Two weeks ago Secretary Vilsack took a moment to share some of his thoughts about USDA’s sad history on civil rights and the progress we have made to put it behind us. I was not surprised to see the outpouring of thoughts and comments that blog post inspired, including many from USDA employees.
These comments represented a wide range of personal experiences and opinions. But the message that came through – loud and clear – is how many people at USDA and around the nation share Secretary Vilsack’s and my commitment to making civil rights a priority for the Department.
However, some of the comments to his post referenced problems at today’s USDA or made allegations of discrimination. The Office of Civil Rights takes these accusations seriously. And because we consider these personal and confidential in nature, I have directed my staff to reach out individually to respond to those postings. Of course, employees experiencing trouble can always reach out to my office, at 202-720-3808 or to the Employee Assistance Program hotline at 800-222-0364.
I hope that moving forward we can continue the dialogue on diversity and equality here at USDA. I have seen firsthand that the vast majority of USDA employees treat each other and our customers with dignity and respect. Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, the Department has taken important steps forward, and I hope that I will be able to continue to drive this progress so we truly enter a new era for civil rights at USDA.