FAQ

In what areas does the Human Rights Commission enforce the anti-discrimination ordinance?
Answer:

The Human Rights Commission fosters equal opportunity in:

  • Housing
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Public Accommodation
  • Credit
What kinds of discrimination are prohibited by the City of Columbus' Human Rights Ordinance?
Answer:

The Human Rights Ordinance states that it is the public policy of the City of Columbus to provide all of its citizens equal opportunity and that it is unlawful to discriminate in the areas of employment, housing, education, public accommodation or credit on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • National origin or Ancestry
  • Familial status (in housing)
How does a person file a complaint?
Answer:

Any person claiming to be aggrieved by a discriminatory practice or act contrary to the Human Rights Ordinance may file a complaint with the Columbus Human Rights Ordinance at no charge. The complaint must be filed within 90 days of the alleged discriminatory act, or for housing discrimination complaints, within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. A person wishing to file a complaint should call or visit the Human Rights Commission office to schedule an appointment:

Columbus Human Rights Commission
City Hall
123 Washington St. # 5
Columbus, IN 47201
Office: (812) 376-2532
FAX: (812) 375-2752
TDD: (812) 375-2720

Does your ordinance cover sexual orientation discrimination and do you take sexual orientation complaints?
Answer:

If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, please call our office or email us, as we may be able to help you. Many employers prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in their personnel policies, and we may be able to help you file an internal grievance. Also, we keep a record of all instances of such discrimination, and if you wish to remain anonymous, you can. In some instances, the discrimination you allege may be covered by local, state and federal sexual harassment and sex discrimination laws, and you may be able to file a formal complaint with our agency. Also, our office has a contact numbers for local and state resources to help you, including a local Gay/Straight Alliance chapter, a local Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapter, the Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) and other resources as well. Currently, state and local law does not explicitly address sexual orientation discrimination in the civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, although sexual orientation is covered by Indiana's Bias Crimes Reporting Act. For more information, please review these documents which provide more information on the Human Rights Commission's policy on sexual orientation discrimination and a Resolution concerning sexual orientation discrimination passed by Commissioners in 2001

Do I qualify for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) coverage?
Answer:

The Human Rights Commission does not enforce the FMLA, as it is a federal law. The Commission, can, however, provide you with information and technical assistance on the FMLA. Only certain employers are covered by the FMLA, and only certain employees are eligible for FMLA coverage. The United States Department of Labor (DOL) enforces the FMLA, or, you can seek assistance from a private attorney. For more information on the FMLA, you can visit the DOL's website: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/fmla.htm or contact the DOL office closest to Columbus:

Indianapolis District Office
US Dept. of Labor
ESA Wage & Hour Division
U.S. Courthouse
46 E. Ohio Street
Room 413
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone:
1-866-4-USWAGE
(1-866-487-9243)

Ella Johnson
District Director

Synopsis of the FMLA: Covered employers (fifty or more employees or a government agency) must grant an eligible employee (employed at least twelve months and worked at least 1250 hours at a work place with fifty or more employees within a seventy-five mile radius) up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

 

What services does the Commission provide local employers, landlords and schools?
Answer:

The Human Rights Commission provides general technical assistance to area businesses and schools who are trying to comply with the Human Rights Ordinance. The staff makes every effort to answer your questions with regard to compliance, and we have a wealth of resources at the Commission office which are available to you at no charge. Simply call the Commission office or stop by to set up an appointment to speak to a staff person, or use our resources. The Commission also has resources and training materials specifically for schoolchildren, which can be checked out of the office at no charge. Commissioners and staff also can speak or provide training on site in Columbus. Some past trainings provided to area businesses and schools include: Anti-Harassment Training for the Workplace; Anti-Harassment Training for the Classroom; Anti-Harassment Training for Landlords and Land Management Companies; Discrimination Issues and Challenges for Employers; How to Hire, Promote and Fire Without Getting the Employment Discrimination Blues; and Documenting Discipline. The Commission is able to provide technical assistance only and the trainings and information provided should not be considered legal advice.

What process does the Commission use to investigate a complaint of discrimination?
Answer:

A complaint of discrimination is not a lawsuit, but will be given serious attention by the Human Rights Commission. The Commission does not represent either side, and will investigate the complaint in a fair, impartial manner. At all times, the burden of proof rests with the Complainant to show that discrimination occurred. All complaints are fully investigated and the position of each side is given thorough consideration. At the close of the investigation, a finding will be made in favor of either the Complainant or the Respondent. At any time in the process, the two sides may reach a settlement.

Investigation:
After the complaint is filed, the investigator will collect and summarize the facts. He or she must collect the BEST evidence available for each side. Thus you may be asked to supply documents which support your position. The investigator may seek information to compare the treatment given the Complainant to treatment given others similarly situated. Your lawyer is welcome to participate in the investigation, but a lawyer is not required.

Determination by Chairperson and Director:
After the investigation is finished, the investigator presents the facts and recommendations to the Chairperson and Director, who review the material and make a determination of Probable Cause or No Probable Cause that an illegal act of discrimination did occur. The Complainant has fifteen (15) days to ask for reconsideration of a No Probable Cause finding by the Commission. A finding of Probable Cause is not the final decision, but is a finding that a discriminatory act may have been committed. If a decision of Probable Cause is made, both sides are given the chance through negotiations to find a solution that both parties find satisfactory.

Conciliation:
If Probable Cause is found in a case, a formal attempt at resolving the case will be made. The parties are given the chance to compromise their differences with negotiations through a Commissioner. This process is called conciliation. The type and amount of damages available to the Complainant depend on the type of case. Only in housing cases may punitive damages be awarded. If the Respondent proposes a Conciliation Agreement, which the Commission feels is satisfactory, the Complainant will be notified, and will have ten (10) days after that notice to sign the proposed Agreement. If at the end of the ten (10) days the Complainant has not signed the proposed Conciliation Agreement, the complaint will be dismissed. If settlement is achieved, a written Conciliation Agreement will be issued for signatures by all parties. When approved, a Conciliation Agreement has the same effect as a Final Order.

Public Hearing:
If conciliation fails, the case is heard at a formal Public Hearing. The burden of proof is on the Complainant. A designated Hearing Officer presides at the Public Hearing.

Final Order:
A Final Order by the Commission is binding. Either party may seek judicial review within fifteen (15) days.

Remedies:
If the Commission finds discrimination, a Final Order may include a Cease and Desist Order and require further remedies that will eliminate discrimination. This might include reinstatement to a job, monetary relief where evidence showed that there was some resulting loss, making a house or apartment available and validating selection devices.

 

What are a Complainant's rights and responsibilities?
Answer:

You have the right:

  • To know the status of your case, and who is working on it.
  • To have written notice of any hearing or final action relating to your case.
  • To have an attorney present at any stage of the process.
  • To file and pursue a charge without being harassed, intimated or retaliated against.
  • To obtain a full remedy, if discrimination is found.
  • To appeal any final decision of which you don't approve.

You have a responsibility:

  • To supply and explain all relevant information, data, or papers to the investigator, upon request.
  • To answer all telephone or mail inquiries from the Commission. Your case may be dismissed if you don't. These will be as convenient and as infrequent as possible.
  • To attend all meetings and hearings. We will try to accommodate your schedule if we can.
  • To follow your case: Keep in touch; leave us all new addresses or phone changes, inquire if there are undue delays.
What Are A Respondent's Rights And Responsibilities?
Answer:

If a charge is filed, you have a right:

  • To have a clear, coherent written statement of the charge.
  • To know the status of your case and who is working on it.
  • To have written notice of any hearing or final action.
  • To appeal any final decision.
  • To have an attorney present at any stage, if you so desire.

You have a responsibility:

  • To supply and explain all relevant information, data, or papers to the investigator, upon request.
  • To answer all telephone or mail inquiries from the Commission. These will be as convenient and infrequent as possible.
  • To attend all meetings and hearings. We will try to accommodate your schedule if we can.
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