County Steps Up Affirmative Actions

A resolution sponsored by myself and Commissioner Mark Andrew, which the Hennepin County Board recently adopted, reinforces two areas of the County’s enduring Affirmative Action policy: employment and contracting.  The resolution takes an inclusive approach, giving many individuals who are a part of the Hennepin County structure “…a greater role in realizing the objective of fairness for minorities and women in County employment, promotions and contracting.”  Particular attention will be paid to the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that the County is in full compliance.  The employment section of this Act, which becomes effective in January, specifies that employers may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.  We will be diligent in our enforcement of these provisions!

The on-going Affirmative Action policy prohibits discrimination and mandates fairness, open and equal access to County employment and contracting opportunities to all.  To this the new resolution adds new guidelines and specific steps designed to encourage vigorous implementation of the policy.  The McLaughlin/Andrew resolution is a positive tool to fulfill the promise of the policy to incorporate all people in the community into the economic mainstream.  Hennepin County spends, literally, a billion dollars a year.  We need to be aggressive in ensuring that the money is spent in a way that helps to build our community for all of its members.

Over the years, the County Board has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to equal employment opportunity and affirmative action through numerous resolutions.  In 1972 the Board first approved resolutions that inserted an anti-discrimination clause into construction contracts, and prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and physical condition.  A revision in 1974 added marital status, sexual orientation, public assistance status and ex-offender status, and charged County supervisors with the implementation of the policy.  The Contract Compliance Policy, for contractors and sub-contractors, was adopted in 1983 and revised in 1984 and 1986 to establish specific goals for employment and contracting; establish affirmative action contract compliance requirements; and establish a Women and Minority-owned Business Enterprise (W/MBE) Program.

Our new resolution outlines actions that will demonstrate adherence with policy directives on how the County should do business as an employer and as a contractor for services.  One provision is that bona fide efforts must be made to provide equal opportunities in employment and to provide an affirmative work environment for all employees.  Additionally, County depart­ments will establish specific objectives and strategies for recruiting hiring and promoting women and minorities as part of their workforce.  County departments will report on their actions and the results of their efforts during the annual budget request process.  A crucial component will provide relevant training to county staff to ensure they have the necessary skills to carry out the policy.

The Director of the Affirmative Action Programs (AAPD), Mel Harris, will work with all County departments to implement the resolution.  The AAPD will provide consultation in identifying problems with recruiting, testing, hiring, and promotional process.  Assistance will be given to departments in setting internal affirmative action objectives and in eliminating barriers to achieving those objectives.  The Director will monitor County departments’ EEO/AA efforts and will provide departments with on-going, constructive feedback.  Finally, the Board will receive annual reports from the Director on the efforts and accomplishments of County Departments.

I am proud to have been a co-author with Commissioner Mark Andrew on this progressive resolution.

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