The Maryland Commission on Civil Rights is fortunate to employ a diverse team of talented professionals from all walks of life. The Commission is pleased to feature Intake Officer Phil Wikes, Administrative Specialist Rosina Garrett, Education & Outreach Associate Marco K. Merrick, and General Counsel Glendora C. Hughes.
Intake Officer Phil Wikes
- What is your position at MCCR and what are your duties? I am an Intake Officer at MCCR. As an intake officer, I assist victims of discrimination with filing, processing, and serving their complaints.
- How have the work restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19 impacted your job functions and service delivery? Due to COVID-19, our unit has had limited office access and has only been able to conduct intake interviews over the phone. Notwithstanding, my co-workers and our supervisory staff have been extremely supportive as well as creative in providing the same high quality of services we did prior to the pandemic.
- How have you been personally affected by the COVID-19? Being married to a nurse working on the front lines of COVID-19, I have witnessed firsthand, the courage and strength of our dedicated healthcare professionals. Their compassion and selflessness during these challenging times is truly inspirational.
- Is there a lesson you have learned throughout this pandemic? The lesson I have learned throughout this pandemic from my family, friends, and co-workers is that people are incredibly resilient. No matter how unfair the circumstances or how severe the injuries, they always find a way to channel their anger and loss into providing more positive outcomes for their loved ones and surrounding communities.
Administrative Specialist Rosina Garrett
- What is your position at MCCR and what are your duties? I am an administrative Specialist II. I am the agency’s cardholder for purchases and reconcile the monthly credit card statement. I maintain and update MCCR’s Request to Purchase and Inventory databases; orders all supplies and equipment requested by MCCR staff and Commissioners; oversee mailroom supplies and toners for the Xerox machines and network printers; and handle building maintenance requests. I also serve as the agency’s ADA/Fair practices/EEO Coordinator and Property officer.
- How have the work restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19 impacted your job functions and service delivery? Fortunately, I can perform most of my duties via teleworking. I am unable to oversee that the mailroom is stocked with supplies, etc. daily, but it is being done 1-2 times a week. Everyone is teleworking, so this is only a minor impact.
- How have you been personally affected by the COVID-19? For many people I know, including me, COVID-19 started out as something that we didn’t take too seriously. It did not seem too threatening because it shares the same name as the beer “Corona”. However, all of that changed very quickly. The coronavirus was spreading rapidly, people were dying, and business and schools were being shut down. I could not help but feel overwhelmed by the panic that surrounded me. Everything in the news is about the coronavirus. I had to skip the late-night news to avoid weird dreams. This has affected the lives of people I know, touching me in the process. It has also changed the way I interact with people. I had to decide not to attend a family member’s funeral based on the risk of contracting it from/spreading it to relatives and friends. I have bought medical supplies that I normally would not purchase, and I have been panic buying and compulsively checking the news.
- Is there a lesson you have learned throughout this pandemic? Not to take life for granted. Life is too short. There are so many places that I want to visit, and nothing was stopping me before this pandemic. Now that we are dealing with these sudden and dramatic changes to how we live, I am going to have to take reasonable and prudent safety measures about traveling. I have also learned that you must prepare for the unknown. I was not prepared for this. I had to go out shopping for medicine and stock up on food. Throughout this pandemic I have realized that I can get by with much less than I am used to, so I plain on saving more and spending less.
Education & Outreach Associate Marco K. Merrick
- What is your position at MCCR and what are your duties? I’m an Education & Outreach Associate in the unit responsible for developing and presenting several training modules which enable MCCR’s efforts to inform state employees and residents regarding anti-discrimination laws. We also engage institutions, business, organizations and communities to collaborate on public events and programs, which afford us opportunities to promote MCCR’s work, services and programs.
- How have the work restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19 impacted your job functions and service delivery? This current shelter in place mode prevents us from providing the services we ordinarily offer and pre-empts us from the in-person training programs, special events, and collaborating with the many people and organizations with whom we enjoy working.
- How have you been personally affected by the COVID-19? Hearing almost daily of people I know, or loved ones of those I know being stricken with complications or passing away is disheartening. I’m deeply touched and feel worse that there’s nothing I can actually do to help.
- Is there a lesson you have learned throughout this pandemic? I’ve become more cognizant to not take even simple things for granted. This season also motivates me to consider and craft innovative approaches that will enable my team to resume MCCR services and our important work creatively. The “new normal” may not be so normal, but it challenges us to meet the mission just as affectively and as passionately.
General Counsel Glendora C. Hughes
- What is your position at MCCR and what are your duties? I am the General Counsel for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. The Office of the General Counsel handles all legal matters for the agency; advises MCCR directors and Commissioners; conducts trainings; and provides technical assistance for best practices regarding Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws to businesses, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations, the State and local governments, and communities.
- How have the work restrictions implemented in response to COVID-19 impacted your job functions and service delivery? Normally, when I begin my work day I walk around the agency greeting everyone. It is a good opportunity to field any questions and provide any answers or guidance quickly. Now inquiries from Staff are transmitted in memorandums or emails. Additionally, the courts are not scheduling hearings except for emergency matters – and MCCR’s caseload in the court system does not meet that criteria as established by the courts. Cases actively being litigated by the agency are placed on hold pending a scheduled hearing before the court.
- How have you been personally affected by the COVID-19? Personally, I am a lot more cautious when I go out. My going out in public has been limited, and when I do go out many people are not taking this seriously. I’m not waiting to be their accident. I will continue to be very judicious in my coming and going until we get a treatment and vaccine. I will also not be partaking in my normal activities because being in crowds and around people not wearing masks is too much of a threat to my health and wellness. I have friends who have contracted the virus, and thankfully they have recovered. I also have two siblings who work on the front lines in the health care system. While their work is incredible, I constantly worry about them because they are continually challenged by the virus at work.
- Is there a lesson you have learned throughout this pandemic? Remotely working is a nice tool to have for flexibility. For the kind of work performed by the Office of the General Counsel, that direct interaction, whether it is with Staff or individuals with matters before the agency, cannot be substituted. The protection of sensitive documents and managing files is also much easier and more streamlined in the office setting as opposed to transmitting all of this information by virtual channels. I am so fortunate and grateful to have a job that I can continue to work and have that level of security. Seeing others suffering, either with job loss or going to work and constantly being exposed to danger, is heartbreaking. We are also lucky to have private offices, too, where other agencies do not. So if I am in the office, and when we return to the office, I feel secure knowing I can maintain distance and protect my health (and the health of my colleagues) effectively.