FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, June 26, 2019
CONTACT: Stephanie Franklin, Director of Communications & Community Engagement, [email protected]
New Civil Rights Laws and Community Engagement Highlighted in OHR’s Fiscal Year 2018 Report
Report includes discrimination data, program updates and proactive initiatives
(WASHINGTON, DC)— Today, the Bowser Administration and the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR), the agency that enforces the District’s anti-discrimination laws, released its FY 2018 annual report. The report highlights data on the rate of discrimination complaints received by OHR, as well as new laws being enforced, proactive initiatives, outreach and prevention efforts. OHR enforces the DC Human Rights Act of 1977 (HRA/the Act), which makes discrimination illegal based on 20 protected traits for people that live, visit or work in the District and prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and educational institutions.
In FY 2018, the District received a total 1,747 inquiries alleging discrimination, with OHR docketing 512 of those inquiries for investigation. Additionally, because mediation is mandatory in OHR’s process, approximately half of these individuals were able to settle their discrimination claims for a total of nearly $3 million dollars in monetary compensation.
At the beginning of FY 2018, OHR celebrated the 40th anniversary of the passage of the HRA with an event titled Still Standing Strong: 40th Anniversary of the DC Human Rights Act. The Act remains a model for other jurisdictions because it is one of the most progressive civil rights statutes in the country. Over the past few decades, amendments to the Act have steadily expanded the protections it offers, keeping the District at the forefront of civil rights.
“With each year we continue to make advances when it comes to critical civil rights issues and create pathways to justice by expanding our enforcement authority and community engagement,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “Putting timely and reliable information in the hands of our city’s residents, business leaders, and all employees is vital to our work at OHR; and we continue to expand our partnerships in Wards 7 and 8 and thereby ensure greater access to resources across all eight Wards.”
In FY 2018, OHR began enforcing two new laws, the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act (FCRSHA) and the Fair Credit in Employment Amendment Act. These two laws added additional civil rights protections for people seeking housing or employment, respectively. The FCRSHA makes it unlawful for housing providers to screen and/or make an inquiry about an applicant’s criminal history at any point before making a conditional offer of housing. The Fair Credit Act made credit information the 20th protected trait in the District under the HRA and prohibits employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from discriminating against job applicants or existing employees based on their credit information.
Additionally, OHR made a concerted effort to tailor its outreach towards several communities that have become growing targets for discrimination, most notably residents East of the Anacostia River, the returning citizens community and the Jewish community. Most notably, OHR collaborated with Mayor Bowser and other District agencies to convene community members, leaders and stakeholders to discuss issues relating to bias and civil rights, known as Listening Labs. The first Lab was held in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Ward 1 and the other was held in the Anacostia neighborhood in Ward 8. The goal of each Lab was to simply listen and engage communities surrounding their needs, establish open dialogue and together, find potential solutions to issues of discrimination, intolerance and inequality.
Throughout the year, OHR conducted over 75 “Know Your Rights” workshops across the city; hosted 65 trainings on the Fair Criminal Records Screening in Housing and the Fair Credit Act; and equipping our District agencies to better serve residents and visitors through its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Counseling, Language Access and Bullying Prevention Programs.
For the full report visit ohr.dc.gov/page/annualreports/2018.
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.