Created in direct response to actions outlined in Focus Area 5 of the Workforce Equity Strategic Plan (page 19), the unit handles complaints that arise when a County employee reports they have been discriminated against in the County workplace because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or their membership to another protected class.
Our internal Protected Class Complaint Investigation Unit -- which is comprised of one manager, three investigators and a management analyst -- was the top-ranked workforce equity strategy identified by Multnomah County employees as worth pursuing.
As an employer, Multnomah County has long-had a system for investigating protected class complaints in place. The creation of this unit was borne of a need to elevate such complaints to the highest operational levels of the organization, and create a system that provides as much compassion, efficiency and transparency as possible.
In an effort to make County employees feel safe in sharing their concerns without fear of complaint suppression or retaliation, the Protected Class Complaint Investigation Unit reports directly to the Office of the Chief Operating Officer.
How to file a complaint
There is no wrong way to file a protected class complaint.
County employees may visit the CIU’s Commons page (employee login credentials required) for ways to contact the office.
County employees can still report protected class matters to Human Resources, to a manager, or to others such as a department’s Equity Manager — wherever they feel comfortable reporting. If a protected class complaint is identified, concerns will be routed to the Complaints Investigation Unit for follow up.
Making a complaint
If an employee makes a complaint to CIU that they are experiencing harm in the workplace on the basis of a protected class, a member of CIU’s team will reach out within 48 business hours of receiving the report.
A CIU team member will then arrange a time to do an intake interview with that employee, either at the Multnomah Building, their work location, or another location that may make them feel comfortable. Employees may bring an advocate with them for support through the process.
During the intake interview, a unit member will work to hear that employee’s story, learn about ways the complaint might be investigated, and learn what a desired outcome for a complaint might be. The unit places an extremely high emphasis on being trauma-informed and culturally competent.
Unit investigators will also walk employees through the process and answer questions they may have.
After the intake interview, CIU will make a recommendation on how the case should proceed: to a restorative process or mediation; to a full investigation; directly to corrective action; or referral to other appropriate resources.
CIU investigators will strive to finish complaint investigations within 30 days. In cases where facts are difficult, or participants are on leave, this may take longer. Investigators will update the reporting party weekly on the status of their case.
When investigators are working a case, they will walk everyone involved through the investigation process — the complainant, any witnesses, or the respondent — so they have a clear picture of how the case will proceed. In the Protected Class Complaint Investigation Unit, an investigator’s role is impartial, to give both the complainant and the alleged wrongdoer due 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, Human Resources, Labor Relations, and the County Attorney’s Office.
Members of the Protected Class Complaint Investigation 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 status will not be handled by the Protected Class Complaint Investigation Unit. But that doesn’t mean 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.
As a reminder, all County employees are obligated to report protected class complaints under the following circumstances:
If a County employee directly observes another County employee being discriminated in the workplace against because of their protected class status.
If a County employee reports to a County coworker that they believe they are being discriminated against in the County workplace because of their protected class status.
Have more questions? Please call us or visit the frequently asked questions section (employee login credentials required) of CIU Commons page.
Members of the public with a complaint about their workplace or concerns about public accommodations should visit the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Civil Rights Division’s page.