAPD will implement best practice policies in policing, including an updated PAPD use of force policy and new policies setting standards for providing medical assistance to arrestees. In addition, the agency will also overhaul and upgrade its recruitment programs to strengthen diversity in the police academy.
  • Three new initiatives to promote diversity and upward mobility in career professions, such as administrative and entry-level job categories that have a high proportion of diverse employees. These programs will focus on networking, training and mentorship programs for existing employees to support their career advancement.
  • New non-retaliation policy has been extended to complaints concerning workplace equity.
  • The appointment of an Employee Experience Advisor charged with more general resolution of workplace equity issues, supporting productive workplace practices and creating an official office where employees can discuss concerns related to inclusion, workplace equity, and respect in the workplace.
  • Improving the agency’s performance evaluation system to include emphasis on mitigating bias, improving fairness and impartiality in the evaluation process and allowing multiple sources of feedback for employee performance evaluations.
  • Initiatives to provide employees with material on the history and heritage of the multiple diverse cultures represented at the agency and foster greater cultural understanding and dialogue, including the addition of Juneteenth as a permanent agency holiday, development of a virtual cultural library highlighting the diverse heritage of employees and new policy enhancements to support employees’ ability to express their socio-political views appropriately outside of work.
  • Employee-focused educational seminars and presentations to employees on Race, Transportation and Economics throughout the Port District.
  • Briefings for employees on the agency’s current community outreach programs. These presentations will form the basis for seeking out employee suggestions and feedback to improve or strengthen these efforts.

Massiah, who was named as the agency’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer in December of 2017, commended the “Action Teams,” the groups of employee volunteers who contributed to the review and facilitated the development of the initiatives, saying it “demonstrated the value and strength of diverse work teams and leveraged the agency’s dynamic and multicultural workforce to lead efforts, collaborate, elevate honest feedback and shape thought-provoking programs.”

Executive Director Cotton plans to reconvene the Leadership Steering Committee in September 2021 and again in March 2022 to review the implementation of these initiatives and recommend appropriate mid-course corrections or adjustments based on experience.

For a more detailed list of all 25 initiatives, please visit the attached dashboard: http://www.panynj.gov/content/dam/port-authority/press-room/press-kits/Leadership_Steering_Committee-Complete_Report-March_2021-Dashboard.pdf

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