NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County Chair addresses charges of systemic racism

September 15, 2017

For immediate release: Friday, Sept. 15, 2017

Contact: Julie Sullivan-Springhetti,, 503-502-2741

Multnomah County Chair addresses charges of systemic racism

Today, Chair Deborah Kafoury announced a series of immediate steps to address complaints of systemic racism and unjust employment practices at Multnomah County.

“To the Multnomah County employees who stepped forward at yesterday’s hearing on our Workforce Equity ordinance, I hear your concerns, I feel your frustration and I am promising that we can and must do better for people of color. We must create safety and a sense of belonging for all employees so that we are truly inclusive and can effectively serve our entire community.’’

Chair Kafoury said the County will hire an outside employment consultant. This consultant will review and make recommendations to improve Multnomah County’s hiring and retention practices regarding people in protected classes. Protected classes include race, national origin, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, individuals with a disability, pregnancy and age. The consultant will also evaluate the effectiveness of the County’s current human resources structure and process for addressing complaints.

Secondly, beginning now, any complaint by an employee alleging offensive or discriminatory language or behavior in the workplace is to be immediately escalated and sent to the Chief Operating Officer and Department Director.

“I want employees at Multnomah County to know their complaints will be heard, they’ll be addressed, and we will not tolerate bigotry or discrimination in our workplace,” Chair Kafoury said.

Finally, the Chair said she will personally monitor the development and delivery of a Workforce Equity Strategy for Multnomah County by Spring, 2018. The strategy will reflect lessons from the consultant and employees’ lived experience. It is expected to guide every department and office around recruitment, retention and promotion and to do the critical work of building a workplace culture that recognizes the way multiple identities are able to show up and be successful.

“It’s been difficult to hear such concerns from our own employees, but any discomfort I feel is just a fraction of the pain that people of color have experienced throughout their lives,’’ Chair Kafoury said.