Thursday, August 23, 2007

Seven agencies that can help

A guide to city, state and federal agencies that accept complaints of discrimination

logos of seven human rights agenciesYou believe you've been a victim of illegal discrimination -- on the job, in housing, or in some other situation. Where can you turn? Who can investigate your case and, if the facts are on your side, seek a remedy on your behalf? Depending upon the type of discrimination and where it occurred, you may have several choices that won't cost you more than a postage stamp or two. Or you may have only one.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is a statewide agency charged with enforcing the state Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, receipt of public assistance, membership or activity in a local commission, age, sexual orientation, and familial status. The Act covers everyone in Minnesota. If the Department finds "probable cause" that the discrimination occurred, it can take the perpetrator to court, or negotiate a settlement on your behalf.

But it's not the only agency in Minnesota with investigative and enforcement powers over human rights. There are six others that can also get justice for victims of discrimination -- for cases that fall within their jurisdictions.

They include three city agencies and three federal ones: The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, the City of St. Paul Department of Human Rights, the Duluth Office of Civil Rights, the U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the U.S. Department of Labor, and HUD (Housing and Urban Development).

The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, City of St. Paul Department of Human Rights and the Duluth Human Rights Office all have authority to seek remedies for discrimination based on race, sex, religion, marital status, national origin, color, creed, sexual orientation, ancestry, and receipt of public assistance. These "protected classes" are generally the same ones recognized by state law (Chapter 363A), but the city departments derive their authority from city ordinances that cover discrimination that occurs within their boundaries.

If you live in a suburb or in greater Minnesota, you may also have a local human rights organization. There are about 45 local human rights commissions in the state; individually and together, they do much to promote human rights in their communities. But they lack the enforcement authority granted by law to the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and state of Minnesota departments.

The EEOC enforces federal antidiscrimination laws and investigates complaints on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion, age and disability -- but only if your complaint concerns employment.

If your employer does business with the federal government and has a government contract or subcontract for $10,000 or more, you also can complain to the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP investigates complaints of employment discrimination by federal contractors based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability and veteran's status.

If your employer didn't discriminate against you, but your landlord did, you can turn to HUD. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Renewal enforces the Federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, sex, religion, familial status, disability, national origin, and color. Of course, you can also take your housing discrimination case to the state Department of Human Rights, or (if the discrimination happened in those cities) to the St. Paul, Minneapolis or Duluth agencies.

Can you take your case to more than one agency at a time? Although these enforcement agencies often have overlapping jurisdiction, you can initiate a case with only one. The state Department of Human Rights, the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights and the St. Paul Department of Human Rights have worksharing agreements with the federal EEOC. The EEOC doesn't always have overlapping jurisdiction, but when it does, the other agencies will "cross-file" your charge with the EEOC. The EEOC also cross files charges it receives with the other agencies. In most cases, the agency with which you filed will be the one that processes your charge. But the dual filing preserves your rights with an alternate agency if you are dissatisfied with the first agency's determination.

Besides investigating complaints, each of the agencies has a broader educational mission, and a range of other services for individuals and businesses. The state and the Minneapolis and St. Paul city human rights agencies also have "contract compliance" units that monitor the activities of businesses that want state or city contracts, to ensure they are not discriminating. They also provide publications, posters, and can often find someone else to help you if your problem does not fall within their jurisdiction. For more information, you can contact them at the phone numbers listed here, or visit their web sites.

Minnesota Department of Human Rights

Basis of Authority: The Minnesota Human Rights Act (Chapter 363A)

Head of agency: Commissioner: Velma Korbel

Jurisdiction areas: Discrimination based upon race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, receipt of public assistance, age, sexual orientation, familial status (housing only), and local human rights commission activity (employment only). Areas covered include employment, housing, public accommodations, public service, education, credit, and business.

Number of cases per year: 1,100

Address: Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Sibley Square at Mears Park, 190 E. 5th Street, Suite 700, St. Paul, MN 55101

Phone numbers: 651-296-5663 Toll Free: 800-657-3704 TTY: 651-296-1283

Web site: www.humanrights.state.mn.us

Number of employees: 46

Additional information: Mission statement: To make Minnesota discrimination free.

A Contract Compliance Unit helps businesses that want to do business with the state of Minnesota to develop affirmative action plans, and certifies their compliance.

The Department also seeks to prevent discrimination and reduce intergroup conflict through educational and other programs statewide.

City of St. Paul Department of Human Rights

Basis of Authority: St. Paul City Ordinances: (Chapter 183 of the Saint Paul Legislative Code and Rules)

Head of agency: Tyrone Terrill, Director 651-266-8964 tyrone.terrill@ci.stpaul.mn.us

Jurisdiction areas: Discrimination based upon race, creed, religion, sex, sexual or affectional orientation, color, national origin, ancestry, familial status, age, disability, marital status and status with regard to public assistance. Areas covered include employment, education, housing, public accommodations, and public services within the boundaries of the City of St. Paul.

Number of cases per year: 200+

Number of contractors monitored per year: 550

Number of community outreach/educational events per year: 175

Address: City of St. Paul Department of Human Rights, 240 City Hall, 15 W. Kellogg Blvd. Saint Paul, MN 55102-1681

Phone numbers: Main #:651-266-8966 Fax: 651-266-8962 TDD: 651-266-8977

Web site: www.stpaul.gov/depts/humanrights/

Number of employees: 10

Additional information: The Contract Compliance Unit helps city contractors increase the number of women, minorities and disabled persons in the work place. Community outreach and education reduces prejudice, racism and discrimination through educational events in the community, our "Prejudice Isn't Welcome" and "My Race Human" campaigns.

Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights

Basis of Authority: The Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance (Title 7, Civil Rights, Chapter 139, Chapter 141 and Title 16, Chapter 427 of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances)

Head of agency: Michael Browne, Interim Director

Jurisdiction areas: Discrimination based upon sexual orientation, age, ancestry, color, creed, disability, familial status (real estate only) marital status, national origin, public assistance status, race, religion, sex (including sexual harassment).

Areas covered include aiding or abetting discrimination, coercion to discriminate, employment labor union membership, lending/credit, professional organizations, public accommodations, public services, real estate, and reprisals.

Number of cases per year: 350

Address: Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights City Hall, Room 239 350 South Fifth Street Minneapolis, MN 55415-1371

Phone number: 612-673-3012; 612-673-2599 Fax

Web site: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/citywork/civil-rights/

Number of employees: 25

Additional information: Educational and Outreach Services include: Landlord and Tenant Outreach and Education; Civil Rights Outreach and Education;Small and Underutilized Business Program (SUBP) Contact the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights for more information.

Duluth Office of Human Rights

Basis of Authority: Chapter 29C of the Duluth City Code

Head of agency: Meg Bye, Human Rights Officer
218-730-5630 mbye@ci.duluth.mn.us

Jurisdiction areas: Coverage is the same as under the state Human Rights Act. Discrimination is prohibited based upon race, creed, religion, sex, sexual or affectional orientation, color, national origin, ancestry, familial status, age, disability, marital status and status with regard to public assistance. Areas covered include employment, education, housing, public accommodations, public services, business and credit within the city of Duluth.

Number of cases per year: 100 inquiries per year; 16% become cases

Address: City of Duluth Human Rights Office 411 W. 1st St. Room 410 Duluth, MN 55802

Phone number: 218-730-5630

Web site: http://www.ci.duluth.mn.us/city/meeting/humanrights/hroindex.htm

Number of employees: 2+

Additional information: By agreement with HUD, the City of Duluth Human Rights Office has adopted a fair-housing supplement that is in agreement with the federal Fair Housing Act. (Cases of housing discrimination in Duluth are cross-filed with HUD.)

EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)

Basis of Authority: Federal statutes prohibiting discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin and disability. These include: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin) The Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 (prohibits employment discrimination against people 40 and older) The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (protects men and women who perform substantially equal work) Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, state and local governments) The Civil Rights Act of 1991(provides monetary damages in cases of intentional discrimination) Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (prohibits employment discrimination against federal employees with disabilities)

Head of agency: Naomi C. Earp, Chairwoman (head of the federal agency) John P. Rowe, District Director Julie Schmid, Acting Director, Minneapolis Area Office

Jurisdiction areas: Employment discrimination based on race, age, gender, disability, color, religion and national origin

Number of cases per year: 75,000+ nationally; 1,000 in Minnesota

Addresses: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Minneapolis Area Office, 330 South Second Ave., Suite 430 Minneapolis, MN 55401-2223

National Headquarters: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 1801 L Street NW Washington, DC 20705
Milwaukee Area Office: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 310 West Wisconsin Ave., Suite 800 Milwaukee, WI 53203-2292

Phone numbers: Minneapolis office: 612-335-4040 TTY: 612-335-4045
National Headquarters: 202-663-4900 TTY: 202-663-4494
National Contact Center: 1-800-669-4000 TTY: 1-800-669-6820 Milwaukee Area Office: 414-297-1111

Web site: www.eeoc.gov

Number of employees: Estimated 2,000 nationally; 16 in the Twin Cities

Additional information: The EEOC collaborates and cross files cases of employment discrimination with the state Department of Human Rights and/or with the Minneapolis and St. Paul human rights agencies, for cases in which they also have jurisdiction.

U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Basis of Authority: Federal housing and civil rights legislation, including: Department of Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 (created HUD) Civil Rights Act of 1968 (outlawed most housing discrimination, gives HUD enforcement responsibility) Fair Housing Act (Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988)

Head of agency: Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Minnesota office contacts: Jaime Pedraza, Director; Lerdine Darden, Equal Opportunity Specialist; Erika Finkler, Equal Opportunity Specialist; Shannon Louie, Equal Opportunity Specialist;

Jurisdiction areas: Housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or disability.

Number of cases per year: 50 (MInnesota office)

Address: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Minnesota Office: 920 Second Avenue South, Suite 1300 Minneapolis, MN 55402 (See mailing address for filing complaints, below)

Phone numbers: 612-370-3000 (Minnesota office) Hearing Impaired 612-370-3220 Toll free 1-800-669-9777

Web site: www.hud.gov

Number of employees: 83 in Minneapolis office (4 assigned to Fair Housing Division)

Additional Information: Complaints can be filed electronically through an online complaint form atwww.hud.gov or through the 1-800-669-9777 toll- free number. To submit a complaint via letter, write to: HUD Fairhousing Enforcement Center U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development 77 West Jackson Blvd., Room 2101 Chicago, IL 60604

U.S Department of Labor (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs)

Basis of Authority: Executive Order 11246 prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, gender, religion and national origin by firms with federal contracts over $10,000. Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires affirmative action programs for firms with federal contracts over $10,000. 38USC4212 of the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 prohibits employment discrimination and requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to employ qualified disabled and Vietnam era veterans

Head of agency: Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Labor Charles E. James, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Federal Contract Compliance Programs Sandra S. Zeigler, Midwest OFCCP Regional Director Margaret Kraak, District Director, OFCCP (Milwaukee office)

Jurisdiction areas: Employment discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability or veteran's status by federal contractors and subcontractors with contracts in excess of $10,000.

Addresses: National office: U.S.Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs 200 Constitution Avenue NW Room C-3325 Washington, DC 20210 Regional office: U.S. Department of Labor 230 South Dearborn Street Room 570 Chicago, IL 60604 Milwaukee District Office: Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs U.S.Department of Labor 310 W Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1115 Milwaukee WI 53203 Minneapolis Area Office: U.S. Department of Labor ESA - OFCCP 900 2nd Ave South, Suite 480 Minneapolis MN 55402-3386

Phone numbers: 1-888-37-OFCCP (Ombudsperson OFCCP) 1-202-219-9475 (National office) 1-312-353-0335 (Chicago regional office) 1-414-297-3821 (Milwaukee office) 612-370-3177 (Minneapolis Area Office)

Web site: www.dol.gov

Additional information: Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) - prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities.

The OFCCP shares enforcement authority under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the EEOC.

The OFCCP examines worker eligibility forms (I-9) during compliance reviews and reports results to the Immigration and Naturalization Service under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

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