Hate Crimes Ordinance Expanded to Protect Homeless from Attacks
By Brenda Anibarro, Policy and Outreach
In December of 2007
Seattle became the first city in the country to provide legal protections for victims
of hate crimes who are attacked because they are homeless. In a unanimous vote the
Seattle City Council passed an amendment expanding the city's hate crime law to include homeless people.
Lubna Mahadeen, a member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission testified on behalf of
the amendment stating, "Everyone has the right to feel safe in their community regardless of whether
they have a home or not."
The Homelessness Task Force of the Seattle Human Rights Commission developed the proposal based on
feedback received at a conference on homelessness the Commission held in 2004. Working with the
Seattle Office for Civil Rights, the Commission found significant data that homeless people are
at great risk of having violent crimes perpetrated against them solely because they are homeless.
Between 1999 and 2002, Seattle was ranked the 7th most dangerous city and Washington the 3rd most
dangerous state for people who are homeless.
Seattle's hate crime or malicious harassment law defines malicious harassment as intentionally
committing physical injury to another person, threatening or placing someone in reasonable fear
of harm, or causing physical damage or property destruction against someone because of the
perpetrator's perception of the person's gender identity, marital status, political ideology, age
or parental status.
The amendment extends protections to those who are perceived to be homeless. If a hate crime
occurs, the perpetrator faces the penalty of a gross misdemeanor in addition to any other penalties
incurred based on the incident.
Washington State's hate crime law protects race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender,
sexual orientation or mental, physical and sensory handicaps. These crimes carry a stiffer penalty
and are classified as a felony.
Community support for adding homelessness as a protected group was strong. Residents testified
about being physically attacked and of friends and family members violently assaulted simply
for living on the streets. Leo Rhodes gave testimony of his friend who had been living under a
bridge and had been murdered by teenagers who told him he was worthless.
Anitra Freeman, who was formerly homeless and now works with SHARE/WHEEL and Women in Black
(a group that holds vigils for homeless people who have been murdered in the community) stated,
"I can still feel what it feels like to feel invisible, isolated and scared all the time."
The council listened as community members testified on behalf of the ordinance. Beatrice Marius
summed up what many expressed to Council that day stating, "We are human beings just like you …
we have a right to be treated with dignity."
For questions regarding the ordinance or the educational campaign being launched by the Seattle Human Rights
Commission, please contact Brenda Anibarro at (206) 684-4514.
By Karina Bull, Enforcement
In 2007, 29% of SOCR's discrimination charges were based on disability.
This is a significant percentage given that the other frequently occurring
bases for charges last year included race (29%), sex (9%), national origin (8%) and retaliation (7%).
The following case summaries provide examples of issues in disability charges.
Names and certain facts have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
Ralph wanted to take his date to a play at a local theatre. After informing the
theatre manager that he had a hearing impairment and needed an Assistive Listening Device (ALD),
he learned that no such device was available. Ralph decided to bring his own ALD, but
it did not work and he sat through the performance unable to hear the dialogue or music.
Ralph filed a charge of discrimination for failure to reasonably accommodate a disability.
In a settlement, the theatre agreed to install an ALD within two months. Our Policy and Outreach Division
followed up with a mail campaign encouraging other theatres to do the same.
Lucinda went shopping with her service animal, a medium-sized dog that she kept off-leash. Upon entering a
small gift store, the owner asked her to hold her dog. Lucinda stated that her dog was a service animal and
that she was unable to pick him up. The owner did not believe that the dog was a service animal because
it was off-leash. She explained that another customer's dog had peed on a box of clothes and ruined $700
of merchandise. The owner informed Lucinda that she needed to hold her dog or leave the store. Lucinda left
and filed a discrimination charge. In a settlement, the store agreed to post a sign welcoming service animals,
participate in training about discrimination laws, and provide compensation of $300.
Patrick rented a condominium unit with an assigned parking space. Patrick informed the unit's
owner that he had a mobility impairment and asked for a bigger parking space with an access aisle.
The owner contacted the Condo Association and learned that all the parking spaces were deeded to
the units and not eligible for reassignment. Patrick personally contacted the Condo Association
to make another request, but never received a response. Frustrated, he filed a charge of discrimination
against the Condo Association. In a settlement, the Condo Association agreed to contact the Seattle Department
of Transportation to obtain a curbside, accessible parking space and to send a notice to all owners
requesting a volunteer to change parking spaces.
Theresa kept her service animal, a medium-sized dog, off-leash at her apartment complex.
She did not heed repeated requests from the property manager to leash her dog because she
thought that the leash rule did not apply to service animals. After receiving a 10-Day Notice
to Vacate the Premises for failure to comply with the leash rule, she filed a discrimination
charge against the property manager because she believed that she was being treated differently
than other tenants with dogs as pets. SOCR issued a "No Cause" determination after finding that Theresa's
dog was not providing disability-related assistance when it was off-leash; ample opportunity was provided
for compliance; and all other tenants complied with the leash rule.
Terry worked in a sales position and had only met his sales quota once in the past eight months.
After suffering a severe assault, he asked for an extended period of paid-time-off to recover.
As Terry's position did not qualify for sick leave or vacation days, Management offered him a
few days of paid-time-off, an extended period of unpaid time off, a flexible schedule, and
special assistance with sales calls and paperwork. Despite these measures, Terry did not meet
his quota for another two months and was terminated for lack of performance. Terry filed a
discrimination charge because he believed that the employer did not try hard enough to
accommodate his injuries and that he was terminated on the basis of disability. SOCR
issued a "No Cause" determination after finding that the employer had fulfilled its duty
to reasonably accommodate Terry's injuries; Terry was not able to perform the essential
functions of his job with or without the accommodations; and the employer consistently
terminated other employees who failed to meet their sales quota.
New City Council Committees Announced
At the start of the New Year the City Council formed new committees and named new committee chairs.
Councilmember Richard Conlin was selected Council President.
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights will work primarily with the Culture, Civil Rights, Health, and
Personnel Committee chaired by Councilmember Nick Licata. The other members of the committee
include Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden and as an alternate, Bruce Harrell.
This committee meets primarily the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at 2 p.m. at City Council Chambers,
City Hall, 600 4th Avenue. Meeting times and dates are subject to change so please visit the Council's
website at www.seattle.gov/council/ for up-to-date information.
As Paralegal at SOCR my responsibilities involve legal research, public disclosure,
statistical reports, case summaries, settlement compliance, and working with HUD and EEOC contracts.
I'm also a member of the change team working on undoing institutional racism.
One of the best parts about working at SOCR is the opportunity to help those that have experienced
discrimination. SOCR Enforcement provides a key resource for those that have experienced discrimination
in Seattle. The work around the race and social justice initiative has been transformative on an
institutional and personal level. It sound trite, but the people at SOCR are truly exceptional.
The SOCR staff is very diverse, supportive, hardworking, committed to justice, and a lot of fun to be around.
Outside of work I enjoy gardening, skiing, camping, travel, film, and books.
What is your position at SOCR and what does it entail?
I am the Race for Social Justice Initiative Policy Analyst, member of the RSJI Coordinating Team and City lead staff for RSJI capacity building.
What do you love most about working at SOCR?
The opportunity to have a job focused on racial justice and the team I get to work with to do it.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
Partner dancing, singing and playing my guitar, hanging out with friends and loved ones.
What or who inspires you in your life?
Too many to name - all those who blazed trails for people of color and women, I am honored to stand on their shoulders.
What are you passionate about?
My children, justice, music/dancing.
In November Intake Investigator Monica Beach received feedback from a City of Seattle employee
who reported that two different attorneys commended SOCR for good work and for investigators who are
enthusiastic and highly qualified. Great work Enforcement Team!
In December, SOCR investigator Karina Bull received the following email after providing a presentation to a local rental
association on criminal records as it relates to housing, occupancy standards and service animals:
Thank you for your fast response to the questions. Thank you for sticking to your time slot. It is nice to have speakers that are as informed and professional as your group.
In January, SOCR staff Brenda Anibarro, Greg Bell and Karina Bull provided training for the Seattle-King County Asset-Building
Collaborative on discrimination issues that serve as barriers to moving people out of poverty and on a path towards economic well-being.
We received great feedback on the training including the following email:
Kudos to your team! You put on a terrific workshop this morning. The information was timely and useful. I hope you agree that the audience seemed really engaged and finding the information to be relevant to their work. Thanks for your persistence in making this happen.