Mosqueda: With new office ‘…we have the momentum to create impactful, lasting change’
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide), Chair of Council’s Housing, Health, Energy and Workers’ Rights Committee (HHEWR), hosted a committee briefing earlier today and voted legislation out of committee to create the Office of the Employee Ombud (OEO), a key recommendation from the Anti-Harassment Interdepartmental Team (IDT) to prevent and address workplace harassment. The meeting served as an opportunity to review changes to the legislation introduced by the Executive during budget deliberations to create additional trust, informed processes, and ensure accountability.
As discussed during the deliberations, Mosqueda supported the funding for the creation of the Office. But after hearing requests from front line workers, like the Silence Breakers and union members, Mosqueda committed to enhancing the legislation immediately upon completion of the budget deliberations. Today was the first HHEWR committee meeting following budget deliberations and afforded Council an opportunity to review the suggested amendments.
In an attempt to address the reported mistrust of the Human Resources process, mistrust of management and fear of retaliation, the amendments adopted today codified that the OEO must be free from undue influence from elected officials; required the submission of an implementation plan by mid-year 2019; requested assurances that confidentiality will be protected; requested key stakeholders such as the Silence Breakers continue to have a role in recommendations and oversight; and, built-in an evaluation of the placement of the OEO and Investigation Unit to ensure trust is being rebuilt.
“Thanks to the feedback from front line workers, the Silence Breakers and labor representatives, we’re taking an important step today to both prevent harassment and create a safe place for all employees to go to if inappropriate or illegal behavior occurs,” said Mosqueda. “The creation of this office was just one of 35 recommendations and 125 strategies, so we know our work is just beginning to create a safe and healthy place for all workers. I want to thank the brave workers for testifying about the changes needed, the IDT members, my Council colleagues and the Mayor for her commitment to creating this critical office.”
“Professional & Technical Employees Local 17 represents almost 3,000 City employees,” said Amy Bowles, PTE Local 17. “We support the OEO legislation drafted by Councilmember Mosqueda, and look forward to when it’s established, so employees will have a neutral, independent place they can go to discuss their concerns about workplace conduct.”
“Seattle Silence Breakers support the strengthening of the OEO as put forth in this legislation by Councilmember Mosqueda,” said Denise Krownbell, Seattle Silence Breakers. “We were relieved when the Mayor included the IDT and Seattle Silence Breakers’ recommendations for an Ombud and her legislation developing the OEO, but were concerned the legislation didn’t go far enough to guarantee protections for employees. Councilmember Mosqueda heard Seattle Silence Breakers’ concerns and has addressed them in this legislation by calling for an Ombud independent from political influence, an advocate for employees, and able to implement changes where the Ombud sees shortcomings or issues. We look forward to the implementation of the Ombud to help City employees who are facing harassment, discrimination, and intimidation and by changing the City culture and structures to support employees.”
The legislation as amended will come to Full Council on Monday, December 10th. The first report is due back at the end of June 2019, and the OEO Director position has been posted ONLINE where applications will be accepted until filled.
“With the creation of this new independent office, we have the momentum to create impactful and lasting change,” said Mosqueda.