September 24, 2018

Seattle to Create Ombuds Office for City Employees

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced last week that she will create an independent Ombuds program for city executive branch employees. The move would position Seattle as the largest city with an Organizational Ombuds program. Durkan's decision came in response to an organized complaint workplace sexual and racial harassment earlier this year.

The mayor's executive order reads in relevant part:
Section 3. Creating an Office of the Employee Ombud
There will be an Office of the Employee Ombud (OEO) within the executive department. The OEO will operate independently from both SDHR and individual executive branch departments’ human resources staff. The mission of the OEO is to support employees experiencing a workplace that conflicts with the City of Seattle’s workplace expectations meant to create an inclusive, safe, and welcoming workplace environment. The OEO will provide an independent, impartial, and informal place for City employees in the executive branch to bring concerns and to support them throughout the investigation process as it pertains to misconduct. It will provide recommendations to the Mayor’s Office to address issues that may extend beyond individual employees and have a broader, systemic impact on the City.
The OEO will serve as a resource for employees to voluntarily explore a variety of paths for addressing questions, concerns, and complaints within the City and improve the fairness and effectiveness of the City’s workplace expectations and misconduct systems. If appropriate, the OEO will facilitate discussions to break down miscommunication that may have led to the conflict and rebuild workplace expectations. The OEO shall not investigate or make any determinations in any matter; nor shall the OEO have the power to impose or recommend any corrective or disciplinary action.
On an annual basis the OEO shall present a report on any trends or significant systemic issues related to City workplace conduct policy that should be considered by the Mayor and the City Council.
(Seattle Press Release; Executive Order.)

Notably, the Mayor's order does not mention confidentiality.

Related posts: Ombuds Gather in Seattle for Annual ConferenceIOA Video Promotes Ombuds for Surfacing & Addressing Sexual Misconduct; Seattle Mayor Considering Ombuds for Sexual Harassment.

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