OEO By the Numbers

A Note from the Director

Brick by brick as we lay the foundation of a restorative justice focused conflict management service for City of Seattle employees, we never forget the countless courageous voices and justice-driven minds from across city departments that fought for and envisioned this new entity. Doing justice to that legacy of courage is difficult and compelling simultaneously. There are challenges related to access and awareness - not everyone knows what we do and how we can assist. There are also challenges of misperceptions and mis-calibrated expectations regarding an Ombud process. 

We believe however, that the challenge of building awareness of the Ombud role and process is more easily overcome than the philosophical challenge in front of us. Is our city ready for a conflict management system that is truly rooted in restorative practices? For restorative justice to take effect, our culture must shift from hiding behind intent to ownership of impact and it also requires seeking and granting forgiveness and giving grace - lots of it. There is a difference between vengeance and justice and our job is often to educate folks about the merits of each. In the end, the complainant is always in the driver's seat deciding what resolution is the mutually dignified way to manage the conflict. 

As the Director, I wish to share a few critically significant philosophical aspects of our approach. First, leading with race and justice is not an add-on or an optional preference. The nature of conflict we are living with as a society is deeply rooted in racial prejudice, power, and privilege afforded to a few in a systemic manner. Second, being impartial does not equate to being blind and certainly does not require being oblivious. If bias, ignorance, or, at times, hate, is driving someone's disrespect, an Ombud must point out the cause of the conflict in order to correct the behavior. Finally, we are often asked how bad the state of our workplace is. My answer is always the same; this city is no more or less toxic than the rest of our nation. We, as people, are exceptionally capable of harm and often entirely incapable of repair. That said, the OEO is meeting its mandate on watching emerging trends so City leadership can direct its efforts on specific areas of growth. As an accountability function for the city, we take our obligation to the truth very seriously. It is our consistent practice to take reported concerns directly to the people involved or named in the grievance regardless of what title or power they enjoy at the City. Our office has a tremendous amount of gratitude for the trust already placed in us by hundreds of employees and leaders.

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 offers ongoing trainings to all City of Seattle Employees. We have two trainings that are available through Cornerstone, Bystander Intervention (Outline) and Bystander Responses to Discrimination (Outline). City of Seattle Departments can also request customized trainings through our office by emailing ombud@seattle.gov or by reaching out directly to OEO staff.

OEO Mission

Empowering individuals and teams to transform conflict into quality work and learning. 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 two complimentary approaches:

  • Receiving and assisting individuals toward the resolution of concerns in a confidential and informal basis.
  • Supporting procedures that advance the goal of a fair conflict management system.

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.

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.