Report calls for changes to how Providence recruits, retains workers

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A task force assigned to craft a strategy for addressing the wage gap between male and female government employees in Providence has put forward a slew of recommendations designed to help the city recruit and retain workers.

In a 15-page report issued to the City Council last month, the Providence Equal Pay Task Force said the city should improve data collection and reporting on job applicants, introduce policies that support a work-life balance, broaden recruitment efforts and transition all employees to step and grade compensation system.

“This year’s report details recommendations to improve employee data collection and validation practices, invest in recruitment and professional development, standardize performance appraisals and employee compensation, and build structures for continuous improvement,” Celeste Terry-Lo and Sol Taubin, the report’s authors, wrote in a letter to the mayor and City Council.

The seven-member task force was created in 2017 at the urging of Councilman David Salvatore (Ward 14), who said at the time he wanted the panel to function as a “conversation starter that provides city officials with best practices, tools and resources to promote and enact equal pay for equal work in Providence.”

Among the reccomendations to the city:

  • Begin collecting equal employment opportunity (EEO) data from job applicants – like race and gender – in order to evaluate efforts to build a more diverse workforce. It should also invest in a comprehensive applicant tracking system;
     
  • Introduce a “family-friendly policies & standardization of benefits that support work-life balance, including teleworking and flextime for exempt workers;”
     
  • Post all municipal jobs for a minimum of two weeks to add “a layer of transparency and accountability with respects to salary range;
     
  • Transition “all municipal employees onto step and grade system codified in classification and compensation ordinances;”
     
  • Implement a standardized evaluation and promotion process within government.

“We are a ‘city that works,’ which means all of us should have the same opportunity to be paid equally for the same position regardless of gender and race,” Salvatore said. “I have been a strong and steadfast supporter of the Equal Pay Task Force and will be introducing legislation that codifies many of their recommendations.”

Salvatore said he already sponsored an ordinance the prohibits private employers from asking potential workers for their salary history, “ending the systemic discrimination of women being paid less than their male counterparts here in Providence.”

Victor Morente, a spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza, said the city is “already in the process of implementing some of the recommendations” from the task force, including building internal infrastructure to collect EEO data and adopting policies designed to promote retention of existing employees.

“Mayor Elorza is committed to ensuring equity and inclusion city-wide,” Morente said. “Under his leadership, the City has diversified the municipal workforce and set into motion initiatives to create a leadership pipeline for employees that aims to close pay inequalities.”

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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