Mayor Durkan responds to allegations of ‘toxic’ work environment
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan responded Wednesday to a Crosscut report, alleging a toxic work environment in her office.
The report cites claims from a pair of city employees. The first alleges that Durkan grabbed an employee by the face and “turned her head during a gathering in the mayor’s office.” The second comes from an employee who threatened litigation last month, and leveled allegations of mistreatment and a toxic work environment.
Durkan responded to the accusations in a written statement.
In both cases, senior leadership in the Mayor’s Office worked with Seattle Department of Human Resources to listen to the employees and work to reach a fair and respectful solution aligned with the employees’ desired outcomes.
It continues to expand on the first allegation, where Durkan was said to have grabbed an employee’s face during a conversation.
One matter arose out of a short office surprise birthday celebration for someone in the Mayor’s office. While my recollection of this brief interaction is different than the employee’s, I learned this moment caused the employee to re-experience past pain — for that, I’m sorry. Even though there are differing perceptions of the interaction by the people gathered at the party, it is an important reminder how impactful any interaction can be in a workplace.
According to Crosscut’s report, that employee reached an agreement with the Seattle’s Human Resources Department to resign, following a six-month period where she “remain[ed] in active, paid status working on special assignments for the city.”
As of February, she reportedly no longer works for the city, and has left Seattle entirely.
The second employee, who previously worked as an executive assistant for a pair of deputy mayors, claims that she is owed $1.6 million in lost wages, retirement benefits, and emotional damages. The city denies those allegations as well.
“We have worked hard to create a positive workplace, not just for the Mayor’s Office but across the city,” said Durkan. “Having a workplace where every employee is valued is essential for city workers to be able to best serve the residents and businesses of Seattle.”