A quarter of African-American, Asian and female employees of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who responded to a survey experienced discrimination at the agency, according a new Government Accountability Office report.
One-third of all respondents to the survey last year also disagreed that success at the CFPB is based more on merit than personal connections or favoritism.
"Our spring 2015 survey results indicate that employees in some parts of the bureau and in some demographic groups continued to have heightened concerns about unfair treatment, retaliation for raising issues, accountability, and other matters," said the report, which was released Monday.
The GAO report detailed progress made by the CFPB to promote a diverse and fair workplace since American Banker first revealed internal documents in early 2014 that showed white employees were more likely to receive positive evaluations, resulting in higher pay.
The report is in response to a request made by Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee.
Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, called on CFPB Director Richard Cordray to make changes.
"Mr. Cordray has been presented time and again with evidence that CFPB managers discriminate and retaliate against his employees," Hensarling said in a press release Tuesday. "Why haven't heads rolled? Instead of trying to sweep this offensive behavior under the rug, why hasn't Richard Cordray called someone on the carpet? How can employees expect this to stop if no one in management is going to be held accountable?"
The GAO made two recommendations in the report, including that the agency develop a strategy to track its goals and progress on diversity initiatives. In addition, it recommended that the CFPB work with its employee union to improve the management of complaints, particularly for the employee grievance process.
The CFPB experienced a high volume of informal employee grievances, which peaked at 125 filings in fiscal 2014. The majority of the grievances filed from late 2013 to mid-2014 "were related to dissatisfaction with performance ratings or written feedback given to employees," the report found.
Overall, the total number of formal grievances filed at the CFPB fell to 31 in fiscal 2015, from 68 a year earlier.
The total number of formal Equal Employment Opportunity complaints fell to 22 in fiscal 2015, from 25 a year earlier. Informal EEO complaints dropped to 29 in fiscal 2015 from 52 a year earlier.
Roughly 71% of employees who responded to the GAO survey who had filed a complaint or grievance said they did not believe that CFPB management made a good-faith effort to informally resolve their issue. Several employees cited examples of cases in which an employee who complained had their privacy compromised when information was shared by managers, the EEO office or others, according to the report.
About half of respondents who had experience with the EEO process disagreed that the CFPB's Office of Civil Rights is a neutral party without conflicting or competing interests, the report found.
The CFPB sought to rebut the report's claims by pointing to its own annual employee survey administered by the Office of Personnel Management. The agency pointed to the higher response rate of its 2015 survey that found 75.2% of employees reported high satisfaction with their jobs, compared with 65.2% governmentwide.
"The GAO's report describes the CFPB's ongoing work to foster a positive organizational culture, and the most current and rigorous survey of CFPB employees demonstrates that these many efforts have been effective," said Sam Gilford, a spokesman for the bureau.
The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service found that the CFPB ranked eighth out of 24 comparable agencies in 2015 for overall employee satisfaction. The bureau ranked third among 22 peer agencies for support of diversity.
Last year, Congress held hearings and the CFPB's Office of Inspector General weighed in with 17 recommendations on ways for the bureau to improve. The CFPB had already scrapped its employee evaluation system and agreed to reimburse more than $5 million to most affected employees.