Seattle Mayor Begins ‘Extensive’ Citywide Review of Harassment and Discrimination Policies

Seattle Mayor Begins ‘Extensive’ Citywide Review of Harassment and Discrimination Policies

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Mayor Jenny A. Durkan/Facebook
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan/Facebook

In a letter to City employees, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced that she is launching an extensive review of the City of Seattle’s harassment and discrimination policies. To conduct the review, Mayor Durkan will convene a City-wide Anti-Harassment Inter-Departmental Team (IDT) to identify areas for improvement and make specific recommendations on both short-term and long-term policy changes. As the IDT develops its policy recommendations, Mayor Durkan will work with departments across City government, Seattle Department of Human Resources, and the Seattle City Council to implement necessary policy changes.

“As one of the largest employers in Seattle, our City government must be a safe, welcoming, and inclusive workplace. Working directly with employees, the City Council, and department leaders, we will review all our harassment and discrimination policies to create more accountability and transparency. I’m particularly eager to work with so many strong women leaders on the City Council who have led on this issue,” said Mayor Durkan. “As we implement this work, we must lead with race and social justice to ensure that voices often overlooked are central to the solution. The City must hold itself accountable for making sure that harassment in the workplace is addressed in a timely and appropriate fashion.”

Mayor Durkan is forming an Inter-Departmental Team, which will include Mayor’s Office staff, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8, Citywide) or her representative, and labor representatives. This IDT will make recommendations by the end of May using the employee feedback from the upcoming RSJI survey. With the engagement of employees and our labor partners, the IDT will provide recommendations on training, reporting mechanisms, and personnel rules that focus on discrimination and workplace harassment.

“This is the first step toward changing policy, norms, and workplace culture. We must be bold in our actions and act with urgency and compassion to listen to those who have been silenced or ignored, and ensure that every worker and workplace is free of harassment, assault, and retaliation. That starts at City Hall, we must lead by example, and I look forward to working with workers, departments, the Mayor and Council to make these changes.” said Mosqueda.

The IDT will engage employees and use employee feedback from the upcoming citywide RSJI employee survey, which will include anti-harassment questions for the first time. Mayor Durkan also will mandate annual anti-harassment training, which will be expanded and updated regularly.

“It is imperative that the Office for Civil Rights and city employees have a role in the Executive’s effort to update the City’s sexual harassment policies and practices, and I am pleased that Mayor Durkan has included them,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle) and chair of the committee which is responsible for addressing Civil Rights. “Likewise, the State Legislature has outlined a similar role for the Washington Human Rights Commission to create model policies to prevent sexual harassment and assault from ever occurring in the first place. It’s the right thing at the right time.”

Councilmember M. Lorena González (Pos. 9, Citywide) and chair of the committee which oversees issues relating to Gender Equity said, “As a longtime civil rights and employment law attorney, I’ve represented women who’ve endured intimidation, criticism and retaliation after refusing to remain silent in the face of ongoing harassment. Every worker deserves to feel safe and protected when bringing reports of harassment to light, and I’m thankful that Mayor Durkan is taking this issue seriously. The City of Seattle, as a large employer, must take seriously our own responsibility to ensure that our employees feel safe and heard when they step forward to break the silence. I look forward to reviewing the IDT’s recommendations to ensure they afford the strongest protections available to those who bring forward claims.”

In December, Mayor Durkan announced to her cabinet new procedures for complaint reporting requirements and settlements. The City has established new protocols for involving Human Resources a full 30 days before commencing any settlement agreements, Step 3 or 4 grievances, lawsuits, or formal investigations. Human Resources has been charged with tracking these incidents and providing recommendations for intervention as appropriate.

In one of her first actions, Mayor Durkan signed an Executive Order affirming the City of Seattle’s commitment to the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI).

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