Showing an astounding proclivity for inclusivity, Multnomah County's Diversity and Equity Office announced last week that a new "employee network group" has formed: "White Males Seeking Equity in the Workplace."
The WM behind the group is David Landis, a parole and probation officer who four years ago sued the county alleging he was denied a 1998 promotion because he was not a woman or a minority. The jury ruled that the county, indeed, may have improperly considered race or gender in that promotion but concluded Landis wouldn't have gotten the job anyway. Landis was reimbursed for his legal fees, and the county was ordered to do a better job following employment law.
Landis, who works in the county's Gresham probation office, says he still feels that women and minority employees have the inside track for advancement.
"I've experienced discrimination for a long time," he says. "When it happens to a minority or a woman, it's bad. When it happens to a white male, it's like, 'You deserve it.'"
County employment statistics show that as of July 2003, women made up 55 percent of the 125 parole and probation officers, while minorities accounted for 18 percent. Among managers in the county's Department of Community Justice, the breakdown was 51 percent female, 23 percent minority.
Travis Graves, the department's human-resources manager, says his office doesn't track promotions by race and gender. But at WW's request, he reviewed management positions filled since 2000 and found that six of 13 went to women or minorities.
WMSEW is the third officially recognized countywide employee organization, joining Managers of Color and PRISM (Pride, Respect and Integrity for Sexual Minorities). It was the first group, however, that had to meet the terms of a new executive order, requiring its members to demonstrate they're treated differently in employment issues. April Lewis, the county's diversity manager, says that given the court order issued in Lewis' lawsuit, her office concluded the requirement was met.
"The judge ruled that white males may have been experiencing an adverse impact in employment," she says.
Given the controversial nature of his cause, Landis isn't sure how much of a turnout he'll get at the group's first meeting Nov. 18. "A lot of white males are afraid to step out of the closet because they'll be labeled as a bigot or sexist," he says. "If not enough step up, I'll give up, because I'm not doing this for me."