(Washington, DC) – Today the Office of Human Rights (OHR) announced that for the first time in fifteen years, OHR has completely eliminated the backlog of cases filed with the Office. Ten years ago, OHR was plagued with a backlog of nearly 600 cases, and shortly before Mayor Fenty came into Office, the backlog was nearly 200.
This accomplishment demonstrates prompt decision making for people who claim discrimination and other social injustices in the District.
The complete reduction of backlogged cases is particularly significant in light of the fact that a record number of cases were filed with OHR last year. During the last fiscal year, OHR recorded a 32% growth in the number of new cases filed with the agency; and this fiscal year, the number of cases being investigated also reached a record number – more than 500 active cases to date. The increase in cases during the last three years in the District is consistent with the national trend and it is associated with the deteriorating economic and employment climate.
The DC Office of Human Rights leads the District’s efforts to protect the rights of citizens that live, visit or work in the District of Columbia. The work of the Agency helps improve the quality of life in the District by promoting and enforcing what is regarded as one of the most comprehensive human rights statutes in the nation – the DC Human Rights Act.
A case with OHR is considered backlogged after seven months lapse without the Office reaching a decision. Every case formally accepted by OHR has to go through a mandatory mediation process before a full investigation is conducted. If it is determined that there is “probable cause” to believe that a violation of the DC Human Rights Act has occurred, the Office certifies the case to the Commission on Human Rights for a public hearing; if it involves a District government case, it may be assigned to an independent hearing examiner. OHR also investigates discrimination cases based on federal laws on behalf of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The District’s Human Rights Act is broad in its protections and helps to increase equal opportunities in the District. The District of Columbia is one of the most diverse cities in the United States; it is comprised of people from many cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life. The workforce is as diverse as the city’s resident population. The milestone exemplifies the District’s commitment to not only enforcing anti-discrimination laws and policies in the nation’s capital, but to promoting tolerance, equality and fairness.