January 8, 2024

The Workplace Equity Strategic Plan Renewal work sessions continued in November to discuss the topics of Compensation and Practice. In the context of the WESP, Compensation refers to the recognition of and redress for the additional toll that the extra duties, responsibilities and emotional labor employees of color often take on in service of equity and inclusion. Practice refers to the adoption of preventative and trauma-informed practices for workforce equity, as well as the exploration of targeted approaches for each department to encourage cross-organizational coordination. 

The first day of the work session featured the continuation of a town hall element that the group began the month before so that more staff and subject matter experts could share feedback directly with the steering committee. 

Town hall participants were asked two questions to prompt the discussion: What would fair compensation for equity work entail, considering both monetary and non-monetary forms of reparations, to recognize the emotional and intellectual efforts involved, especially for employees of color? How can the County implement preventative and trauma-informed practices to promote workforce equity, and what department-specific strategies should be considered to ensure county-wide collaboration?

Ashley Carroll from the Disability Equity Workgroup presents to the steering committee during a listening session that also hosted representatives from the LGBTQIA2S+ Workforce Equity Workgroup and the Managers of Color Employee Resource Group.
One of the more prominent themes that came to light during the town hall was the idea that Compensation goes beyond pay equity and classification. Equity work can be hard emotional labor and requires rest before returning to the work. Some benefits that support this include having telework options or ability to use paid time off to rejuvenate. It also calls for a better support system such as culturally specific employee assistance program resources for staff of color.  

The steering committee then broke into small groups to continue discussing insights related to Compensation that had emerged during the town hall and in previous worksessions. The groups identified that the organization needs to explore additional monetary and non-monetary ways to compensate equity work, including options for out-of-class (ad hoc) equity-specific work on the WESP, in employee resource groups and more. Committee members also shared that managers should empower employees — especially employees of color — to utilize shift differentials, KSA’s and comp time for equity work, and to provide choice on how they would prefer to be compensated.

Regarding Practice, town hall participants shared that the County needs consistent practices for how organization-wide policies and procedures are implemented across departments. They noted that implementing these equity policies should not be optional for elected offices and agencies, such as the Multnomah County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices. The conversation also revealed the need for a clearer and more established definition of “trauma informed,” which could lead to more consistent policies and messaging about trauma-informed practices.
Reflecting further on Practice, committee members acknowledged that ceremony should be recognized as a practice, which is rooted in Indigenous cultures. They also agreed that there are ways to address trauma and conflict that need to be done in the community, and that more nonviolent communication practices are needed to help reduce interpersonal conflict in the workplace. 

On the second day of the work session, the steering committee hosted listening sessions from the three County workgroups: the Disability Equity Workgroup, the LGBTQIA2S+ Workforce Equity Workgroup and the Managers of Color Employee Resource Group. All three of these groups had been meeting over the past six months to identify and develop workplace equity recommendations to address their unique needs, including the creation of a centralized Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodations unit and a Gender Equity Committee, as well as a partnership with Managers of Color to co-design training and supports to boost staff retention.

During the second half of the day, the steering committee hosted a discussion with the executive committee members Chief Operating Officer Serena Cruz, Chief Human Resources Officer Travis Brown, and Chief Diversity and Equity Officer Joy Fowler. The session focused on the cost and commitment of engaging in equity work at the County and the ways to build on the previous WESP to inform and implement an updated vision of workplace equity for the organization. The three members of the executive committee also took time to share their priorities, appetite for change and the challenges they face as leaders. 

The two-day session concluded the steering committee’s work on the priority topics. The December work session is slated to focus on compiling, editing and reviewing all the recommendations generated over the last six months. The steering committee will also strategize on further engagement with staff and internal County partners, and prepare for a future board briefing.