After widespread complaints about the city's Human Resource Department and concerns about how the city deals with sexual harassment complaints, Mayor Jenny Durkan on Thursday announced she will start an "extensive review" of the city's harassment and discrimination policies.
Durkan said she'll form a team that will recommend changes by the end of May using city employee feedback from a survey. The team includes staff from the mayor's office, council member Teresa Mosqueda, and labor representatives.
"As one of the largest employers in Seattle, our city government must be a safe, welcoming, and inclusive workplace," Durkan said in a statement. "The city must hold itself accountable for making sure that harassment in the workplace is addressed in a timely and appropriate fashion."
Crosscut reported last week that many employees have been frustrated with the HR department's lack of response to complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse, as well as a reportedly "toxic" culture within the HR department. The Seattle Times reported that a city settlement with two library workers required that they never work for the city again. And The Stranger reported widespread complaints of sexual harassment within Seattle City Light; controversies there led to the resignation of the CEO, Larry Weis.
Durkan in December required that no city departments give 30 days notice to the director of the Seattle Department of Human Resources before agreeing to a settlement, lawsuit, or formal investigation to a grievance.
Council member Lisa Herbold wrote a letter to the mayor two weeks ago requesting that the city consider extending the statute of limitations for sexual harassment, which is currently 180 days (shorter than other forms of complaints like discrimination), and to look into the city's individual HR policies.
"This is the first step toward changing policy, norms, and workplace culture," Mosqueda said in a statement. "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."