Audit Finds “Hostile Work Environment” at Dept. of Labor

Connecticut’s Department of Labor has a “hostile work environment” – particularly in the Wage and Workplace Standards Division which investigates and levies fines against employers for violations of state labor laws.

That’s according to Connecticut state auditors who released the latest audit of the department. Seven recommendations by the auditors were related to “a hostile work environment within a Department of Labor unit,” which were brought about by whistleblower complaints.

Although the DOL disagreed with the auditors’ findings regarding a hostile work environment, they did acknowledge some issues within the Wage and Workplace Standards Division.

Some of those issues were reported in an October 2018 Yankee Institute article that documented numerous allegations and human resources investigations within the Wage and Workplace Standards Division, turning employees into the “Hatfields and McCoys,” according to one source who wished to remain anonymous.

Employees within the Division initiated claims against one another related to name-calling; followed and photographed the division director during her weekends; and made allegations of unfair treatment, according to DOL’s internal investigations.

One female employee even took to recording herself walking around the office in case she was confronted by fellow employees.

Much of the turmoil surrounded a union steward election, which divided the staff and resulted in a confrontation between one of the candidates and Wage and Workplace Standards Division Director at the time, Resa Spaziani.

Spaziani was a frequent target of the complaints and occasional harassment. One of Human Resources’ investigations substantiated that Spaziani said she would put an employee in a “headlock” – a comment she said was made in jest.

The auditors cited the DOL for not moving quickly enough to address the “workplace violence.”

DOL said it attempted to address the matter in a more informal and comprehensive manner through “frank and open, professional discussion,” but faced difficulties in bringing all the parties together.

“These complaints were made in combination with and in addition to a significant number of other complaints by the union and Division employees,” DOL responded. “Due to the breadth and complexity of the investigation, including the number of witnesses to be interviewed and documents to be reviewed, these investigations necessarily required more time to conduct and complete.”

Spaziani eventually stepped down from her role as director of the Wage and Workplace Standards Division. Citing a “toxic work environment” in which she became a “target of retaliation” in her resignation letter. Spaziani continues to work at the Division as a supervisor.

Former Hamden Police Chief Thomas Wydra has since taken over the Division.

“Although we understand the personnel matters were substantiated within a unit of the agency, we disagree with the Hostile Work Environment categorization,” DOL responded to the auditors. “The agency has addressed the concerns that were initiated and fostered by prior management years ago.”

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