A new committee is reviewing the city's outdated affirmative action policy.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A newly formed committee has begun to look at revisions for Pittsfield's outdated affirmative action policy, in response to inquiries made earlier this year into an apparent lack of diversity in the hiring of city employees.
In its first meeting on Wednesday, the volunteer committee reviewed the city's current policy document
, which dates back to 1991, and discussed some of the goals and issues involved in bolstering non-discriminatory hiring practices for municipal workers.
"This is important work," said Mayor Daniel Bianchi, thanking the members of the new public body, which include members from various minority advocacy organizations and other relevant sectors of the community, for volunteering their time and expertise.
Impetus for the overhaul arose this spring when the local NAAACP chapter inquired about the status of the city's current written policy, following accusations by a Medford resident that minorities were underrepresented in city government.
City Hall's newly hired Personnel Director John DeAngelo and Personnel Technician Michael Taylor told the committee that some efforts have already been undertaken to increase diversity in hiring practices. Out of 20 city jobs that have become available since DeAngelo came on board in May, about 15 percent were minority candidates, and more than double that percentage (three out of nine) in those hired since the beginning of September.
"I've been happy with the flow of job applications and resumes into the city," said DeAngelo.
Taylor said a few small changes have been made to the city's job application form, including an expanded Equal Opportunity statement and a section asking where applicants found the job listing, as part of an effort to expand to a wider more inclusive distribution of postings. DeAngelo added that they have also revived use of a confidential voluntary disclosure form for keeping track of demographic information, a practice that had fallen by the wayside.
In reviewing policies for increasing diversity in the municipal work force, committee member Cecilia Rock said the city must be careful in establishing standards.
"The real concern about goals and timetables is that the might become quotas," said Rock, formerly an affirmative action officer for Rutgers University and New York University Medical Center. "If you go there, you've done something wrong."
"You're not going to get a perfect percentage," said committee member Jeff Hunt, "I see in a lot of cases where we're going to make every effort to strive toward."
Brian House said goals need to encompass "more than just the hiring of X amount of people," and must include the way that the city gets the word out about open positions.
An example of this includes greater use of online sources, which Taylor said elicit a greater level of response than traditional newspaper listings.
In addition to soliciting applications and hiring, the affirmative action policy also includes provisions for combating discrimination and harassment after hire, an aspect the committee will also examine as it seeks to update this going forward.
"It has to be stated very clearly to employees of Pittsfield that harassment will not be tolerated," said Rock.
Ultimately, the committee will average around four meetings per year, but will pursue a more rigorous schedule while in the initial stages of updating the current policy, re-convening next month to discuss further issues with the 22-year-old document.