PRX Investigation Findings Released
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the final summary report, written by Prince Lobel Tye LLP and delivered to the PRX Board of Directors.
On August 3rd, a former employee of PRX sent an email to all staff in which they recounted what they described as the “systematic mistreatment” they experienced that prompted them to resign from their position. The PRX Board of Directors initiated an independent investigation into the former employee’s assertions. This is a summary of the investigation.
The Board engaged the services of the law firm Prince Lobel to conduct the investigation, with Joseph Edwards as investigator. Mr. Edwards has extensive experience at MCAD, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, both as a Commission member and previously as a staff attorney. He also served as the Chief Diversity and Civil Rights Officer of MassDOT, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. He has deep expertise investigating allegations of discrimination and related issues.
The Board did not put any limitations on Prince Lobel as to how to conduct the investigation, whom to interview, etc. and there was no time limit set within which the investigation was to be completed.
Prince Lobel spoke with fourteen current and former PRX employees at all levels of the organization who it believed had information relevant to the assertions in the former employee’s email. With one exception, Prince Lobel interviewed or spoke with each individual at least twice. The conversations were conducted one on one and were not recorded. Two individuals reached out independently to provide information without having first been contacted by Prince Lobel. In addition to the former employee, one other individual who was contacted chose not to be interviewed and one person did not respond at all to telephone or email invitations to participate.
Summary of Findings
Prince Lobel did not uncover any evidence of unlawful discrimination or harassment, or a violation of any PRX policy related to the former employee regarding the former employee’s employment at PRX. While there was evidence of mistakes, directives and policies that may not have been transmitted to them as clearly as possible, miscommunications, and management practices that were less than optimal, there is nothing to suggest that the former employee was ever treated adversely because of their race or gender, the touchstone of a cognizable discrimination complaint. No singular reason emerged as to why the Black women to whom the former employee alluded left PRX. They all did so for different reasons, and none of the three cited mistreatment because they were Black women as a motivating reason for leaving PRX.
However, the investigation uncovered signs of what can be described as unconscious bias and “microaggressions” that tended to make the work experience for some BIPOC employees difficult. These factors transcended education, job status, or time on the job; negative experiences were reported by BIPOC at all levels of the organization. These types of complaints were not universal among BIPOC, and some said they had never experienced unconscious bias or microaggressions.
It is indisputable that there have been irritants to Black women that were not apparent to PRX leadership until it received direct feedback from its DEI consultants and began reviewing the results of the listening sessions. It found out, for example, that there was a manager who was a source of microaggressions and unwarranted additional stress and anxiety for BIPOC. Once the problem was uncovered, however, PRX moved quickly to address it. PRX has also moved decisively and quickly to uncover any additional problems that may exist, consider the best means of eliminating them, and try to ensure that the problems do not recur.
PRX has announced, publicly and internally, its goal of creating and maintaining a work environment that is safe, secure and welcoming to BIPOC and to all employees. To date, it seems to have made every effort to follow through with the commitment to DEI that began in January 2020 when it retained Project Inkblot, long before the George Floyd killing or the former employee’s resignation. PRX should continue to seek out and rely on competent “experts” in the field of DEI as it navigates its way toward a diverse, thriving workplace. The company would also do well to look to its employees and encourage them to identify efforts that are working and potential trouble spots, and make suggestions on possible improvements, as it moves toward the safe, inclusive environment it says it wants to create.
For now, PRX is doing what it should be doing, and so long as it is diligent about its DEI efforts and stays on its current path, improvements will not come overnight, but they will come.