When Is a Subway System Like a State? It's Not a Silly Question (The Washington Post) 06/09/02
OHR responds to Graham on executive order on human rights
Office of Human Rights
Nadine Chandler Wilburn
September 25, 2002
Councilmember Jim Graham
John Wilson Bldg.
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
Dear Mr. Graham:
This letter responds to your request made at the July 12, 2002, Oversight Hearing on Mayor's Executive Order 2000-131 (Executive Order). Specifically, you requested information on how the Office of Human Rights (OHR) intended to monitor agencies' compliance with this Executive Order. As we discussed at that hearing, the Executive Order was recently amended to include that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination which is also prohibited by the Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended (Act). The uniform language now reads:
NOTICE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION
In accordance with the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended, D.C. Official Code Section 2-1401.01 et seq., (Act) the District of Columbia does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, familial status, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, disability, source of income, or place of residence or business. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination which is also prohibited by the Act. Discrimination in violation of the Act will not be tolerated. Violators will be subject to disciplinary action.
This Executive Order requires agencies to place the above language on documents that recite the District's policy against discrimination. Therefore, the only way the OHR can determine whether an agency is in compliance with the Executive Order is to physically look at an agency's documents containing the language. Because of the OHR's limited staff, it is unable to conduct site visits to each agency to inspect documents containing the language. Instead, to monitor compliance, the OHR will request that agencies produce to the OHR by a date certain, a list of documents containing the uniform language, and the documents themselves. For example, in preparation for the up-coming October 21, 2002, Oversight Hearing on agencies' compliance with the Executive Order, the OHR has asked each agency to submit to the OHR, on or before October 7, 2002, a list of documents containing the uniform language, and the documents themselves.
The OHR intends to monitor agencies' compliance with the Executive Order annually, by requiring agencies to submit documents depicting their compliance by September 30th of each fiscal year. Currently, the review of the documents submitted by agencies are being done by myself, and my Executive Assistant. However, I intend to hire a Research and Compliance Officer by the end of October 2002, who will be responsible for monitoring agencies' compliance with the Executive Order, among other duties.
As you know, amendments to the Human Rights Act were recently passed by the City Council. These amendments are expect to take effect on today, September 25, 2002. The amendments are as follows:
- It is an unlawful discriminatory practice to discriminate against a person "perceived" to be in any of the Act's protected categories. Prior to the amendment, the Act protected actual members of a protected category and not persons perceived to be in a protected category;
- Harassment of persons on the basis of any protected category is prohibited;
- District government employees are no longer required to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a civil lawsuit under the Act. District employees may elect to either file a lawsuit directly with the court, or file a claim with the Office of Human Rights (OHR) ;
- The timely filing of a complaint with the OHR or with an agency's Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor tolls the Act's one-year statute of limitations;
- Education institutions are prohibited from unlawful discrimination when providing benefits and activities of institution programs; and
- District of Columbia agencies and offices are defined as places of "public accommodation" under the Act and are prohibited from engaging in unlawful discrimination in its programs, services, benefits or facilities.
I intend to initiate the process to amend the Executive Order again, to include both the "actual or perceived" language and a statement that harassment based on any of the protected categories is also prohibited by the Act. The Executive Order should be amended prior to the October 21st hearing, but will not become effective until after the hearing, to give agencies an opportunity to alter their documents.
Please feel free to contact me at 727-4954, if I can provide any additional information.
Nadine Chandler Wilburn
cc: Carolyn Graham