Mayor Durkan Signs into Law Her Legislation to Create an Independent Office of the Employee Ombud

An Independent Office of the Employee Ombud Was Central Recommendation of the City’s Interdepartmental Team Established by Mayor Durkan Early in Her Administration

Seattle (December 14, 2018) – Joined by members of the City of Seattle’s Anti-Harassment Interdepartmental Team (IDT), Mayor Jenny A. Durkan signed into law her legislation to establish an independent Office of the Employee Ombud (OEO) to combat harassment, discrimination, and misconduct at the City of Seattle. The OEO is expected to begin functioning in early 2019.

Mayor Durkan’s legislation was passed unanimously by the City Council on Monday.

“The creation of an Office of the Employee Ombud is a historic and meaningful step to combat harassment, discrimination, and misconduct at the City of Seattle and to help ensure City employees feel safe and respected,” said Mayor Durkan. “I am grateful to Councilmember Mosqueda and to each member of the Interdepartmental Team for their tireless efforts on behalf of our City and our City’s public servants. Over the past year, we have worked with urgency to make significant changes to our City government, elevating the voices of those most impacted.”

“A year ago, after coming into office, I shared one of my #MeToo moments and vowed to make the City a place where all employees can be free from intimidation and harassment,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “I’m excited to take the first step, but today’s victory simply would not have been possible if it weren’t for the commitment of those who have suffered in silence – sometimes for years. We heard story after story of egregious violations, outrageous scenarios, abominable behavior. Today’s step forward is only possible because of the courageous workers who shared their personal – and sometimes painful – stories which helped to inform our work and make improvements on our approach. And so those changes – and soon 134 others – begin today.”

The mission and function of the Office of the Employee Ombud will be to:

  • Assist individual employees in understanding and assessing their options and resources for addressing concerns about or claims of workplace misconduct;
  • Provide analysis and recommendations on potential policy and rule changes to address departmental or systemic inefficiencies;
  • Submit an implementation plan by the second quarter of 2019 to the Mayor and the City Council; and
  • Deliver an annual report to the Mayor and the City Council that includes recommendations on how to improve City Personnel Rules, complaint and investigations systems, workplace expectations, and other applicable City processes and systems.

In January 2018, Mayor Durkan quickly established the IDT to review the City’s policies on harassment, discrimination, and other forms of misconduct. Following an extensive analysis, 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. In October, she transmitted her legislation to the City Council. These actions were informed by the 35 recommendations and 125 strategies developed by the IDT and submitted to Mayor Durkan.

The City is currently accepting applications for the director’s position, which will remain open until filled.