Philly controller says executive-level city employees lack diversity

‘After three years of reviewing exempt employee diversity data, my office has found only a slight improvement for departments under the mayor’s control,’ City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said

By: - October 25, 2021 10:21 am

Philadelphia City Hall (Flickr Commons)

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA — Although the city boasts a population that is 65.7% diverse, according to the City Controller’s Office, just 45.8% of the city’s professional employees who fall under exempt status are from diverse backgrounds.

Exempt employees are paid a salary rather than by the hour, and their work is executive. Therefore, they are not eligible to receive overtime benefits.

“Exempt workers in executive positions (earning at least $90,000) are less diverse than the overall workforce,” according to Jolene Nieves Byzon, spokesperson for the City Controller’s Office.

The review by the Controller’s Office assessed at least 4,800 employees, including new hires whose salaries are at least $90,000.

“After three years of reviewing exempt employee diversity data, my office has found only a slight improvement for departments under the mayor’s control,” City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said.

“Most departments are over-represented with white employees. However, in total, white representation decreased from 48% in FY18 to 46% in FY20, driven by an increase in Asian hires — the only demographic to see an increase in representation compared to last year,” Rhynhart said.

“Overall, the City’s exempt workforce is still not diverse enough. The workforce should mirror Philadelphia’s population because every decision made by government has an impact on the lives of our residents.”

The Controller’s Office uses Census Bureau data as a baseline of representation while conducting its assessment.

The exempt workforce under the mayor’s authority was 53.6% diverse in 2020.

For example, Asian employees being hired in 2020 helped a 1% increase in diverse hires under the mayor’s control. In addition, Asian employees accounted for 14% of the new exempt hires in departments under the mayor overall.

Black representation decreased to 36.2%, while Hispanic representation stayed stagnant at 7.4%.

The District Attorney’s Office has improved its diversity in hiring exempt employees year over year since 2018. In 2020 its representation of diverse employees was 49.1%.

However, new hires in the First Judicial District are 55.1% white.

“The trends in new hires our office identified raises questions about whether the City’s diverse hiring guidelines are working as intended,” Rhynhart said.

“This finding warrants a deeper dive by the Kenney administration to identify the root causes of why there is a lack of diversity among new hires.”

Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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