Spotlighting the Civil Rights Program during MLK celebration week

Fulfilling the dream of King County’s namesake is the focus of the office of Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) and its Civil Rights Program.

Matthew Butler is the Civil Rights Program manager here in Martin Luther King County.  “Being the Civil Rights Program manager in the county named after our country’s most prominent Civil Rights leader is an honor that means a lot to me and that I take great pride in,” Matthew said.

The Civil Rights Program is one resource for County employees who feel they have been discriminated against based on race, gender, national origin, age, religion, sexual orientation or disability.  The Program also investigates housing discrimination complaints from residents of unincorporated King County, and handles fair contracting and public accommodations cases.

Matthew practiced law as a prosecutor and defense attorney for 15 years prior to his current role leading the King County Civil Rights Program.  He now resolves employment complaints and rules on whether unlawful employment practices have occurred under the King County Fair Employment Code.

“My current focus is on creating awareness about the Civil Rights Program so that employees know that there’s a person they can talk to about their workplace, and to be a resource where they can get information about their rights without having to file an actual employment complaint,” Matthew said. “Anyone is welcome to talk to me about employment issues, and those conversations are confidential.”

If a formal complaint is filed, a written response is required from the department, witness interviews are conducted and relevant evidence and documents are evaluated.  After the investigation, Matthew issues his findings of fact and conclusions of law.

“Unlike some other investigations, Civil Rights cases are generally a more formal inquiry where I act as a neutral fact finder in the case,” Matthew said. “However, over the past year, the Civil Rights Program has placed a greater emphasis on trying to amicably resolve workplace issues, instead of just deciding which party wins or loses; some cases must come to a final ruling, but going forward, we are working to have more cases end in compromise because we believe that is better for the work environment in the long run.”

ESJ, spearheaded by Arun Sambataro, is also in the process of developing a model to provide guidance for employees and department leaders on how they can better engage in workplace conflict to enhance employment relationships.

“We all aspire to build work environments where employees are meeting their manager’s expectations and are happy at work,” Matthew said.  “And that is what I strive to achieve here in our Civil Rights Program.”

For questions, contact Matthew Butler at Matthew.Butler@kingcounty.gov. To find out more about King County’s ESJ work click click here.

This year, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration will take place on Thursday, January 11, 2018, from 1 – 2:30 p.m. at The Sanctuary, located at 811 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104.