“Infants at Work” is Taking Off in State Government

The idea of bringing babies into the workplace has been explored by local jurisdictions and by the private and non-profit sectors, but it’s relatively new to Washington’s state agencies. The Department of Health was the first agency to create one; they officially implemented their Infants at Work (IAW) policy on July 1st, 2015. Today DOH, the Health Care Authority, the Traffic Safety Commission, the Department of Commerce, Utilities and Transportation Commission, the Department of Enterprise Services, the Department of Early Learning, the Department of Licensing, Department of Natural Resources, Labor and Industries, and the Office of Financial Management all either have policies in place or are piloting the program. Several other agencies are currently exploring the concept.

The main components of the program are pretty standard across agencies:

  • Babies of approved participants can come in from the age of six weeks to six months, or until they are crawling.
  • There must be at least two approved back-up caregivers.
  • A safety checklist and risk assessment of the parent’s workspace must be done.
  • Parents can bring only one infant into the workplace at a time.
  • Parents and caregivers still need to be able to get work done.
  • Sick infants or infants that are fussy/disruptive for a prolonged period are taken home.

The benefits of IAW policies include: increased employee retention, employees interested in returning from leave sooner, increasing dedication to the employer, and greater employee satisfaction and long term productivity. It offers health benefits to babies, supporting critical bonding, infant brain development and prolonged breastfeeding for mothers who choose to breastfeed. IAW can help a mother continue breastfeeding longer, which has been shown to reduce health care costs and sick days taken later on.[1] It allows the participating parent to save money on childcare, which can be a tremendous expense. Fathers can participate too, letting them be more involved in baby bonding. The IAW concept has been discussed as one of the ways Washington state agencies can work toward the Governor’s Goal 5, specifically becoming an “Employer of Choice,” by offering families more options and increasing employee satisfaction.

DOH has now had 40 infants participate in their program as of May 2017! They have information posted on their public page as a great resource for people or agencies interested to learn more:


IAW policies give parents more choices, which is a good thing for families, agencies and ultimately Washington State. For full disclosure, this writer’s son was a participant earlier this year; I feel extremely grateful for the program. That time spent bonding with my son while still being able to work was priceless, and my co-workers loved having the wee baby Vazquez in the office. He’s now eight months old and has “graduated.”

Written 10/15/16, updated 7/24/17

[1] Parenting in the Workplace Institute: http://www.babiesatwork.org/ROI%20From%20a%20Babies-at-Work%20Program.pdf

ICSEW Member Makes History

Congratulations to one of our committee members and Executive Secretary for ICSEW, Kristin Ramos.  Kristin, who works at the Department of Commerce, recently made history becoming one of the first two female officers to be commissioned in the Washington State Guard.  Isabelle Molamphy, with the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), was the other female officer commissioned at the May 6 ceremony.  The commissioning was following a 23-month Officer Candidate School (OCS) program patterned after the OCS program at Fort Benning.

Second Lieutenant Ramos will report to the civil affairs branch of the Guard, where she will help train new and experienced soldiers. She has prior education and experience teaching, so the seeming incongruity of teaching something recently learned is not new to her. Quoting the famous educational aphorism, she says, “To teach is to learn twice.”

The Washington State Guard supports the National Guard in responding to disasters and other Governor-declared incidents. When not activated, members are not paid for training, uniforms or travel. The Washington State Guard traces its history back to 1855 when the Washington Territorial Legislature enacted the first law creating the organized militia. After Washington became a state, it created a state militia in 1890.

Making state agencies work for LGBTQ employees and customers

Gov. Jay Inslee shaking hands with Franklin Plaistowe, assistant director for State Human Resource at the LGBTQ Employee Resource Group in Tumwater, Wash., Jan. 31, 2017
(Official Governor’s Office Photo)

“As long as I am governor, Washington will remain a place where no one can be discriminated against because of who they love, the color of their skin, their country of origin or how they worship.”

With those words, Gov. Jay Inslee kicked off the state’s newly-formed LGBTQ Employee Resource Group Tuesday before more than 300 state employees at the state Labor & Industries office in Tumwater.

The resource group is tasked with implementing the governor’s Safe WA directive issued last year. The initiative’s purpose is to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace for state workers and ensure that Washingtonians in the LGBTQ community can look to public-facing state offices for safe and secure spaces.

“We want to promote diversity and inclusion. Not only is it the right thing to do, we will create better workplaces and provide better services to our customers,” said Dr. John Wiesman, secretary of the Department of Health and the resource group’s executive sponsor. “This kickoff is the start of bringing LGBTQ employees and allies to the table. That is part of our mission as public servants and our responsibility as employers.”

The resource group is tasked with three goals:
•Advise and develop strategies to create safe, diverse and inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ employees and customers.
•Identify best practices, working with the Office of Financial Management’s State Human Resources Division to find innovative work underway to benefit LGBTQ employees and customers statewide and nationally.
•Develop a statewide safe place program modeled on those operated by the Olympia and Seattle police departments that offer safe, secure environments to request help and be connected to support services.

While the directive now applies to all state agencies that report to the governor, the resource group hopes to expand its efforts to other separately elected offices such as the offices of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Attorney General and others.

“We’ve not always had a place at the table for all the communities we serve,” said Franklin Plaistowe, assistant director for State Human Resources. “State government needs to be a place where as an employer we show a commitment to all our employees and demonstrate that they are respected, valued and understood.”

With Wiesman as executive sponsor, the resource group also includes another member of the governor’s cabinet, Lourdes (Alfie) Alvarado-Ramos, director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This is one of the first state governments to have a LGBTQ resource group for state employees,” Alvarado-Ramos said. “We are working to create a state government of openness, learning and opportunity.”

The resource group is co-chaired by Ellis Israel, a recruitment supervisor with the Department of Licensing, and Justin Taylor, a communications consultant with the Department of Labor and Industries.

When asked about the motivation to get involved in the resource group, Ellis was frank. “As a transgender person, I have not always been able to bring my authentic self to work. It greatly impacted my productivity, my engagement, my work relationships and my service to the public,” they said (“they” being Ellis’s preferred pronoun). “There is currently no enterprise-wide infrastructure in place to help LGBTQ employees. We don’t know how many of us work for the state or what our needs are. This resource group is open to everyone, including allies.”

Participation in the group is voluntary. Employees must have supervisor approval, be able to commit two to three hours a month. Because the group’s efforts are workplace related, participants do not have to take personal or vacation leave. State agencies will support the work and implement inclusion plans and other resources developed by the resource group.

Resource group co-chair Justin Taylor was invigorated by the initial interest and the number of people who attended Tuesday’s meeting. “This is a great start. I am excited about making structural change happen across the state,” he said. “This employee-driven program will involve as many voices as possible. We want to get this right and we want to start positively impacting lives.”

The resource group will meet every month and plans to provide a report to the governor in June with recommendations and updates on progress.

“The governor has shown strong and consistent commitment to this community, from the diversity of leadership that he has brought to his cabinet, where he ensures that cabinet members reflect all of Washington state, to this directive that prioritizes employee-driven efforts to support our LGBTQ employees and customers,” Wiesman said. “It makes a tremendous difference for all people to see themselves reflected in leadership and know that they are a priority.”



HCA Plain Talk Presentation given during January General Membership Meeting

Amy Blondin speaking about Plain Talk

Amy Blondin, pictured above, and Cheryl Moore from Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) communications department presented a short training on Plain Talk to the ICSEW general membership on January 17th.

Plain talk messages are clear, concise and visually easy to read written communications. Amy and Cheryl stressed the importance of knowing your audience while writing to create conversation that is easy for anyone to read. Additionally, make sure that you have a clear purpose and message.

For additional information on Plain Talk view their Plain Talk Presentation PowerPoint Presentation File and this document with additional Online resourcesAdobe PDF Document.


January is Cervical Health Awareness Month


January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and ICSEW wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to prevent cervical cancer.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. About 79 million Americans currently have HPV, but many people with HPV don’t know they are infected. HPV is also a major cause of cervical cancer. Each year, more than 11,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

The good news?

The HPV vaccine (shot) can prevent HPV. Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care.

In honor of National Cervical Health Awareness Month, ICSEW encourages:
Women to start getting regular Pap tests at age 21
Parents to make sure pre-teens get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12

Teens and young adults also need to get the HPV vaccine if they didn’t get it as pre-teens. Women up to age 26 and men up to age 21 can still get the vaccine.

Thanks to the health care reform law, you and your family members may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to learn more.

Did you know?

The FDA has approved a two-dose schedule for the Gardasil HPV vaccine for males and females ages 9-14?

Taking small steps can help keep you safe and healthy.

To learn more visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition at http://www.nccc-online.org/


First 6-month-old ‘graduate’ from HCA’s Infants at the Workplace program

By: Laurel Bennett, HCA


Anaya Darlene turned 6 months old recently and became the first “graduate” of HCA’s Infants at the Workplace program. Anaya’s mom is Talia Mazzara, HCA (left), and her backup work caretaker is Joanna Gaffney, HCA (right). Eight infants—some not yet born!—have been approved for the program since it began in July this year, with five reporting to the office so far.


Skilled and employed workers use WorkSource to further their career

By Chad Pearson, Employment Security Department; Submitted by Cheryl Flynn

Many people think WorkSource is only for the unemployed, but more than 170,000 people used WorkSource last year, many of them employed. Washingtonians are learning that WorkSource career centers offer valuable resources — all free.

More and more skilled and employed workers are turning to WorkSource to attend classes geared to marketing their skills and abilities to prospective employers, putting a shine on their resumes and honing their interview skills.

With many companies looking for staff in a shrinking labor market, these skills can set you apart from other candidates and help you land that dream job. If you haven’t visited a WorkSource Career Center, now’s the time!

“If you want to explore job leads, take a workshop or research a promising new line of work, WorkSource should be your first stop,” said Dale Peinecke, commissioner of the Employment Security Department. ”No matter what your next step, WorkSource can help.”

WorkSource also has teamed up with Monster.com to launch a powerful new employment website called WorkSourceWA.com. The site offers employers free unlimited job postings and the largest talent database in the state. WorkSourceWA.com is attracting more employers every day, which   means job seekers can view thousands of jobs, and upcoming hiring and training events.

WorkSource is a partnership of state, local and nonprofit agencies delivering a wide array of employment and training services for job seekers and employers. Customers access services both online and by visiting the network of more than 60 WorkSource career centers, affiliates and connection sites statewide.

WorkSource staff help you as much or little as you want. They can point you to the self-help tools or support you through each step of your job search; it’s up to you. Studies show that people who use WorkSource services tend to find work faster and earn more money than those who don’t.

To get help with your job hunt or with your business, go to WorkSourceWA.com, and use the locator tool under the website’s resources tab to find your nearest career center.

The ICSEW toiletries drive is a huge success

By: Jennifer Masterson

Thanks to all who participated in the ICSEW toiletries drive. The YWCA’s Other Bank estimates that state agencies donated nearly $8,500 in products. Check it out!


Products distributed by The Other Bank cannot be purchased with food stamps and are not available at food banks, yet they are essential for maintaining health. The Other Bank offers assistance to over 24,000 individuals every year. One-third of their clients are younger than 13 and half of these children are under the age of 5.  Their  clients are also elderly, disabled, homeless, unemployed, or are just struggling the make ends meet.

If you are interested in making further donations of supplies or money to the Other Bank, here is their website. They would very much appreciate your support.

Here’s a tally of donations, by agency:

Agency Total Donation

(Cash and Goods)

DOT HQ Olympia $1,294.10
Dept. Of Enterprise Services $1,221.35
Dept Of Ecology $1,205.45
Department Of Corrections $619.45
Office of the Insurance Commissioner $541.75
Office of Financial Management $527.20
WA State Parks and Recreation Commission $497.00
Department Of Health $455.55
Labor and Industries $379.60
WA Tech $362.65
Board Of Industrial Insurance Appeals $355.00
Dept. of Commerce $304.25
Financial Institution $265.75
Washington State Investment Board $137.45
Governor’s Office $91.50
Public Employment Relations Commission $74.00
Office Of Superintendent Of Public Instruction $32.00
ICSEW Conference $30.20
Department of Retirement Systems $20.00

Safety tips for women during the holiday shopping season

By: Kate Sherrer

The smell of pumpkin spiced lattes, cinnamon scented pine cones and holiday treats are in the air!

With the holiday shopping season in full-swing, it is important to remember not everyone at or around the shopping centers are there in good holiday spirit. Some people have bad intentions to take advantage of shoppers who are caught up in the busyness of the holiday activities.

It doesn’t matter where you live or shop or pump your gas, crime happens. We are often most vulnerable when we are comfortable in our local neighborhood grocery stores or shopping malls.

For most of us, these are great reminders, but some of the expert safety tips might be new to you:

  • Be aware of your surroundings inside and outside of the stores – which means put your senses on alert – be able to hear and see what is going on around you.
  • Secure your belonging and purse. Use the kid shopping cart safety straps to ‘lock’ your purse to the cart. Make sure the pockets on your purse are closed or zipped up. If your attention is distracted and your purse is open, someone could easily grab your wallet without you noticing until you check-out.
  • Watch out for suspicious people that might be watching you. We have all had that gut-feeling of being watched at some point in our lives. Don’t ignore that sense, look around, if you aren’t feeling safe then ask a security guard to walk you to your car.
  • Park in a well-lit area and remember where you parked. Use store buildings or signs or parking spot numbers to help you remember exactly where you parked.
  • Have your keys ready to unlock the car prior to leaving the store. You can also lace your keys through your fingers as a potential weapon if you are approached in a parking lot and need to defend yourself.
  • Once inside your car, lock the car doors immediately.
  • At gas stations, lock the doors of the vehicle while pumping gas. Too many times, victims have been fumbling with their payment and gas pump at the station, while a criminal easily opens the passenger door to grab your purse. Putting your purse on the floor on the driver’s side (or gas tank side) and locking the door will help prevent this from happening to you.Here are some articles with more quick tips on keeping you safe this holiday season:The Personal Safety Training group: Holiday Shopping. Some Personal Safety Tips http://powertochange.com/life/personalsafetytips/WKYT – Lexington, KY news website http://www.kevincoffey.com/mall/mall_safety_tips_for_the_holiday_season.htm
  • Corporate Travel Safety: Mall Safety During the Holidays
  • http://www.wkyt.com/content/news/Holiday-shopping-safety-tips-from-Lexington-Police-402477965.html
  • Top 10 Safety Tips for Women
  • http://www.personalsafetygroup.com/2010/11/holiday-shopping-personal-safety-tips/

2016 ICSEW Leadership Conference Career Advancement Panel Session

by Pamela Smith, ICSEW Professional Development Chair

Panel of presentors at the 2016 ICSEW Leadership Conference.

Many attendees of the 2015 ICSEW leadership conference expressed an interest in having more sessions on career advancement. To fulfill this need, a Career Advancement Panel session was offered at this year’s conference.

The panel consisted of five professional women from the public and private sectors. They offered a vast array of knowledge, experiences, and expertise on how to advance your professional career. Some of the topics covered included:

  • Resume & cover letter etiquette,
  • How to launch yourself to the next level,
  • Acing an interview,
  • How background and credit checks could potentially play a role in hiring decisions, and
  • Tips how to navigate the online state application system, careers.wa.gov.

The session began with panel members introducing themselves and giving brief overviews of their expertise. Then session attendees were given an opportunity to ask questions. The varied backgrounds and experiences of the speakers and format of the session created an interactive energy and provided an educational outlook, not often found in a solo or co-presenter situation. Panel members provided informational hand-outs and stayed after the session to answer more questions.

Some of the positive feedback from attendees included:

  • “Lots of take-a-ways. Loved that each panelist brought something relevant to the table, especially the Q&A part.”
  • “Great tips to empower yourself & go for it!”
  • “Gives me better perspective when applying for growth position.”

The ICSEW leadership conference provides a valuable opportunity for professional development, that might otherwise not be available, and empowers individuals in state government to positively shape their lives.

From a dedicated state employee and the ICSEW Professional Development Chair, thank you to the panel members who volunteered their time and talents to help expand the attendees’ knowledge and assist with their individual career goals. The vast amount of knowledge, capability, and generosity of these diverse speakers’ contributions are truly inspirational.

For additional information, materials from the conference are available here.