Last week, the King County Council unanimously adopted a five-year Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Plan for 2008-2012. The plan demonstrates the county's continued high performance and commitment to equal employment opportunity, and adds new tools to measure diversity in the county workforce.
"In the past two decades, King County government has made significant strides in providing equal opportunities for historically disadvantaged populations," said King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, prime sponsor of the plan. "Our Affirmative Action Plan has been a major tool for improving workforce diversity and ensuring that women and minorities have access to promotions, high-wage jobs and the full spectrum of employment paths. This update improves on the previous plan by requiring implementation plans and annual progress reports to ensure even greater accountability."
The new plan adds requirements to the Affirmative Action Plan that enhance that county's ability to measure diversity in the county's executive departments. For the first time, the plan includes data on salary ranges by race and gender. When compared to data from the U.S. Census Bureau on income by race and gender, the plan shows that the county workforce is more diverse at the higher salary ranges.
"King County continues to play an exemplary role in the hiring of minorities and women, and we are very proud of our accomplishments in this area," said Council Chair Larry Gossett, who also chairs the council's General Government and Labor Relations Committee. "The requirements we added to the plan allow us to step back and examine our efforts toward creating an inclusive workplace."
The council also required the plan to include assessments of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. While accurate reporting of the numbers of persons with disabilities who work for the county remains a challenge due to their need to self-identify, the plan calls for recruiting and placement efforts for persons with disabilities to achieve a better workforce representation. New historical data included for the first time in the plan shows that from 1979 to 2006, the number of minorities in the county workforce has increased 121 percent. Over that same period of time, the number of women in the county workforce increased nearly 19 percent, while the number of high-ranking officials and administrators who were female doubled, from 20 percent in 1979 to 40 percent today. According to the plan, the overall representation for people of color in the King County workforce continues to be representative of the local workforce as a whole.
Where previous affirmative action plans covered two-year periods, the five-year plan allows for more efficiently and an ability to focus on implementation of the plan's provisions.
Adoption of the Affirmative Action Plan conforms to the restrictions set by the passage of state initiative 200 in 1998, which prohibits preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, education and contracting, ensuring compliance with federal grant recipient requirements. King County's affirmative action program is designed to ensure that qualified applicants and employees are receiving an equal opportunity for recruitment, selection and advancement, with a central premise that, absent discrimination, over time an employer's workforce will generally reflect the gender, racial and ethnic profile of the local labor pool.