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Civil Rights Enforcement and Proactive Initiatives Highlighted in OHR 2015 Annual Report

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Annual report includes discrimination complaint statistics and agency’s proactive work

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, February 17, 2016

CONTACT: Elliot Imse, Director of Policy and Communications – 202.481.3773; [email protected]  

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) today released its Highlights of Fiscal Year 2015 annual report, detailing the agency’s enforcement of District civil rights laws, including the Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act (FCRSA) which it began enforcing in December 2014. OHR reports that FCRSA enforcement and increased awareness of its services contributed to a 113 percent increase in the number of discrimination cases docketed in fiscal year 2015. The report also shows claims of discrimination based on disability were the most commonly filed with the agency under the DC Human Rights Act (HRA), followed by complaints based on race and then sex.  

“The first year of the Bowser administration has been both exciting and productive for the Office of Human Rights,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “The Fair Criminal Record Screening Amendment Act – commonly called “ban the box” – led to a significant increase in the number of cases filed with our agency. At the same time, we have focused on outreach to businesses, to ensure they are aware of and understand District civil rights laws. We know this outreach is critical to preventing discrimination against District residents, workers and visitors.”

Of OHR’s 1,075 docketed cases in fiscal year 2015, 633 were filed under HRA, the District’s non-discrimination law. Of these 63 percent alleged employment discrimination, and disability (166), race (158), and sex (137) were the most commonly cited protected traits. Three-hundred and sixty five docketed cases alleged a violation of FCRSA, 68 cases alleged a violation of the DC Family and Medical Leave Act, and nine cases alleged non-compliance with the District’s language access laws. OHR mediated 634 cases with a settlement rate of 48 percent, and settlement amounts totaling $3.69 million.

In addition to case processing, OHR launched several proactive initiatives last fiscal year. More than 1700 participants, including employees from 46 businesses and organizations, registered for its “End the Awkward: Focus on the Person, Not the Disability” campaign, which encouraged participants to wear “End the Awkward” pins and have conversations with customers and acquaintances about respectful ways to interact with people with disabilities. It released its groundbreaking “Qualified and Transgender” report, which was the first government resume testing project in the nation to focus on employment discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people. And OHR created and placed its #WomenAreEqualDC campaign in the Metro system, which promotes workplace fairness and protections for District women.

OHR’s Citywide Youth Bullying Prevention Program reports that the DC Public Schools system, all youth-serving government agencies, and all but one public charter local education agency now have bullying prevention policies in place as required by law. OHR’s Language Access Program announced it trained more than 1,300 government employees on language access compliance and cultural competency, and developed a robust training toolkit to assist agencies in serving limited and non-English proficient customers.

More details about OHR’s caseload and initiatives are available in the Highlights of Fiscal Year 2015 report, which is available for download at http://ohr.dc.gov/page/annualreports/2015.

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About the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) was established to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect human rights for persons who live in or visit the District of Columbia. The agency enforces local and federal human rights laws, including the DC Human Rights Act, by providing a legal process to those who believe they have been discriminated against. OHR also proactively enforces human rights in the District through Director’s Inquiries, which allow it to identify and investigate practices and policies that may be discriminatory.