After harassment claim, employee protests: Diversity Richmond president retires, workplace changes promised

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Employees of Diversity Thrift, a store run by LGBTQ+ advocacy group Diversity Richmond, began protesting over the weekend saying their working conditions were unsafe and voicing concerns about an alleged sexual harassment incident. On Thursday, the organization released a statement addressing their demands.

Diversity Richmond announced they will be implementing several changes in response to the employee grievances. Employees will now receive a minimum salary of $15 an hour and will also be paid for any hours they missed while protesting working conditions.

In addition to paying workers more, the organization committed to filling staff gaps quicker in order to prevent over-exertion.

As a response to claims of sexual harassment, Diversity Richmond said they will make sure that “no employee who has been the subject of a sexual harassment complaint is employed or re-hired for any reason.” There will also be required training for all staff on sexual harassment.

An HR representative will be brought in to help with employee concerns.

One of the other large changes will be a reexamination of Diversity Richmond’s staffing, management and leadership structure, culture and policies.

According to the release from Diversity Richmond, President Bill Harrison chose to retire and his retirement became effective on Wednesday. Another one of the organization’s leaders, Controller Dia Idleman is on administrative leave while workplace practices are investigated.

Diversity Richmond program coordinator Aurora Higgs provided 8News with a statement on behalf of the thrift store’s employees on Thursday evening.

The statement read:

“While there are still many details that need to be addressed, we’d like to express our immense satisfaction with this decision as well as our gratitude and confidence in the Executive Committee in addition to the full Board of Directors. We are looking forward to continuing to work together to build a better Diversity Thrift that truly lives and embodies its values. 

As you might imagine we couldn’t be more excited and we have many supporters in the community who are also eagerly awaiting to return and support Diversity Richmond. We completely understand that there will be some growing pains in creating a new “normal” but the staff commit to working with the Board to making the organization it’s best self.”

There will be a board meeting on Monday, Nov. 15, Diversity Thrift employees have been invited to discuss the changes with the board. Previously, the executive committee and employees met on Tuesday for five hours to talk through the issues reported in the workplace.

“We want Diversity Richmond’s environment to be one where no employee or staff member feels unsafe or unappreciated,” said Luise “Cheezi” Farmer, chair of the Diversity Richmond’s Board of Directors. “We admit that we have learned a lot during this process, and will continue to learn as we move forward.”

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