Nearly 300 government workers in Portland have taken paid bereavement leave after the city’s mayor suggested employees take paid time off to grieve blacks killed by police officers.
While it’s not immediately known why all 295 workers took the time off, the surge in leave came after Mayor Ted Wheeler encouraged city workers to take paid time to mourn the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black people shot by police. The mayor added the city was expanding their bereavement leave policy to include “collective grief and trauma.”
“We acknowledge that Black employees are experiencing a collective grief and trauma coming from a culmination of oppression that is over 400 years old,” Wheeler said in an email to city employees. “We hear and understand that many of our employees, especially our BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] employees, are deeply impacted by these recent events and are hurting.”
While the city added they wouldn't restrict who could or could not use the extra time off, white employees were encouraged against taking advantage of the new policy.
“The intent centered on the city’s Black and other employees of color as well as white staff who have immediate relatives who are people of color,” the email said.
“We are asking particularly white employees to reflect on why and how they are taking this time if they so choose, and we ask white employees to consider how they can support BIPOC colleagues,” the email said, adding that white employees should think about how they can make up the work left by black coworkers who do take extra time off.
“We are also encouraging BIPOC communities, particularly Black employees to take care of their needs and know that the City of Portland acknowledges that Black Lives Matter,” the email read.
A spokesperson for the city said they don’t track why staff request bereavement leave, so there’s no way of knowing whether the staff members who requested 40 hours of paid leave did to on Wheeler’s suggestion.