National equity consultant firm briefs Board of County Commissioners on workforce equity

October 31, 2018

Chief Operating Officer Marissa Madrigal (right) address the board as Kory Murphy, member of the Safety, Trust and Belonging Advisory Council and equity and inclusion manager looks on. Also pictured are consultants, Paul Hudson and Fran Jemmott.

A year after the Board of Commissioners directed the hiring of a national consultant to examine how Multnomah County’s policies and structures were negatively affecting employees of color and others, the consultant delivered sweeping recommendations to a Boardroom packed with employees Tuesday.

Representatives of Jemmott Rollins Group, Inc., consultants who are experts in dismantling systemic racism, spent more than six months working with employees and managers to prioritize structural and cultural changes the County could make to achieve equity. Their intent is to use targeted strategies in order to achieve universal goals and opportunities for all employees.

“I’ve often said this work is not rocket science,” said john a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at University of California, Berkeley, at Tuesday’s board briefing. “It’s much harder than rocket science and much more important.”

powell, who created the concept of targeted universalism, was among three consultants who briefed the Board of County Commissioners. Their 49-page report “Workforce Equity Strategies: Recommendations to Strengthen and Improve Efforts in Multnomah County’’ offers recommendations for reducing disparities and nourishing a culture of safety, trust and belonging in the organization.

“I am grateful as a Latinx mother and daughter of an immigrant who has seen my family’s story reflected in the stories of our employees,” said Marissa Madrigal, the County’s chief operating officer, who helped present the report. “These recommendations provide a concrete path forward to making things better.”

The report was delivered more than a year after an unprecedented Board meeting in September 2017 in which employees from multiple departments publicly shared their experiences of racism and other discrimination. In response to those concerns, the Board of County Commissioners took a number of steps, including:

  • Elevating protected class complaints to the County’s chief operating officer

  • Adopting a Countywide strategic plan to help the County achieve its equity mission

  • Commissioning the Jemmott Rollins report to provide recommendations on workforce equity at Multnomah County

Since March 2018, consultants interviewed nearly 60 current and former employees about their experiences with equity and inclusion at the County and convened a 17-member advisory council to identify actions the County could take to dismantle institutional racism.

“Our work together was enormous,” said Fran Rollins, the project manager for Jemmott Rollins. “It was a broad undertaking with many challenges. We not only look at data, but we look at the stories that comprise the data.”

The report includes a number of recommendations, including strengthening the County’s Workforce Equity Strategic Plan; establishing a committee to ensure the plan is successfully implemented; elevating the role of the County’s Office of Diversity and Equity; and creating clearer expectations for County leadership to advance workforce equity.

“It’s racism we’re fighting against - not each other,” said Aimeera Flint, a contract specialist for the Health Department, who was involved in Jemmott Rollins’ report. “As we move forward, my hope is that we begin to heal so that we can create the trust that is needed to truly make the County a place where all employees can experience safety, trust, and belonging."

Aimeera Flint, Health Department employee and member of the Employees of Color Employee Resource Group, speaks to commissioners at Tuesday’s briefing. She was joined by Local 88’s Percy Winters Jr. and Employees of Color ERG co-chair Raymond de Silva.

Praising the consultants and County employees for their work, the commissioners reaffirmed their commitment to transforming Multnomah County’s culture. “I think this is one of the most important conversations we’re having at the County,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson.

Now that the report has been published, the Board will have an opportunity to review the recommendations and consider adopting them as part of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan during the Dec. 13 board meeting.

“We have at Multnomah County one of the most diverse and talented workforces in the entire country,” said Chair Kafoury, “and I am committed to working with this Board to create the equitable workplace that our employees and our community deserve.”

View the Jemmott Rollins report online.

The Board of Commissioners at Tuesday’s board briefing on the Workforce Equity Strategies report.