The State of California has the Deaf Access Program, including eight sister non-profit agencies that provide comprehensive public social services for Deaf individuals and their families. All eight DAP agencies operate under the oversight of the Office of Deaf Access [ODA], which is part of the California Department of Social Services [CDSS]. Click here to see the map of service regions that each agency serves.
All eight agencies have Boards as well, with each Board directly supervising their Chief Executive Officer (some use the phrase “Executive Director” sometimes). We were told that at least three of the agencies are experiencing some serious personnel issues at this time.
With at least two of the eight DAP agencies, claims were made that high-ranking employees, including the Chief Executive Officer [CEO], repeatedly engaged in acts that were not professional. For example, at one agency, the CEO allegedly informed the Board that they are not allowed to interact with any employees and also allegedly informed the employees that they are not allowed to interact with any Board members. This same CEO has reportedly used intimidation tactics to ensure the Board members and the employees do not have communication with each other.
According to an anonymous source, employees and community members do have the right to approach Board members if they believe the CEO has not satisfactorily addressed their concerns or that the CEO has engaged in questionable conduct. The same source also verified that while Board members cannot fire any employee other than the CEO, they are allowed to gather feedback from employees as part of the process to address internal issues.
When issues occur at the workplace, employees need to follow the chain of command for resolution. The employee can approach their immediate supervisor and if the employee is not satisfied, they can go to the Program Manager next. If the employee feels the situation has not been addressed properly, they can discuss it with the CEO. Should the employee perceive the issue as still unresolved, they can then take the matter to the Human Resources Manager. If the employee is not comfortable with the Human Resources Manager, they should have the ability to approach the Board. If it continues to be an issue, employees can file a claim with the State of California at the Department of Social Services.
If community members are not satisfied with the quality of services or how any particular employee treated them, they do have the right to approach the employee’s immediate supervisor and file a grievance. If the outcome does not feel adequate for the community member, they can move up the chain of command (i.e., the Program Manager, the CEO, and then the Board) until an acceptable resolution has been achieved. Community members also can file a claim with the Department of Social Services should they feel any of the actions taken up to this point are not enough.
If the issue is related to the removal of a CEO, specific steps need to be taken.
- First, employees and/or community members need to come together as a group and send the Board a formal request to add personnel matters on the agenda and assign enough time to discuss this for the next Board meeting. The group can submit their formal request through e-mail.
- For employees, the Board members may ask you whether you have approached the Human Resources Manager; if you are not comfortable talking with the Human Resources Manager, that is a fair point and they should be understanding. For community members, the Board members may ask you whether you have tried resolving this matter with the CEO first.
- The next step is for the Board members to either deny or accept this request. If the request is denied, the Board has to provide an explanation of why and it must be recorded. If the request is accepted, the concerned parties have the right to ask that the CEO not be in attendance at the Board meeting so they can express themselves without fear.
- The Board may also ask to have a private session with the concerned employee(s), and then a private session with the CEO before having the CEO meet with the concerned employee(s). The Board may do the same thing for community members who have received services.
- It is appropriate for the Board to have closed sessions at a separate time to have further discussions on personnel matters before coming to a final decision.
- Alternatively, if the group does not want to file a formal request with the Board for action, the group can obtain a lawyer who has in-depth understanding or experience dealing with the DAP agency.
It is against state and federal law for anyone at the DAP agency or the Board to retaliate against employees or community members for reporting inappropriate conduct or filing complaints. If an employee or a community member tries to skip the chain of command at the said agency and goes directly to the Office of Deaf Access, ODA staff will put the complaint on hold and refer them back to the agency to go through the chain of command first.
The Office of Deaf Access is under the Quality Assurance Monitoring and Special Services Bureau, and their last known address is 744 P Street, MS 9-7-96, Sacramento, CA 95814 (search data also shows that the office is at MS 9-7-95). You can contact the Office of Deaf Access at 916-653-8320 or email@example.com. If you do not receive a timely response, you could try reaching Thea Perrino, who is currently the Chief of the Quality Assurance Monitoring and Special Services Bureau, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-951-6243. For interpreter arrangements, call 916-951-0554 to inquire.
On a separate but relevant note, it is illegal for the DAP agencies to discriminate against you on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, language, national origins, political affiliation, disability, marital status, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, or any other acceptable basis.
If you received services from a DAP agency within the past 6 months and you believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Civil Rights Bureau at 916-654-2107 or email@example.com. This includes any incidents where you experienced retaliation for sharing your concerns about the quality of services or treatment you received from staff.
If you are a current or former employee at any of the DAP agencies and you feel you have been discriminated/retaliated against within the past three years, contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing [DFEH] and ask for an intake form at 800-884-1684 or firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail inquiries take 3-5 business days). For disability accommodations during this process, call 844-541-2877 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.