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Newsletter Archive

June 2011 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter

JUNE 2011

In this issue:

Seattle Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Commission releases preliminary findings from major survey

Join the City of Seattle at the 2011 Pride Parade - Sunday June 26!

Retaliation is a form of discrimination

New HUD guidance on service animals

Legislative Update: New rule regarding discrimination in WA state public schools

Deadline is June 30 for 8th graders to apply for Washington's College Bound Scholarship

Staff Updates: Congratulations to Marta Idowu and a farewell to Nolan Lim


Announcements and Events

What's that smell?

By Felicia Yearwood

Fragrances or scented cleansers can cause unpleasant reactions such as a mild headache or simple irritation for many people.

But for a growing number, the reaction can be much more serious. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) affects people who have developed an acute sensitivity to various chemicals in the environment. Triggering agents can include fragrances and personal care products, deodorizers and cleaners, pesticides, wall and floor coverings, and building materials. Because fragrances are often composed of several chemicals, it can be difficult to determine if the sensitivity is caused by one chemical or a combination of chemicals.

People with MCS experience a vast range of debilitating physical reactions, including breathing problems, dizziness, muscle pain or stiffness, memory loss, changes in heart rhythm, and rashes. The common factor is that the reaction, whatever the type, is very strong and disabling. Some people with fragrance sensitivity are considered to have a disability under the ADA due to the severity of their reaction. People with less severe reactions may not be considered to have a disability. Once a person has developed fragrance irritation, it is likely that the sensitivity will grow over time and with repeated exposure.

Additional research is needed to determine how and why individuals develop an acute sensitivity to certain chemicals, and what can be done to prevent or treat it. Because MCS is not well understood, avoidance of pollutants and toxicants is key for people with MCS.

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights encourages employers and service providers to ensure that their facilities are accessible to persons with a wide range of disabilities, including MCS. One positive step is to develop a fragrance-free policy statement, such as:

"Please refrain from using perfumes, colognes, scented hair products, aftershave, scented lotion, or air fresheners in the office, as the use of such products may trigger allergic reactions or create other health problems."

You can find more fragrance-free policies at the Canary Report , and general information at: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Checklist for developing a fragrance-free policy

  • Determine the extent of the issue by asking employees whether they have sensitivity to odors, and ask for their suggestions to cope with the problem.
  • Educate all your employees as to why the policy is needed before its implementation. Include brochures or flyers in payroll envelopes, publish articles in company newsletters, or offer presentations about health concerns related to scents.
  • Inform all employees of the policy when it is finalized and make sure they know their rights and responsibilities. Reinforce that the policy is being implemented to prevent medical concerns - not merely because of a dislike of a certain smell.
  • Clarify that the policy applies to everyone, including visitors, patients, etc.
  • Notify employees before painting walls, waxing floors, shampooing carpets, or spraying chemicals so that affected employees can seek additional information or make appropriate arrangements.
  • Include notice of your scent-free policy on all appointment cards, stationery, room booking notices, employment postings, etc
  • Post 'Scent-Free' signs.
  • Review the policy periodically and update based on new knowledge.

Felicia Yearwood is SOCR's staff liaison to the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

Seattle Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Commission releases preliminary findings from major survey

Marriage equality, safety and health care named key concerns by Seattle LGBT community

The Seattle LGBT Commission has released a preliminary report of the results from a 6-week online survey to assess the needs of Seattle's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on issues including housing, education, health, public safety and community involvement. The Commission held a forum on May 31 at Seattle Counseling Service to hear from communities who are underrepresented in the survey. The preliminary report can be viewed at the Commission's web site along with contact information.

Nearly 1,600 people participated in the survey from June 18 through July 31, 2010. The survey questions evaluated the experiences and opinions of LGBT individuals living, working and playing in Seattle.

"We undertook the project because there was a real lack of reliable data about the needs of LGBT people in Seattle," said Tiffany Nelson, co-chair of the Commission. "Our hope is that with this research in hand, we can help our government and community organizations make better informed policy and funding decisions to serve the LGBT population."

One survey question asked people to evaluate the top three issues needing attention within the LGBT community in Seattle. Choosing from a multiple choice list of answers, participants' top three responses were marriage equality (55.5%); hate crime violence/harassment (39.0%); and healthcare (32.0%). The survey also asked respondents about the biggest issues impacting them personally. Healthcare (51.6%), marriage equality (49.0%), and lack of jobs in this economy (43.4%) were the most popular responses.

"We had such an overwhelming response to the survey, and it's inspiring that 1,600 people took time to participate," said Eleazar Jurez-Daz, LGBT co-chair Commission. "We're excited now to conduct outreach with these results and gather recommendations from organizations, individuals and community leaders about how we can make Seattle a better place for LGBT people."

The final report will be delivered to the Mayor and City Council later this month.

Join the City of Seattle at the 2011 Pride Parade - Sunday June 26!

On Sunday, June 26 the City of Seattle will join thousands of community members, businesses and nonprofits for the 2011 Pride Parade. The parade will begin at 11 am at Westlake Park and travel along Fourth Avenue to Seattle Center for PrideFest, an all day festival including artists, exhibits and performers.

Mayor Mike McGinn has invited City departments and employees to join him in the parade. Keep an eye out for the City of Seattle contingent both in the parade and at our festival booth, which will be located on the roof of the Fisher Pavilion.

The Pride Parade is one way to make our voices heard for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.Click here for more information on the Seattle Pride Parade or here for more information on Seattle Pridefest. If you feel you have been discriminated on the basis of your sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing or in a public place, or if you'd like to schedule a civil rights presentation for your organization or business, contact us at 206-684-4500.

Retaliation is a form of discrimination

By Curtis Salazar

An African American woman and a Native American woman walk into a local coffee shop for coffee and donuts. No, this is not a joke, but a true story. The Native American woman has her dog with her and she asks for a bowl of water. The clerk behind the counter says "No, we don't do that." The Black woman says, "That could be viewed as discrimination." The clerk and the Black woman continue to exchange words until the clerk finally tells the two women to leave the store.

During an investigation conducted by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, the store defended itself by claiming that the two women were being disruptive. Evidence, however, showed situations when other patrons of the shop had been far more disruptive, yet those patrons were not ejected.

This case is a prime example of retaliation - that is, to treat someone badly because s/he is involved in a possibly discriminatory situation. Retaliation is also illegal; people who feel they've been retaliated against can file a separate charge with SOCR.

This case also illustrates the changing nature of discrimination in the Pacific Northwest. In a city as progressive as Seattle, discrimination and retaliation can be more covert. Fear of retaliation can make it intimidating to file a charge or protest the way someone has been treated. For behaviors to change, however, it is important that we speak up and take action when discrimination occurs, either directed toward us or to someone else.

If you experience discrimination, consider filing a complaint with SOCR by calling 684-4500. Remember, you can file a separate charge if you believe you have been retaliated against.

Curtis Salazar is an investigator in SOCR's enforcement division.


New HUD guidance on service animals

On February 17, 2011, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) issued guidance to clarify that recent amendments to the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do NOT apply to the definition of an assistance animal for the purposes of reasonable accommodations required under the Fair Housing Act.

First, the HUD memo confirms that "species other than dogs" have been recognized as necessary assistance animals under the reasonable accommodations provisions of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (applicable to HUD-assisted housing providers).

Second, the HUD guidance confirms that animals, with or without training, that provide emotional support have been recognized as necessary assistance animals under the reasonable accommodations provisions of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504.

The HUD guidance also states that "in situations where both laws apply (ADA and Fair Housing Act), housing providers must meet the broader Fair Housing Act/Section 504 standard in deciding whether to grant reasonable accommodation requests" for assistance animals.

To read HUD's guidance on assistance animals, go to: and click on "New ADA Regulations and Assistance Animals as Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973".


Legislative Update: New rule regarding discrimination in WA state public schools

The Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable was busy on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day organizing for racial justice in Seattle and Olympia.  In Seattle, Roundtable members conducted a workshop at the MLK, Jr Celebration at Garfield High School. Moderated by Roundtable member and Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, the panelists shared Roundtable efforts to create racial equity including the adoption a Racial Equity Toolkit. Panelists included Yvonne Redding-White (United Way), Lyman Letgers (Casey Family Program), and Julie Nelson (City of Seattle).

In 2010, Washington State passed a new law that prohibits discrimination in Washington public schools based on race, creed, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, veteran or military status, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. This new law, chapter 28A.642 RCW, is similar to the sexual equality law already in the school code (chapter 28A.640 RCW), which prohibits discrimination based on sex.

Under this law, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) must develop rules and guidelines to eliminate discrimination in public school employment, counseling and guidance services to students, recreational and athletic activities, access to course offerings, and textbooks and instructional materials.

On April 13, 2011, OSPI adopted the final rules to implement this law and filed a Rule-Making Order (also called the CR-103P form) with the Washington State Code Reviser's office. These rules went into effect on May 13, 2011 and can be found in chapter 392-190 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). For more information:

Deadline is June 30 for 8th graders to apply for Washington's College Bound Scholarship

Do you know a child who will graduate from 8th grade this month? Worried about how to pay for college?

The College Bound Scholarship is a Washington State program that provides hope for students and families to attend college.

Low-income 7th and 8th grade students who sign a pledge by June 30 of their 8th grade year are eligible for the College Bound Scholarship. Students promise to graduate from high school, demonstrate good citizenship, and seek admission to a college or university. The College Bound Scholarship will cover the amount of tuition and fees (plus $500 for books) not covered by other state financial aid awards. The amount of the scholarship will be based on tuition rates at Washington public colleges and universities.

This is a great way to launch a child on the path to attend a community college, technical school or university. There's just one catch: students and their families MUST apply by June 30 of the student's 8th grade year. For a child currently in the 8th grade, that means this coming June 30.

The deadline is fast approaching, so please tell your family and friends about this scholarship opportunity. For more information call 1-888-535-0747 or e-mail .

On the web:
Click here to visit the College Bound Scholarship web site.
Click here to go directly to the application page.

Staff Updates: Congratulations to Marta Idowu and a farewell to Nolan Lim

On May 17, Marta Idowu was honored for her thirty years' service working for the City of Seattle. Marta is a policy analyst at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights and staffs the Seattle Women's Commission and the Seattle Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Commission. Her warmth and compassion is felt by everyone who has had the great pleasure of working with her. Congratulations Marta!

In April we said farewell to Nolan Lim, who served as SOCR's Enforcement Manager. Nolan brought thoughtfulness, a sharp legal mind and a commitment to racial and social justice to his work. We are sad to lose him but proud of all he has done and of the new journey he's embarking on. Best of luck to you Nolan!

Seattle Commissions endorse proposed paid sick leave ordinance

The Seattle Women's Commission, the Seattle Human Rights Commission and the Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Advisory Board have endorsed a campaign to create paid sick leave in Seattle. The proposal is sponsored by the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce, which held a kick-off event on May 11 that featured a panel of speakers including a grocery store worker, health professionals, and policy advocates. To learn more about the proposal, visit


Jacque Larrainzar and Elliott Bronstein,
Thank you two for your hard work and commitment to the people! It is noticed!

Hi Julie,
Just a quick note of thanks for Darlene Flynn and Elliott Bronstein's expert facilitation yesterday for a division-wide training around the video, "Making Whiteness Visible." Darlene and Elliott were absolutely terrific! We appreciate their assistance, passion, thoughtfulness, and commitment!

I would like to recognize Darlene Flynn for the excellent support and resource she has been in advancing in the RSJ work to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). She possesses an excellent set of facilitation skills as well as overall high emotional intelligence (resiliency), leadership skills, and Race and Social Justice knowledge that enable her to be very effective. I am very grateful to Darlene and wanted to take the time to communicate to you my appreciation for Darlene and to recognize her for her outstanding work in the field of Race and Social Justice and Leadership.

Kudos to you from a recent intake. The customer was very appreciative of how you worked with her, as she went through the intake process. She complemented your listening skills and your compassion.

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness. A simple act of kindness has a beauty all its own.
Mr. John D. (customer)

Announcements and Events

FREE water-saving toilets for low-income homeowners - City of Seattle

Join the City of Seattle at the 2011 Pride Parade - Sunday June 26!

For more info

For more information or to request an accommodation please contact Brenda Anibarro
at (206) 684-4514 or by email at Brenda.Anibarro@Seattle.Gov.


Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Julie Nelson, Director

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