Political Notebook: SF supes panel advances code update to collect LGBTQ city hiring data

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday September 27, 2021
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Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and his colleagues on the board's rules committee advanced a code update that will allow for tracking how many LGBTQ people are employed by, and are applying for, city and county jobs. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and his colleagues on the board's rules committee advanced a code update that will allow for tracking how many LGBTQ people are employed by, and are applying for, city and county jobs. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A San Francisco supervisors' panel has advanced a code update that will allow for tracking how many LGBTQ people are employed by, and are applying for, city and county jobs. It now moves on to the full Board of Supervisors to approve.

As the Bay Area Reporter first reported in June, city leaders want to be able to ask employees and those who apply for jobs with the city and county in a voluntary and anonymous way if they identify as part of the LGBTQ community. In order to do so, however, a restriction in the city's municipal code that forbids it from inquiring into the "sexual orientation, practices, or habits" of city employees must be removed.

Known as Chapter 12E, the City Employee's Sexual Privacy Ordinance of the Administrative Code, it was enacted in 1985 during the height of the AIDS epidemic as a way to protect LGBTQ applicants and city employees from being discriminated against. Despite local laws banning LGBTQ-based discrimination that had been adopted in the late 1970s, there was widespread concern among the general public about LGBTQ people transmitting the then-little-understood virus.

Those fears led to city leaders wanting to strengthen protections for LGBTQ people seeking employment with City Hall or various city departments and their drafting of Chapter 12E. Now, with those concerns about people living with HIV unable to land jobs with the city having largely vanished, Mayor London Breed and gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced legislation during Pride Month that would repeal that section of the Administrative Code.

"LGBTQ people have, until recently, largely been ignored in the collection of demographic information by all levels of government," noted Mandelman during Monday's meeting of the board's Rules Committee, on which he sits.

He and fellow committee members, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan and District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who chairs rules, unanimously voted to recommend the code section be deleted. The full board is expected to pass the code change at its October 5 meeting, the first during LGBTQ History Month, and finalize its decision at its October 19 meeting. It doesn't meet October 12, due to the city's observances of Italian American Heritage Day that Tuesday and Indigenous Peoples' Day the Monday prior.

Due to legislation authored in 2016 by then-District 8 supervisor Scott Wiener, a gay man who now is a state senator, many city departments and their contractors are required to collect sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, data on their clients, noted Mandelman. It is time the city, he added, which is the largest employer in San Francisco, also did so among its approximately 37,000 workforce.

"This data has helped us to identify the needs of LGBTQ San Franciscans and evaluate whether we are effectively and equitably meeting those needs," said Mandelman, adding that by collecting the SOGI employee data, "we can better track our citywide employment equity goals, address any gaps, and identify strategies to recruit LGBTQ employees interested in public service."

Should the supervisors adopt the code change as expected then the LGBTQ demographic directive would take effect January 1. It would be up to the Department of Human Resources, now led by out director Carol Isen, to determine how to collect the sexual orientation and gender identity demographic information of employees and job applicants in a manner that protects their privacy and anonymity.

As Victor Ruiz-Cornejo, a gay man who advises Breed on LGBTQ policy issues, noted at the inaugural meeting last week of the Human Rights Commission's reconstituted LGBTQI+ advisory committee, without such data there is no way to be sure that LGBTQ people are applying for city jobs.

"What that tells us is maybe we need to do a better job marketing our jobs to our community and ensuring people hear about opportunities in city government," said Ruiz-Cornejo. "We know often these are good paying jobs we want our community to have access to."

The LGBTQI+ advisory committee unanimously approved seeing the code be wiped from the city's books. But several flagged the need to ensure that the questions asked of employees and applicants are written in a way that accurately tracks people's gender identity.

The human resources department is expected to confer with the LGBTQI+ consultative group and others, such as the Mayor's Office of Transgender Initiatives, on the SOGI data collection effort. Pau Crego Walters, a trans man who is the deputy director and director of programs at the mayoral trans office, noted in a presentation to the Rules Committee that the city already collects and aggregates data on the race and gender, though only male and female, of its workforce.

He pointed out that the information has been used to show that Black and Brown city and county employees are far more likely to be face disciplinary action than their counterparts from other ethnicities. Yet, because there is no SOGI data, the city doesn't know if its LGBTQ employees are more likely to be disciplined compared to their straight co-workers.

"This is the first step toward identifying similar issues with regards to LGBTQ equity," he said. "It will allow us to look at city workforce data in a more comprehensive way."

In addition to the human resources department collecting the employee and job applicant SOGI data, all city departments would be ordered to add voluntary SOGI questions to the surveys where they ask other demographic data from their employees and job applicants.

Having such data, said Walters, makes it possible to see if there are any LGBTQ bias trends in the city's hiring processes and its retention of employees.

And the city will be able to discern, said Walters, what are the "unique needs of LGBTQ city employees and better recruit LGBTQ talent."

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the wide support gay state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has garnered for his 2022 reelection bid.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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