FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, February 13, 2015
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) saw a 41 percent increase in the number of discrimination cases docketed in fiscal year 2014, attributable in part to increased outreach and innovative reporting methods, according to its Highlights of Fiscal Year 2014 report released today. The report shows claims of discrimination based on sex were the most commonly filed with the agency, followed by complaints based on race and then disability. OHR also cites progress in bullying prevention policy compliance at District schools, and a social media-based campaign reminding businesses that single-occupancy bathrooms must be labeled in a gender-neutral manner, as key achievements.
“It has been a transformative and exciting year at the Office of Human Rights,” said OHR Director Mónica Palacio. “Through housing outreach events and our #SafeBathroomsDC campaign, we have built trust within vulnerable communities and increased awareness of OHR’s work, leading to substantially more discrimination complaints received by our agency. Looking ahead, we are very excited for the year to come as we support Mayor Bowser and her administration in fulfilling her vision of expanding equality in all eight wards.”
Over 77 percent of OHR’s 504 cases alleged employment discrimination, with sex (95), race (93), disability (87) and age (56) among the most commonly cited protected traits. Approximately 12.5 percent of cases involved denial of access to public accommodations, 7 percent were housing related, and 1 percent involved educational institutions. Nine cases alleged non-compliance with the District’s language access laws. Of the total number of cases mediated by OHR, 44.7 percent successfully settled for a total of $2.12 million in settlement agreements across the 186 settled cases.
Through its #SafeBathroomsDC campaign, OHR received 146 reports of businesses with single-occupancy bathrooms that did not display gender-neutral signage, which violates gender identity and expression protections in the District’s non-discrimination regulations. The campaign, which urged constituents to report non-compliant public bathrooms via Twitter or the OHR website, was launched in April and is ongoing. OHR contacts businesses reported to the agency and gives them 30 days to make all single-occupancy bathrooms gender-neutral.
In addition to investigations, OHR reported that the DC Public Schools system and all youth-serving government agencies, as well as 97 percent of public charter local education agencies, now have bullying prevention policies in place as required by the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012. OHR’s Language Access Program announced the successful launch of its Language Support Web Pages, which provide translated information and materials on nearly 30 District agency websites.
More details about OHR’s caseload and programs are available in the Highlights of Fiscal Year 2014 report, which is available for download at http://ohr.dc.gov/page/annualreports/2014.
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.