National Organization of Women Consent Decree and Marin County's Commitment to Women

Mary Hao, Director, Human Resources

In 1980, the County entered into an agreement with the National Organization of Women (NOW) as part of a settlement reached in response to NOW’s federal lawsuit alleging discrimination and disparate treatment of women with regard to County of Marin’s workforce. Consistent with and authorized by the Consent Decree, Marin County is committed to bringing women into all levels and segments of the County’s workforce in proportion to their representation in the relevant job market.

The County has established and maintains an intensive recruitment program aimed at recruiting greater numbers of women candidates. In addition to other methods, the County focuses recruitment efforts among women’s organizations, communities, and individuals. The County maintains communications with community and governmental organizations that represent ethnic, minority, and female interests and utilizes services provided by such organizations. The County strives to eliminate gender discrimination in job descriptions, job qualifications, compensation, examinations, and all other aspects of employment. The County ensures that boards for oral examinations in which there are female examinees include at least one female member and endeavors to have one female on any board.

Once hired by Marin County, female employees who are not in the professional and administrators, official EEO 4 category are eligible for 20 hours release time per year to attend programs designed to enhance the employees’ abilities for career advancement These programs are developed and/or selected by the County Equal Employment Officer and the Department of Human Resources. Each eligible employee or applicant should receive a written copy of the career ladder position they occupy or have applied for, with a written explanation of the opportunities for, and limitations on, promotions, reclassification, and lateral transfers. This process is being refined and will be made available to all applicants and employees during fiscal year 2010-11.

The County maintains a discrimination complaint procedure available to investigate and resolve allegations of prohibited discrimination. Any retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint will be monitored and treated as prohibited discrimination as well.

Historically, the County has filed reports twice per year setting forth information regarding the gender of applicants; the number of interest cards filed by gender and position applied for; number of men and women who left employment and the reason for each woman; and the total number of those employees eligible for merit salary or promotions which were not granted, and the reason for each female. The reports also included copies of all employee and applicant complaints and investigative reports and results; copies of all employee notices required by the Consent Decree; and a copy of each job description for each department. The County now provides a more streamlined report which includes interview and appointment data and the most current equal employment report.

The County is required by the terms of the Consent Decree to inform all employees and applicants for employment that the County entered into the Consent Decree, that there is an available complaint procedure, and that the Equal Employment Officer and Human Resources are available to investigate and resolve complaints involving allegations of prohibited discrimination. County personnel regulations (PMR 21) specify the discrimination complaint procedure, including a complaint form and the anti-discrimination policy. The County provides PMR 21 training for all regular hire personnel, which also includes providing notice that the County has entered into a Consent Decree. In addition, notice of the Consent Decree is printed on all County applications for employment.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, codified as Article I, Section 31 of the California Constitution. Proposition 209 provides, in part, that “[t]he state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment.‖ Proposition 209 has been interpreted to mean that California may not grant preferential treatment to racial minorities or women, despite compelling reasons to do so. The only relevant exceptions are for consent decrees in force prior to the passage of Proposition 209 or where federal law requires the use of race or gender to establish or maintain eligibility for a federal program and where ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.

Because the County of Marin is subject to the terms of the 1980 Consent Decree and consistent with the consent decree exception in Proposition 209, the County must abide by the guidelines set forth in the Consent Decree.