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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office of Equity and Human Rights

Realizing Equity. Enhancing the City of Portland.

Phone: 503-823-4433

Fax: 503-823-4420

421 SW 6th Avenue, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204

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Introduction to Language Pay Differential Policy

On December 16, 2020, Portland City Council unanimously passed Resolution No. 37525 to authorize a language pay differential policy to compensate qualifying multilingual City employees who use their language skill to assist the community. This policy is in alignment with our City of Portland Core Values, Citywide Racial Equity Goals and Strategies, Citywide Language Access Standards, and the City’s goal to be an employer of choice.

Language is a major barrier for the public in accessing City programs, services, activities, and communications. This has been abundantly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic as immigrant and refugee community members expressed difficulty in accessing vital information in their languages. Approximately 50,000 multicultural community members who live in the City of Portland service area self-identify as limited English proficient.

One of the goals of the language pay differential policy is to increase equitable access to government for linguistically and culturally diverse community members. As we strive to be a more inclusive, multicultural institution serving the public equitably, increasing the number of different languages spoken by City staff to serve the public demonstrates a proactive effort to comply with civil rights obligations to reduce institutional language barriers and increase meaningful access to government programs, services, activities, and communications.

Multilingual City of Portland employees are currently providing language assistance to the public without being compensated, and this is a workplace equity issue that needs to be rectified. This policy also supports the City of Portland’s adopted commitment to be an “Employer of Choice” in attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse, culturally informed workforce.

For a year and half, a policy team with representatives from different City bureaus led the development of the language pay differential policy. Primary policy development activities included internal and external stakeholder engagement; including researching local jurisdictions, such as Multnomah County, City of Gresham, and Hillsboro, and State of Oregon, who already provide a language pay differential to their employees. Thank you to the city employees (Diverse Empowered Employees of Portland or DEEP affinity groups) that were part of the internal stakeholder engagement of the policy development process.

The Office of Equity and Human Rights, Bureau of Human Resources, and City Budget Office have collaborated on the policy implementation plan. The policy shall be implemented for the FY 2021-22 fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2021.

Please be on the lookout for a Citywide employee survey that will collect data from staff responses to provide an estimate of the number of employees who could be eligible to test for the language pay differential. Ultimately, with a successful passing score these employees would be compensated for their language skills and services.

We understand there may be many questions regarding this policy. For additional information that may contain the answers to your questions, and to learn about the year and a half long policy process, please see list of resources below:

FAQ link

Resolution No. 37525

Council adopts policy – December 16, 2020 AM session (starts 5:25:11)

Council work session – December 1, 2020
(starts at 1 min 10 sec)