US Coins

Mint under scrutiny as employees cite racial harassment

The Treasury Department Office of Inspector General is investigating complaints registered by a number of U.S. Mint employees alleging racial harassment and discrimination at the bureau.

Treasury Deputy Inspector General Richard Delmar confirmed to Coin World Sept. 21 a probe was initiated at the request of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder.

The complaints are based on a letter sent by a number of Black employees in June 2020 to Mnuchin.

The letter asserted, according to a Sept. 19 article published in the Wall Street Journal, that “There was a lack of diversity in the Mint’s executive ranks, that black workers were treated unfairly by the legal department — which they noted consisted only of white attorneys — and that Mint leaders often sought to find out who was making a complaint rather than investigating the contents.”

The letter, which was signed by six Mint employees, whose names were not disclosed by the Wall Street Journal or U.S. Mint officials, stated, “Mint employees have tried both anonymously and openly to address the racial tension and disparities, but Mint management has historically worked in tandem with Mint legal counsel to railroad and punish those who oppose racism.”

It has not been disclosed which facility the complaints concerned.

Taking action

Todd Martin, acting chief of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Corporate Communications, said the Treasury OIG is being asked “to examine the Mint’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) processes, any disparate treatment of African American employees in the administrative investigation process, and ongoing perceptions of racism and retaliation.”

“The OIG has commenced that review,” Martin said. “In coordination with the Treasury Department, the Mint is also engaged in listening sessions with several concerned Mint employees, as facilitated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services. The Mint and the employees have already held two sessions and are currently scheduling a third, which will include collaborating on next steps and determining action items to address underlying perceptions at the U.S. Mint.”

Martin added, “Some of the events described in the information provided to the Wall Street Journal occurred years ago and were attributed to officials who no longer work at the Mint. Some were resolved in connection with EEO administrative processes that are non-public by law for the protection of complainants.

“Others are based on allegations that the Mint was not able to substantiate through investigation,” Martin said. “Some of the allegations have only recently been brought to the Mint’s attention during these listening sessions, and are currently under review.”

Martin said Ryder, who was appointed to lead the Mint on April 12, 2018, “has continuously stressed the Mint’s zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and remains committed to these principles.”

Martin continued, “As evidence of this commitment, the director has already begun reviewing the Mint’s EEO process with the help of the Treasury Department, recruited and hired a new EEO Officer for the Mint, and is currently working on implementing recommended improvements.”

Not the first time

The current investigation is not the first time the U.S. Mint has been at the center of workplace controversy.

In 2017, a Philadelphia Mint coin production worker was eventually dismissed after surveillance cameras at the facility captured the employee placing a noose on the chair of a black colleague.

In 2006, the U.S. Mint agreed to pay out $9 million in claims to settle complaints from female employees at the Denver Mint who alleged sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

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