GLAA urges Office of Human Rights to update workplace posters
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Coalition to Clarify the DC Human Rights Act

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GLAA urges Office of Human Rights to update workplace posters


GAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
(202) 667-5139

December 12, 2006


Kenneth Saunders
Director
Office of Human Rights
441 4th Street, NW, Suite N570
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Ken:

As you know, with the passage of the Human Rights Genetic Information Amendment Act of 2004 and the Human Rights Clarification Amendment Act of 2005, two new categories have been added to the Human Rights Act (Act), “gender identity or expression” and “genetic information.” Consequently, the Workplace posters available on the Office of Human Rights (OHR) website are no longer legally sufficient, and fail to comply with D.C. Official Code § 2-1402.51:

Every person subject to this chapter shall post and keep posted in a conspicuous location where business or activity is customarily conducted or negotiated, a notice whose language and form has been prepared by the Office, setting forth excerpts from or summaries of, the pertinent provisions of this chapter and information pertinent to the filing of a complaint.

We believe that the posting requirement of the Act is a particularly important section in that it provides the most visible and ubiquitous form of education that the OHR has in educating the public on their rights under the law.

The addition of the category “Gender Identity or Expression” may need clarifying language on the posters that it covers transgender people, much like the existing posters note that the category “sex” includes gender or sexual harassment. Additional instructions may also be needed to explain the requirements of the regulations. A new Mayoral Order may be needed for the compliance with the new categories. A new Order may be useful in any event for Mayor Fenty to formally let every agency know how important the Act and the OHR are, much as previous mayors have done.

Since the first function of the OHR listed in § 2-1411.03 is education, it should be a high priority for the OHR to make sure that the workplace posters are accurate, professional, and well distributed.

§ 2-1411.03
The functions of the Office shall be to:

(1) Educate the public, including District residents and employers, about Unit A of this chapter ("Human Rights Act");

In addition to not including the new categories, the posters have the wrong list of categories. We note, for instance, that the Equality in Education poster http://ohr.dc.gov/ohr/frames.asp?doc=/ohr/lib/ohr/pdf/equality.pdf includes two categories that are not part of the Act’s section on educational institutions, Matriculation” and “Place of Business or Residence.”

§ 2-1402.41. Educational Institutions, Prohibitions.

It is an unlawful discriminatory practice, subject to the exemptions in § 2- 1401.03(b), for an educational institution:

(1) To deny, restrict, or to abridge or condition the use of, or access to, any of its facilities, services, programs, or benefits of any program or activity to any person otherwise qualified, wholly or partially, for a discriminatory reason, based upon the actual or perceived: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, family responsibilities, political affiliation, source of income, or disability of any individual…

We also find that the existing posters, with the exception of the private sector EEO poster, are not professional forms that convey the gravity and weight of the law. The clip-art on the posters has an extremely dated and unprofessional look that discourages schools and businesses from putting up the posters. With the necessary updating of the posters to comply with the changes in the Act, a redesign of the posters should be made as well.

Finally, we are unaware of any existing plan to distribute the posters to government agencies, businesses, and schools and the related notice to those entities that they have a legal obligation to put the posters in conspicuous places.

We believe that it should be relatively easy for the OHR to make the posters available to government agencies as part of the routine compliance efforts that the OHR conducts.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs should be tapped to distribute the posters to businesses and both public and private D.C. schools should be sent the education posters. ANC Commissioners should also be notified about the changes in the law because they are often the most aggressive enforcers of D.C. laws.

Additionally, private companies that sell comprehensive posters of all of the applicable laws to businesses should be notified of the legal requirement of employers to include the Act. One that has contacted GLAA is The District of Columbia Labor Law Poster Service, which lists a variety of posting requirements but not the Act They do include the federal Equal Employment Opportunity law that is far less comprehensive than the Act. This gives an employee an entirely misleading view of the range of their legal rights.

The Human Rights for Ex-Offenders Amendment Act of 2006, if it passes, will also change the Act requiring an update of the posters. We understand if the update and distribution of the posters is held off until that bill has passed, but a plan to write the new poster text and design official posters, and arrange for their distribution needs to be started right away.

If the coordination of agencies is a problem, we will be happy to help by working with the Mayor to exert his authority and D.C. Council to use their oversight authority with agencies that are not helpful. If there is a budgetary impact that the OHR or other agencies cannot absorb, we will be happy to work with the Mayor and the Council to make sure that the required funds are available. It may also be desirable to notify the Office of the Chief Financial Officer of the costs involved with changing and distributing the poster for inclusion in the financial impact statement of the Human Rights for Ex-Offenders Amendment Act of 2006 so that both the Mayor and the Council are on notice of the need for additional funding.

We believe that education about the inclusion of gender identity or expression in the Act is extremely important and we would like to be able to discuss your plan to update and distribute the posters as a positive accomplishment at the Council oversight hearings this Spring.

We will be happy to help in any way that we can to assist you in preparing a plan, re-writing and re-designing the posters, and their distribution. Please let us know how we can help with this effort.

Thank you.

Barrett Brick
President


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