Mayor Durkan Marks City Council’s Passage of Her Legislation Establishing the Office of the Employee Ombud to Combat Harassment, Discrimination, and Misconduct

Durkan’s Legislation was based on the inter-departmental team’s 35 recommendations and 125 strategies

Office is Expected to Open in Early 2019

Seattle (December 10, 2018) – The Seattle City Council voted unamimously to pass Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s legislation to establish an Office of the Employee Ombud (OEO), an independent arm of the executive office, operating separately from Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) and Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to help provide City employees the resources to make, respond to, or resolve allegations of workplace harassment, discrimination, or other misconduct.

“This is an historic and meaningful step on the path of combating harrassment, discrimination, and misconduct at the City of Seattle. Although there is still work to be done, the City of Seattle has acted to ensure all feel safe and respected in the workplace,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “An Office of the Employee Ombud is critical to ensuring that the City can better address instances of harassment, discrimination, and misconduct, and it allows City employees to have an independent resource available. Throughout this process, I have been grateful for the courage and commitment of our City employees, including the Silence Breakers, the Coalition of Affinity Groups Against Racial Harassment, and Race and Social Justice affiliates during the months of deliberations. I am also grateful to Councilmember Mosqueda for agreeing to serve as a member of the IDT, and for her diligent and detailed approach to leading on this critical legislation.”

“I’m honored to have shepherded the OEO legislation long needed and asked for by our City employees. The real work came from months and years of work by the IDT, Silence Breakers, City labor unions, and City employees,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, Position 8, Citywide. “Today’s legislation comes after years of mistrust of management, fear of retaliation, and concerns over accountability.  We’re making strides to do right by those who work for the City of Seattle and today we celebrate.  But this legislation only gets us to some of the recommendations from the IDT, so tomorrow, we roll up our sleeves and get back to work.”

The mission and function of the Ombud will be to:

  • Assist individual employees in understanding and assessing their options and resources for addressing concerns about or claims of workplace conduct;
  • Provide analyses and recommendations of policy and rule changes needed to address department or system-wide inefficiencies and in-person training;
  • Provide an implementation plan by the 2nd quarter of 2019 to the Mayor and City Council that will include how to manage complaints and inquiries, maintain employee confidentiality, analysis of policy and rule changes and a review of current structures; and,
  • Provide an annual report to the Mayor and City Council to include recommendations to improve City Personnel Rules, complaint and investigations systems, workplace expectations, and other applicable City processes and systems

From her first days in office, Mayor Durkan heard from an array of employees about experiences and interactions that although may not have been illegal are unacceptable in today’s workplace. Believing that City employees should be able to work without fear of harassment, discrimination, and intimidation, Mayor Durkan quickly established the Anti-Harassment Inter-departmental Team (IDT) tasked with reviewing the city’s policies on harassment and intimidation, in January 2018. Following an extensive analysis, in September, Mayor Durkan signed an Executive Order establishing the Office of the Employee Ombud while directing the Seattle Department of Human Resources and the Office for Civil Rights to initiate and implement citywide workplace expectation policies. In October she transmitted her legislation to Council, more than 35 recommendations and 125 strategies developed by the IDT helped to inform the OEO legislation.

Mayor Durkan expects that the Ombud’s Office will be functional in early 2019 and the City is currently soliciting applications for the director’s position, which will remain open until filled.