Mayor Durkan Transmits New Legislation to City Council to Create Independent Office of the Employee Ombud

Seattle (October 17, 2018) – Following her September 21 Executive Order to update the City of Seattle’s harassment and discrimination policies, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan transmitted an ordinance to the City Council that would establish an Office of the Employee Ombud (OEO) within the executive branch. The proposed Office of the Employee Ombud would operate independently from the Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) and City departments to provide independent, impartial, and informal navigation to City employees in the executive branch throughout the investigation process as it pertains to misconduct.

“A confidential Office of the Employee Ombud is critical to ensuring that we can better address instances of harassment, discrimination, and misconduct, and it allows City employees to have an independent resource available,” said Mayor Durkan. “Thank you to Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, the entire Anti-Harassment Interdepartmental Team, and the thousands of City employees who are helping us make these changes a reality.”

“When someone reports bad behavior in the workplace, it’s because they want the behavior to end. For years, the City has said harassment and discrimination have no place in the office. Though we’ve expressed these values out loud, employees have felt those values are not always translated into practice,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “This new office creates another tangible avenue our employees can explore when reporting workplace harassment and discrimination. We want to create an environment where all people feel comfortable coming forward to tell their story, where they know they are heard, and they are confident the City will take action to stop all troublesome and hostile behavior.”

The Office of the Employee Ombud would evaluate systemic impacts and patterns of misconduct and will provide annual reports to the Mayor’s Office and City Council with recommendations to improve the City’s Personnel Rules, complaint and investigations systems, workplace expectations, and other applicable City processes and systems. The ordinance will be reviewed in the Select Budget Committee, chaired by Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, in the coming weeks.

“As a large employer, it’s important for the City to have a robust reporting system for workplace misconduct, harassment and discrimination. While we like to think those conversations are already happening and are taken seriously, ongoing events point to an urgent need for a new venue for employees to report behavior that negatively impacts their workplace environment,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia). “I’m pleased the City is taking a step forward by shining a light on reporting practices that were not working, and opening the door to further improvement.”

In September, Mayor Durkan issued an Executive Order to implement a series of changes, including the creation of the OEO, to reform and update how the City addresses allegations of harassment, discrimination, and other forms of misconduct. These actions were informed by 35 recommendations and 125 strategies from the Anti-Harassment Interdepartmental Team, established by the Mayor in January.