PROVIDENCE – More people are coming forward to corroborate accounts that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is rife with toxicity, harassment, and fears of retaliation.
The Boston Globe on Wednesday reported that the leaders of RIDOT’s union for engineers and other professionals believe the department is dysfunctional and dealing with historically low morale. The department is under increasing scrutiny due to the closure of the Washington Bridge westbound.
Multiple people who have worked with or at RIDOT, and who are not involved in International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 400, have now come forward to echo the union leaders’ concerns.
Attorney Lisa Holley says she represents four RIDOT employees who are members of different unions, Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 808 and Local 1033. Those unions cover roles including plowing, paving, laborers, transportation electricians, the maintenance division, and more. They are “experiencing the same harassment and toxic work environment” that the leaders of Local 400 reported, Holley said in an email.
“These are employees that have worked for the DOT in excess of 15 years, some with over 20 years in supervisor roles, and they say it has never been as toxic and harassing as it is now,” Holley said in an email.
Two of them are on stress leave due to the treatment by chief of staff John Igliozzi and manager Norman Marzano, Holley said.
According to Holley, one of her clients reported a different manager “violently came after him and had to be held back by other managers” during a staff meeting.
“It is over a month since the incident and HR has yet to respond to the complaint,” said Holley.
In response to questions from the Globe, Transportation Director Peter Alviti said in a statement: “At this time the Department has not received a filing of any grievances pertaining to their claims. During the last eight years, RIDOT has encouraged good relations with all four unions that we deal with, as evidenced by the great work they have done in building bridges and roads. They have been a productive and innovative workforce. And we look forward to continuing good relations will all four unions.”
Holley was retained well before The Boston Globe’s Wednesday report on RIDOT’s workplace atmosphere. She emphasized that she does not represent LIUNA and was not hired by LIUNA, but is a private attorney hired by the workers to deal with harassment and toxic workplace issues.
Holley said Igliozzi – a former Providence city councilman and potential candidate for attorney general in 2026 – is “allowing this toxic environment to fester and amplify.” Igliozzi is the one who is “running the show” on the management of employees, Holley said.
Neither Igliozzi nor Marzano responded to the Globe’s request for comment by Friday evening.
Holley said other issues include reassigning people, giving non-union people union positions or assigning members of one union to work in the jobs of another, giving people “acting” titles outside the department’s structure, moving employees’ offices and work locations, and taking work vehicles from people and reassigning them old, unreliable vehicles.
Her clients have asked for a meeting with Alviti, but he hasn’t responded, Holley said. She said she will put Alviti on notice by certified letter Monday.
“This toxicity is department wide,” she said.
Holley said her clients have “filed several grievances with LIUNA over the treatment they have been enduring.” Representatives of LIUNA’s locals at RIDOT have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Governor Dan McKee said Thursday that he’d encouraged Alviti to meet with the people who had raised concerns about RIDOT’s management. The governor said there are processes in place to address issues, which allayed his concerns about the atmosphere at RIDOT.
But people who work at RIDOT say those processes simply don’t work when they’re afraid of retaliation and when RIDOT doesn’t actually have its own human resources department. Those fears are justified, because retaliation does happen, they say – what people there call being “exiled to Siberia.”
The Boston Globe has spoken to multiple current and former RIDOT employees, union and nonunion alike, as well as people who have worked with the department via other roles inside and outside of state government. They have also echoed Local 400′s concerns about a culture of bullying and retaliation at RIDOT. They asked to remain anonymous due to fears of professional or personal repercussions.