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Mayor Durkan Issues Executive Order to Update City of Seattle’s Harassment and Discrimination Policies

City of Seattle to Establish the Office of the Employee Ombud and Create a Centralized Investigation Unit in the Seattle Department of Human Resources

Seattle (September 21, 2018) – In a letter to City employees, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that she has signed an Executive Order to implement a series of changes that will reform and update how the City addresses allegations of harassment, discrimination, and other forms of misconduct. These actions are being taken in response to a series of recommendations provided by the Anti-Harassment Interdepartmental Team (IDT). The IDT was established by Mayor Durkan in January 2018 to review the City’s harassment and discrimination policies and practices to create more accountability, transparency, consistency, and equity in how the City currently manages reporting processes.

“As we continue to build a more just, inclusive, and equitable city, it is critical that we look inward and evaluate the ways in which our City can create a safe workplace for all employees. When I took office, it was clear we needed to make significant changes across City government while reviewing all our harassment and discrimination policies to create more accountability and transparency,” said Mayor Durkan. “Thank you to Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, the entire IDT, and the thousands of City employees who are helping us make these changes a reality.”

The City of Seattle will create an Office of the Employee Ombud (OEO), which will operate independently from the Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) and City departments. The OEO will provide independent, impartial and informal navigation to City employees in the executive branch throughout the investigation process as it pertains to misconduct. In addition, the OEO will evaluate systemic impacts and patterns of misconduct and will report back to the Mayor’s Office annually with recommendations.

“These changes are a crucial step towards regaining the trust of all City employees and reaffirming our commitment to building a workplace that is safe, empowering, and equitable,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8, Citywide). “I’m encouraged by the progress we’ve made, and acknowledge we still have work to do. I know true systemic change is achieved through consistency, transparency, and ongoing evaluation. Thanks to the IDT members, the employees who have courageously spoken out, and the Mayor for her leadership – along with the creation of this new independent office – we have the momentum to create impactful and lasting change.”

In addition, the Mayor’s Office will start work with SDHR to establish a new Investigation Unit within the department. This centralized unit will work to consolidate and transition all executive branch workplace misconduct investigations currently taking place within departments. In addition to increased resources to reflect added capacity in Mayor Durkan’s proposed 2019-2020 biennium budget, SDHR and the City Budget Office will work with departments to identify resources and staff to be transferred to SDHR’s Investigation Unit.

Effective immediately, SDHR and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will work to establish and implement Citywide workplace culture expectations for all employees in the executive branch. Currently, the City of Seattle does not have universal workplace culture expectations and does not require that departments create them. All City employees, regardless of title, will be held accountable to these Citywide expectations.

In addition to the Citywide workplace expectations, SDHR and OCR will develop uniform anti-harassment and anti-discrimination trainings for employees. By December 31, 2018, all executive branch departments must submit an employee training plan to SDHR and OCR. To ensure accountability and transparency, SDHR, OEO, and the IDT will submit an annual workplan to the Mayor, beginning March 31, 2019, to track progress on the implementation of the IDT recommendations. In addition, the IDT will continue to meet semi-regularly to provide oversight of the implementation of the Executive Order.

The actions in the Executive Order were informed by the recommendations from the IDT. After months of work, the IDT provided 35 recommendations and 125 strategies to the Mayor for review. The IDT is composed of 21 members consisting of representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Councilmember Mosqueda’s office, Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) Change Teams, the Seattle Silence Breakers, the Coalition of Affinity Groups Against Racial Harassment, Race and Social Justice (RSJ) affiliates, labor union representatives, SDHR and department human resources representatives, OCR representatives, the City Investigator, and representatives from the City Attorney’s office.