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January 2007 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter


January 2007

In this issue:

SCSM hosts community forums

Charging parties receive record settlements

Case Highlights

Your Rights: Q & A

SOCR Staff Profiles

Fair Housing Poster Rule

2004-2005
Annual Report

Tim Wise: RESISTING RACISM: It's everybody's business

Photo of Tim Wise
Upcoming
Events
January 12
- Tim Wise: The Challenges & Accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

7-9 pm at the Bush School
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights and the Race & Social Justice Initiative is proud to sponsor a talk by Tim Wise on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 from 11:30 am to 1 pm in the Bertha Landes Room in Seattle City Hall (5th and Cherry). The event is free & open to all.

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S.. He is the author of "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son." He has spoken in 48 states and on over 400 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, and the Law Schools at Yale, Columbia and Vanderbilt. He has trained teachers as well as corporate, government, media and law enforcement officials on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions, and has served as an expert consultant for plaintiff's attorneys in federal discrimination cases in New York and Washington State. Thanks to the Bush School for their support of this event.

See a video of the Tim Wise presentation



Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities hosts community forums

By Joseph Daniels, Co-Chair, Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities

From July through October 2006, the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities (SCSM) sponsored an impressive series of five community forums at the Capitol Hill Library. Each forum focused on a different topic: Diversity, Health, Aging, Gender Identity and Parenting. Facilitators Jacque Larrainzar, Chuck Perry Ellis, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Marsha Botzer, and Eileen Terry skillfully solicited questions, comments and recommendations from participants and from community leaders who served as panelists. The Commission will analyze the information gathered from each forum to incorporate into its 2007 SCSM workplan.

The forums were successful in building relationships with community organizations that are doing so much work in the LGBT community. There is more work to be done of course, but we believe that we have opened a door toward better collaboration and communication. The Commission will continue to build on these relationships through its work plan and leadership collaboration. In addition to these forums, the SCSM collaborated with the Seattle Human Rights Commission to host a Race and Bias Crimes forum at City Hall to discuss the report written by Ken Molsberry documenting the prevalence of bias crimes in Seattle.

Commissioners would like to extend a big thank you to the Seattle Channel, Capital Hill Library, Seattle Office for Civil Rights, City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Nick Licata, Seattle Police Department, and the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

It isn’t too late for you to experience the forums. Check out the forum notes on our web site at http://www.seattle.gov/scsm/, or watch them on the Seattle Channel.


Charging parties receive record settlements in 2005-06

By Anita DeMahy, SOCR Policy & Outreach Intern

Connie Common applied for an apartment, but building owner Nick Stockman turned her away after finding out Ms. Common was a Section 8 renter. (Note: all names have been changed to protect confidentiality.) Ms. Common filed a charge with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) and received $750 compensation earlier this year as part of a pre-determination settlement. In addition, Mr. Stockman and his staff were required to attend fair housing training, draft guidelines for processing future Section 8 applicants, and post apartment listings with the Seattle Housing Authority’s Section 8 office.

In 2005-06, dollar benefits awarded to SOCR’s charging parties have increased significantly, thanks to negotiated settlements between parties to charges of illegal discrimination. So far in 2006, charging parties have received more than $40,000 in settlements. In 2005, charging parties received a total of more than $91,000, the highest dollar compensation in SOCR’s history. Charging parties receive monetary settlements directly – SOCR does not take any portion of the amount.

Clay Bacon worked for Johnson Real Estate as both a resident manager and painter. After finding out Mr. Bacon came from Tibet, the manager of Johnson Real Estate began to demand much more work of him than was originally agreed upon and unduly scrutinized his work. Occasionally the manager made derogatory comments about Tibet. Clay Bacon filed both housing and employment charges. In settling the cases in June 2006, Bacon received a thousand dollars for general damages and a written apology from the manager.

Fair housing, employment and public accommodation laws protect everyone who works or lives in Seattle. Discrimination based on national origin, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected classes is illegal. To learn more about your rights, call the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at (206) 684-4500 (TTY 206-684-4503), or visit SOCR in the Central Building in downtown Seattle, 810 Third Avenue, Suite 750. All services are free and language interpreters are provided upon request.

If you are unsure if you have experienced discrimination, take the time to talk with our intake investigator to clarify your options. For more information, visit us on the web at www.seattle.gov/civilrights/.


Settlements and Cases of Interest

Here is a sampling of the many illegal discrimination cases that the Seattle Office for Civil Rights settled or negotiated during 2006. Names of the parties have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Rachael Devera vs Muddy River BBQ

Ms. Devera was a food prep worker for Muddy River BBQ. According to Ms. Devera, after she told her manager that she was pregnant the manager began to refer to her as the “knocked up one.” When Ms. Devera requested pay stubs to provide to the State the manager said, “Oh, for your welfare – right?” Ms. Devera finally quit her position due to the stress and harassment. In a negotiated settlement, the parties agreed that Ms. Devera will receive $3,200 in restored pay and the manager will attend fair employment training with emphasis on sexual harassment.

Omar Noori vs Norton Transmission

Mr. Noori worked for Norton Transmission from March 2003 until his termination in August 2005. Mr. Noori charged that he was discriminated against because of his Muslim religion and Afghani national origin. Mr. Noori alleged that another mechanic who worked the graveyard shift with him called him derogatory names and verbally abused him. The harassment climaxed when the other mechanic on duty came at Mr. Noori with a hammer, yelling derogatory comments and attempting to incite a fight. A passerby broke up the confrontation. Mr. Noori reported this to the owner, who advised him to switch to the day shift or leave. Mr. Noori was not called back to work after this incident. Mr. Noori withdrew his change after receiving $6,000 from Norton Transmission.

James Tucker vs Hill Top Medical Center

James Tucker believed he was discriminated against based on his sexual orientation. Mr. Tucker went to Hill Top Medical Center for a procedure with his partner. Hospital staff told him that in order to have the procedure he would need to provide a blood relative’s phone number as a contact. Mr. Tucker explained that the man with him was his partner, but the staff refused to allow his partner to serve as the contact person. In a negotiated settlement, Hill Top Medical Center agreed to conduct on site training for its clerical staff. The training will cover procedures for acquiring information about a patient’s next of kin, focusing on the Washington State Law regarding consent priority if a patient becomes incapacitated, and alternative registration information options for patients whose families do not fit within the statutory framework.

 


Your Rights!

Germaine Covington Questions and answers about discrimination

 

By Germaine Covington, Director

Seattle Office for Civil Rights

Dear Germaine,

My landlord charged me a hundred dollar “surcharge” on my damage deposit, claiming they’ve had too much trouble with teenage boys in the apartment complex. My sons are 15 and 13. Well, I’ve never heard of anything like that. Is it legal to charge different damage deposits to different renters?

      Suspicious

Dear Suspicious,

Landlords must charge the same damage deposit to all renters in an apartment complex. They cannot adjust a damage deposit based on the number of your children, their age, their gender, or even the fact that you have children in the first place.

Call the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at 684-4500 to talk with our intake worker. If an investigation determines that the “surcharge” on your damage deposit is not legal, our office can help negotiate a fair settlement between you and your landlord.

Dear Germaine,

A fast-food restaurant near where I work has posted a sign that says, “Customers must leave premises after 45 minutes.” The manager claims the rule applies to everybody, but the only people I’ve ever seen him ask to leave are teens from the nearby high school. Can a restaurant do that?

      Curious

Dear Curious,

Yes … and no. A restaurant can establish time limits for its patrons, and it must enforce those rules fairly. But there may be nothing illegal about this particular restaurant’s actions. Why? Because Seattle 's Public Accommodations law (SMC 14.06.030) includes an exemption that allows businesses to impose "special arrangements for minor children" or "age limits up to the age of 21. So a restaurant which “discriminates” against teenagers may offend you, but it is not necessarily breaking the law.

It may be a different story if the restaurant is using its time limits as a smoke screen to discriminate against people for other reasons, such as race, national origin or sex. For example, say the restaurant only enforced its time limit with African American teenagers, or teens that are all male. That would be potentially illegal, because race and gender are both protected classes.

When it comes to complaints about discrimination, the devil is in the details … The answers in this column are not intended as legal advice. Every situation is different and unique. It is impossible to determine whether unlawful discrimination has occurred based on a brief description. That is why the Seattle Office for Civil Rights employs trained, professional investigators. If you have a specific case you would like to discuss, call SOCR at 684-4500.

Do you have a question about illegal discrimination in the City of Seattle ? E-mail your question to brenda.anibarro@seattle.gov. You also can write to Your Rights!, c/o Seattle Office for Civil Rights, 810 3 rd Avenue, Ste. 750, Seattle, WA 98104-1627, or call in your question by dialing 684-4514.


Staff Profiles: Felicia Yearwood-Murrell & Elliott Bronstein

Meet Felicia Yearwood-Murell and Elliott Bronstein, two staff members who contribute greatly to the work of SOCR.

Felicia Yearwood-Murrell

Felicia Yearwood-Murrell

What role do you fulfill at SOCR?

As a Civil Rights Analyst, I investigate claims of discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, and contracting with the City of Seattle .

What issues are you passionate about?

I care about education: I teach a free SAT prep course on the weekends and serve as PTA President at my daughter’s school. My hobbies include reading, gardening, home improvement, and crafting.

What is your favorite thing about working at SOCR?

The best thing about my job is that I get to help people resolve conflicts. It’s also satisfying to provide training on disability rights and fair housing issues.

 

Elliott Bronstein

Elliott Bronstein

What role do you fulfill at SOCR?

I am SOCR's Public Information Officer (PIO). Because SOCR is a small department, being a PIO is a jack-of-all-trades position. I handle media inquiries, coordinate outreach and written materials, and give presentations and training to the public. I'm also on the Coordinating Committee for the Race and Social Justice Initiative, an effort to end institutional racism within City government.

What issues are you passionate about?

Bicycling, literature, and race and social justice. Note the alphabetical order. I guess my idea of a perfect moment would be riding my bike while reading Ralph Ellison. Until I run into a parked car.

What is your favorite thing about working at SOCR?

It has to be the people who also work here. I know that's a corny thing to say, but it's true. Plus I get paid to work on things that I care deeply about. How lucky can you get?

 


Fair Housing Poster Rule

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights has proposed a rule relating to required posting of the Seattle Open Housing Poster. The Public has until December 15th, 2006 to comment on the proposed rule.
Read more

 


2004-2005 Annual Report

SOCR has just released our 2004-2005 Annual Report - Acrobat PDF 1.8 MB

To request a printed copy please call 684-4500.

 

Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Germaine Covington, Director

For newsletter questions contact Brenda Anibarro, (206) 684-4514 Brenda.Anirarro@Seattle.Gov