OEO By the Numbers

890 Cases 

No Case Backlog

73% partial or full resolution on cases 

A Note from the Director and Our 2021-2022 Annual Report

Transition is a word that captures many of our collective experiences this year. Transition through varying pandemic response directives, return to worksite directives, evolving safety protocols, transition through a changing economic outlook, and infrastructure growth forecasts. Continually through the past two years, transition through stages of grief mourning the lives lost to a deadly virus. Closer to home, big changes and transition in City leadership with a new Mayor taking the helm. Within all these transitions are lessons for us to learn as a city, a community and a leading voice for nationwide conversations on equity and justice. 

These pandemic years have further demonstrated the deep ideological and perceptional divisions in our midst. The nature of conflict and workplace issues presented to our office during this period are reflective of that divide. Even though remote working and social distancing helped lessen the number of interpersonal conflicts that occur when people are in proximity to each other, there is no denying that ideological objections to masking and vaccine mandates, restrictions on social gatherings and other pandemic response measures brought about the most serious conflict within our workforce. Our employees are subjected to powerful sources of information, misinformation and influences and it is becoming increasingly evident that we would have to engage with people no matter what their ideological stance is. It is no longer practical to just hand out information that we believe is scientifically well supported, morally above reproach and logically sound. We must make at least an earnest attempt at ‘persuasion’, the daunting task of offering consistent and reasonable response to the question, “Why?” The Office of the Employee Ombud has attempted to provide that safe space to City employees throughout the pandemic years where they can ask questions about RTO timelines, AWA agreements, PPE equipment, Hazard pay and a multitude of other concerns.

Our approach has been to engage folks, listen, provide context and at times attest to the fact that the majority of decision makers related to these protocols are very cognizant of equity and access needs of our employees. Decisions leading to dismissal or disengagement of a staff member are hard and taken with immense amount of consideration. There are two things that have helped this year as we engaged with often very upset and distraught employees. First, mandate enforcement decisions are deliberative, made over a period of time, and made by more than one person. Second, religious or medical exemption requests are also reviewed by a panel, limiting individual personal bias from getting in the way. 

For more information on the work of our office, please read on in our 2021-2022 Annual Report, released in April of 2022. 

Who We Are

The Office of the Ombud is a confidential, informal and independent resource that serves all current City of Seattle Employees.

Who We Serve

The Office of the Employee Ombud is a resource for all current City of Seattle Employees. At this time, the OEO is not a resource for former employees, non-employee applicants to City jobs, retirees, or the general public.

How to Meet with the Ombud

We recommend that employees use our secure site through EthicsPoint (oeo.ethicspoint.com) to submit a report. From there, we can either contact the employee through EthicsPoint, or use email or phone as they prefer. If employees do not wish to use EthicsPoint, they can also email the office at ombud@seattle.gov.

OEO Trainings

The Office of the Employee Ombud not only works with individuals- we also work with groups, units, and departments. The OEO offers customized trainings to help your team or unit improve their skills in many areas, including management effectiveness, effective feedback, and trauma informed care. To learn more about our courses or request a tailored training, please reach out to Assistant Ombud for Capacity Building, Rachel Nicholson (Rachel.nicholson@seattle.gov).

We also conduct regular Friday trainings which are open to all City of Seattle employees and can be accessed through Cornerstone. These trainings include topics such as preventing racism in the workplace, bystander interventionpreventing discrimination & harassment in the workplace and conflict management. For a full list of our course offerings, please see OEO Training Catalog 2022.

OEO Mission

Empower individuals and teams to navigate conflict into respectful workplace engagement. The mission of the Office of the Employee Ombud is to ensure that employees have access to a resource for informally addressing workplace concerns in a fair and equitable manner. The Ombud Office carries out this mission by way of several complimentary approaches:

  • We view conflict as an opportunity for dialogue and to transform perspectives.
  • We do not shy away from difficult conversations, particularly those about race, gender, and other identities.
  • We seek to identify the underlying systemic issues that are generating conflict and to address them through capacity building instead of one-time solutions.

Commitment to Anti-Racism

We believe racism is real, persistent, and contributes to other forms of oppression. We acknowledge our own internalized racism; educating ourselves on anti-racism and applying this knowledge to our practice. The OEO prioritizes team conversations about race and has created a culture of respectful and challenging discourse. We keep race at forefront of every interaction with OEO visitors. We validate the experiences of all visitors to our office. 

The OEO was established to identify and expose systems of oppression affecting City employees. We acknowledge the past and continuous harm of inequitable policies, practice, and culture within the City and have created a mechanism to expose and elevate stories of harm. We reaffirm our commitment to making recommendations and impacting change.  

Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination and harassment in all forms is an ongoing trend that the OEO will join with other groups and units to address. As part of our intake meetings with individuals, even if discrimination or harassment is not their primary reported concern, we ask whether they believe their identity may be a factor in the conflict. Over half the visitors to our office reported that they believed their identity was a factor. As a part of conflict mitigation in the OEO, we believe that identity is almost always a factor in conflicts, and that bias, even where there is not legally actionable discrimination or harassment, must be systemically acknowledged and corrected. For more information on our office's work related to harassment and discrimination, City staff can watch the Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination training available through Cornerstone

Mission as Described in Enacting Ordinance (#125735)

  • Assist City employees, in all branches of City government, in understanding and assessing options and resources to address concerns about or claims of workplace conduct that may be: inappropriate; a violation of the City’s Personnel Rules, City polices, workplace expectations; harassment, discrimination, or retaliation; and
  • Provide analyses and recommendations of policy and rule changes needed to address departmental or system-wide inefficiencies and in-person training to prevent workplace discrimination and harassment in City employment.

Whistle Blower Protections

The City of Seattle encourages employees to discuss concerns, conflicts, or report wrongdoing. The Office of the Employee Ombud provides a safe, confidential space for employees to seek guidance. All City of Seattle employees have the right, in good faith, to utilize the services of the Office of the Employee Ombud. City of Seattle employees are permitted to visit the Office of the Employee Ombud during their regular work hours and as such will be protected from retaliation. “Retaliation” means any unwarranted or negative change in an employee’s employment status, terms and conditions, or threats. Retaliation also includes supervisors requiring employees to use leave time to seek the services of the Office of the Employee Ombud. An employee who believes he or she has suffered retaliation should contact the Office of the Employee Ombud.

Office of the Ombud

The Office of the Ombud is a confidential, informal and independent resource that serves all current City of Seattle Employees.