September 26, 2019

On Sept. 25, 2019  Chief Operating Officer Marissa Madrigal shared the following message with employees regarding the progress of the creation of the Protected Class Complaints Investigation Unit

Marissa Madrigal
Marissa Madrigal, Chief Operations Officer
As I initially reported to our workforce back in June, I’m happy to report the creation of our County’s Protected Class Complaints Investigation Unit (CIU) is well underway.

We have already hired one working manager and are in the process of hiring three additional investigators to look into reports of protected class complaints throughout our organization.

Our investigators will handle complaints that arise when a County employee reports they have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or their membership to another protected class.

Though we have long had a protected class complaints system in place, the creation of this unit was borne of a need to elevate such complaints to the highest operational levels of our organization, and create a system that provides as much compassion, efficiency and transparency as possible.

The creation of the Protected Class Complaints Investigation Unit also reflects one of the “Structural Changes that Support Shifting Practice and Culture” outlined in Focus Area 5 of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan (page 19). And it was the top-ranked workforce equity strategy identified by Multnomah County employees.    

The scope of the Protected Class Complaints Investigation Unit 

To better ensure independence and impartiality when reporting, our Protected Class Complaints Investigation Unit reports directly to the County’s Chief Operating Officer. It is not a part of Human Resources or any department.

The unit will employ an open-door policy, allowing employees the ability to file protected class complaints in person, over the phone or online.

When investigators are working a case, they will walk everyone involved through the investigation process — whether they be the complainant, a witness, or the person accused of wrongdoing. During this process, investigators will apply a trauma-informed approach to mitigate any additional emotional harm that may be inflicted on the parties involved.

The Protected Class Complaints Investigation Unit’s investigator’s role is impartial, to give both the complainant and the alleged wrongdoer due process; however, complainants may engage an advocate to accompany them through the process.

The unit’s investigators will make determinations of fact, evaluate whether there’s enough evidence to sustain allegations, make credibility determinations of participants, note management deficiencies that are revealed during the investigation, and highlight other relevant facts in their reports. Investigators will not recommend disciplinary actions.

Matters of discipline will ultimately fall to an executive team that includes the Chief Operating Officer, department leadership and Human Resources, Labor Relations, the Office of Diversity and Equity, and the County Attorney.

Members of this unit will conduct their business with the utmost discretion. And while confidentiality cannot be guaranteed when a complaint is reported, our investigators will discuss with the complainant which portion of the complaint, if any, will need to be discussed and with whom.

If a crime has been committed or if information received signals that someone may be in danger, confidentially will not be upheld. 

Complaints that are not related to an employee’s protected class complaint status will not be handled by the Protected Class Complaints Investigation Unit. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be addressed.

Multnomah County has a robust personnel rule enumerating what is expected of all employees in “Maintaining a Professional and Respectful Workplace.” Violations of this personnel rule will be handled by departments’ Human Resources representatives.  

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind all County employees that they are obligated to report protect class complaints under the following circumstances: 

  • If an employee directly observes another employee being discriminated against because of their protected class status 

  • If an employee reports to a coworker that they believe they are being discriminated against because of their protected class status

What’s ahead

In the coming months, we hope to have the County’s Protected Class Complaints Investigation  Unit fully assembled. The hiring process is underway and will incorporate the voices of people belonging to the groups most harmed by previous practices. 

Once the hiring process is complete, members of the County’s Protected Class Investigation Complaints Unit will be announced and the protected class complaints reporting process fully outlined.