The Oregon State Legislature invites inquiries, nominations, and applications for the position of legislative equity officer. The state’s legislative branch seeks a proven leader with the expertise and fortitude to champion workplace equity and guide efforts to build a diverse, inclusive, and ethical environment free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE LEGISLATIVE EQUITY OFFICER
Reporting to the Legislative Joint Committee on Conduct, the legislative equity officer provides broad-based professional support, compliance, response, and training in the areas of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation within the legislative branch and its affiliated parties. Key responsibilities include receiving and responding to complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation; overseeing investigations; developing and presenting training curricula and programs; maintaining data and information related to complaints and confidential disclosures; and supporting the Joint Committee on Conduct and chamber conduct committees. This position is responsible for all aspects of the Legislative Equity Office and will supervise professional assistants and other employees necessary to manage the office, including oversight of independent contracted investigators, legal support, and training consultants.
In directing the administration of the Legislative Equity Office, the person in this position will evaluate the quality of services provided by the office, manage the distribution of available resources to meet changing program needs, and coordinate office activities with other agencies or divisions in areas of mutual concern to ensure compliance with established policies, objectives, program priorities, and applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
The legislative equity officer plays a leadership role in engaging the legislative branch in dialogue that promotes understanding and respect in the work environment. The legislative equity officer will be responsible for:
- providing annual and routine delivery of training related to workplace harassment, respectful workplaces, discrimination, retaliation, and legislative rules and procedures;
- overseeing investigators and investigations, including ongoing counseling with involved parties, and when appropriate, providing updates to the Joint Committee on Conduct or to specific supervisors;
- creating informational materials, crafting statements for the public record, and providing expert consultation or testimony as to the policies and programs of the Legislative Equity Office to the Joint Committee on Conduct, the governor, legislature, and other bodies;
- establishing reporting relationships and administrative controls over programs and support operations;
- developing systems for aggregating, analyzing, and maintaining confidential employee information and data with regard to inquiries, counseling, and complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation;
- working across the legislative branch and collaborating with other agencies and divisions to ensure compliance with established policies, objectives, program priorities, and applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
The Legislative Equity Office
The legislative equity officer directs the activities of the Legislative Equity Office by determining policies, program priorities, and the necessary allocation of resources needed to carry out the goals and objectives mandated by law and determined by the Joint Committee on Conduct or the Legislature. The Legislative Equity Office will be responsible for analyzing proposed policies, assessing policy impacts, and determining the resources necessary to ensure the efficient and effective provision of services that address harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in the workplace. The legislative equity officer will be tasked with setting up the office, hiring staff, designing systems and operations, developing training programs, and managing existing legal consulting contracts. The budget for the office includes funding for an investigator and an administrative position as well as funding for consultants.
QUALIFICATIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS
The Oregon State Legislature seeks a proven leader with the expertise and fortitude to champion workplace equity and guide efforts to build a diverse, inclusive, and ethical environment free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
Bachelor’s degree and 10 years of related professional experience required. Preferred qualifications include an advanced degree (master’s or law degree), a career progression that has prepared the candidate for a position of this scope and complexity, and knowledge of workplace investigation best practices, process counseling, and trauma-informed care. The ideal candidate will present evidence of strategic agility, business acumen, unimpeachable integrity, excellent writing and public speaking skills, and the ability to engage multiple stakeholders and effect positive change in a challenging and polarized political environment. An equivalent combination of education and experience sufficient to demonstrate ability to perform the duties of the position may be considered.
Characteristics of the Successful Candidate
- Subject matter expertise, strategic leadership and change-management skills, and expertise in assessment and evidence-based decision-making.
- Knowledge of and some experience with federal and state equal opportunity and nondiscrimination laws and regulations.
- Strong administrative skills—to build the Legislative Equity Office, manage operations, oversee staff, and develop the mission, values, and objectives of the office.
- Exceptional interpersonal skills and demonstrated potential to succeed in a complex partisan organization.
- Ability to deal constructively with role conflict, role ambiguity, and the many demands and expectations of the role.
- Adept at navigating and responding to politically charged or sensitive situations with tact and diplomacy.
- Proficient in the use of conflict resolution, mediation, and crises deescalating techniques in addressing a range of issues.
- A person who is approachable, can be a confidant to multiple stakeholders.
- “Rock solid trustworthy.”
- An ability to rebuild confidence and faith in the processes and procedures that are in place to identify and mitigate harassment and discrimination.
- An aptitude for addressing issues of accountability and personal responsibility.
- Strong written communication skills, public speaking and facilitation skills, and professional presence.
- A deep personal and professional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
HISTORY OF THE POSITION
This role was conceived and developed as part of a settlement to a legal suit brought by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Office of Civil Rights against the Oregon State Legislative Assembly. In addition to the creation of the legislative equity officer role, monetary compensation for those who were represented in the suit was also rendered. With assistance from the Oregon Law Commission, Legislative Branch Personnel Rule 27 was amended and enacted in August of 2020 and serves as the governing body of law for this position.
Legislative Branch Personnel Rule 27
Rule 27 is comprehensive and focuses on harassment, discrimination, and a hostile work environment. Rule 27 names the overseeing body for the legislative equity officer as the Legislative Joint Committee on Conduct comprised of eight members—four from the House and four from the Senate, equally representing both political parties. Four of the eight members serve as co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Conduct.
Rule 27 lays out the responsibilities of the legislative equity officer and the process for investigating and addressing complaints of harassment, discrimination, and hostile behavior in the workplace. The Rule also provides definitions of harassment, hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and retaliation. The Rule delineates reporting procedures, disclosure processes, complaints, safety and remedial measures, as well as the role of the Joint Committee on Conduct. Finally, the Rule outlines the parameters of confidentiality and transparency and describes the development of training programs for all legislative constituencies.
Full text of Rule 27:
The legislative equity officer position is currently vacant but was filled initially by an interim consultant in preparation for the hire of a full-time professional. The first hire into the role held the position for two months. Currently, two law firms are managing the complaints, investigations, and training programs.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF THE ROLE
Likely opportunities, priorities, and challenges of the position of Oregon’s legislative equity officer:
- The legislative equity officer has significant responsibilities and little authority. The new legislative equity officer will need to get out in front of issues, be proactive, and clarify the values and mission of the Legislative Equity Office.
- The actual Legislative Equity Office needs to be set up, staff hired, and administrative processes codified. As there is no parallel administrative structure in the Legislature, the process will need to be carefully crafted.
- The legislative equity officer will need to define the behavior that stakeholders agree is both acceptable and professional, and clarify the accountability of legislative members to reflect the values agreed upon by the legislative body.
- The issue of accountability is very important and will be critical to the person in the role of legislative equity officer as well as to the success of reshaping the work environment of the Legislature. The Joint Committee on Conduct is an important stakeholder in creating a foundation from which the legislative equity officer can build accountability across all constituent groups.
- Staff are not clear about what the process is when someone goes to the legislative equity officer with a complaint. The legislative equity officer must be clear and direct about the priorities of the Legislative Equity Office, must demonstrate subject matter expertise, and must be transparent about processes.
- There is no clear discernment within the wide array of constituents as to the role of the legislative equity officer versus the role of human resources. Many of the foundational respectful workplace policies and employment protocols supported by the Human Resources Office are the base for preventing behavior that escalates to discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. The legislative equity officer and the director of human resources need to be close collaborators around training, policies, and procedures that impact the workplace culture.
- There is significant consternation and conflict around what constitutes confidentiality, what are the boundaries and the limits of confidentiality for the legislative equity officer, and what are boundaries and limits of confidentiality for the complainant. There needs to be significantly more training and education about this across all employee and affiliated legislative groups.
- The Capitol Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will be an important partner to the legislative equity officer. The committee understands the context within which the legislative equity officer will operate as well as the scope of authority afforded to the legislators. The work of the legislative equity officer and this committee have multiple points of intersection that will strengthen the overall work culture of the legislative body.
- The training programs around harassment, discrimination, and hostile work environment need to be more extensive, with clear and relatable examples, and easily available to all employees and other impacted groups.
- The legislative equity officer needs to professionalize the processes, policies, and the overall approach of those supervising staff; work to understand the scope and diversity of work within the legislative body; and work with managers to create a culture of professionalism and accountability.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
In the short term, as the role of legislative equity officer continues to evolve, the person appointed to this position will need to assess the work environment of the legislative branch and work with the Joint Committee on Conduct to develop both a short-term and longer-term plan for the Legislative Equity Office. The new legislative equity officer will need to meet with the law firms that are currently handling complaints, investigations, and training to begin to analyze the current workload, issues, and processes. Of significant importance will be that the new legislative equity officer develop systems and operational processes, as well as hire the staff for the Legislative Equity Office.
In the longer-term the legislative equity officer will need to review the training sessions offered by the Legislative Equity Office, organize the collection and analysis of data, and advance any needed changes to Rule 27. It is anticipated that the new legislative equity officer will lead in developing the Legislative Equity Office and articulating its agenda.
OVERVIEW OF THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
The Oregon Legislative Assembly is the state’s legislature. Its primary functions are to enact laws, make decisions that keep the state in good economic and environmental condition, and provide a forum for discussion of public issues. The Legislative Assembly is composed of two chambers: the Senate, whose 30 members are elected to serve four-year terms, and the House of Representatives, with 60 members elected to two-year terms. Each chamber elects presiding officers, the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House, to oversee daily sessions and operations of the legislature.
Oregon’s Legislative Assembly is a citizen legislature, meaning the elected members serve part-time and their service is typically not their primary occupation. The legislature convenes annually in January at the State Capitol in Salem, but sessions may not exceed 160 days in odd-numbered years and 35 days in even-numbered years. Seven agencies—Legislative Administration, Legislative Commission on Indian Services, Legislative Equity Office, Legislative Fiscal Office, Office of the Legislative Counsel, Legislative Policy and Research Office, and Legislative Revenue Office—support the work of the Legislative Branch and are staffed by state employees.
Oregon State Legislature Website
CAPITOL DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION COMMITTEE
The purpose of the Capitol Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee is to provide ongoing dialogue, discussion and opportunities for all legislative employees and elected officials to increase understanding of the benefits of a diverse and inclusive capitol and to develop programs and skills to facilitate such a community.
The goal of the Capitol DEI Committee is to bring forth ideas, programs, policies, and changes to increase the inclusivity of the Oregon State Capitol. To make the Oregon State Capitol a welcoming place for everyone. To proactively foster an inclusive organization and help create an environment conducive to success, ensuring positive relationships amongst employees and with the individuals they serve.
The Capitol DEI Committee will consist of one voting member representing each of the following departments: the appointing authority for each designated area shall name their department voting member and a replacement when necessary.
ABOUT SALEM, OREGON
Salem, with a population of 168,970, is Oregon’s state capital and the third-largest city. Salem is situated on the 45th geographic parallel in the center of the Willamette Valley—one of the most fertile and agriculturally productive regions in the world, making the city one of the largest food-processing centers in the United States.
Salem serves as the hub of both state government and the surrounding farming communities. State government is the largest employer, with approximately 17,958 state employees and offices for 69 state agencies located in Salem. The proximity of government provides Salem citizens with a distinct opportunity to be involved in the decision-making processes of the state. The citizens of Salem also have a long history of commitment to community improvement, a commitment recognized nationally through the presentation of two All-America City Awards in 1960–1961 and 1982–1983.
SALARY AND BENEFITS
The current salary range is $9,230 to $13,844 per month, commensurate with education and experience. The salary will increase by 6.95% upon participation in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS).
Oregon state government offers its employees a comprehensive benefits package. Click here for more information.
Review of applications will begin February 3, 2023, and will continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Jim Norfleet at email@example.com or Ellen Heffernan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895 or email email@example.com.
Visit the Oregon State Legislature’s website at www.oregonlegislature.gov.
The Oregon State Legislature is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to workforce diversity.