The Census - a civil rights issue
In prior years getting a complete count of all residents has been a challenge.
Seattle's hard-to-count neighborhoods include higher numbers of low-income residents,
communities of color and refugee and immigrant residents. Ensuring our communities are
fully counted is a civil rights issue, since Census data is used to determine funding for
more than 100 federal programs including Medicaid, WIC food grants, affordable housing and
rental assistance, and programs for people with disabilities.
The Make Our Communities Count Coalition sponsored a Census education forum at New Holly Community Center on March 6th. SOCR is a member of the coalition. (Photo Credit: Al Garman)
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights has been working with community partners to spread the word about the importance of completing the 2010 Census. Help us by sharing this information with your family and community.
Some things to remember:
- Your responses to the Census are confidential and protected by law.
- The census form does not ask about immigration status.
- No other law enforcement or governmental agency can access your responses to census questions - not the Patriot Act, the IRS, Homeland Security, nor ICE.
- No private company, landlord or employer can access a household's census information, even with a court order.
Complete the Census to make our communities count! For more information about the 2010 Census please visit: www.seattle.gov/census2010.
New Disability Commission Formed
By Felicia Yearwood, Policy Analyst
On January 11, 2010, Seattle City Council voted unanimously to create the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities. The sixteen member Commission is charged with providing information and advice to the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on issues of concern for people with disabilities.
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights, will provide staff support to the Commission, has held a series of meetings with disability rights organizations to develop a list of topics for the new commission to address. Suggestions include promotion of universal design, improvements in program and facility access, and removal of barriers to employment.
A diverse group of people has applied to serve on the Commission, including parents of disabled children, disability rights advocates, disabled veterans and academics. After commissioners are appointed in April they will begin to hold monthly meetings open to the public. The Commission also plans to report on the state of disability rights in Seattle and develop a web based resource list.
Learn more about the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities on its web page.
Enforcement Update: recent cases of interest
By Nolan Lim, Enforcement Manager
In February of this year, SOCR reached settlement agreements in two cases that addressed both individual and institutional racism.
In one case, a Samoan man employed as a maintenance worker for a management services company alleged he was not allowed the same access to the office and break room facilities. The company denied all the allegations, but was willing to take steps to improve the work environment. This included completing anti-racism training, instituting a 360-degree performance evaluation policy, and providing translation for step-by-step job instructions. The charging party agreed to take ESL classes to improve his English speaking skills.
This settlement is significant because the parties agreed to training and policy changes that will heighten the company's awareness of how their policies and procedures impact people of color. The anti-racism training will educate employees about different forms of discrimination both on the individual and institutional levels. The modified performance review policy will reduce the amount of potential bias in the review process.
In another case, an African American man alleged discrimination against a department store in a disagreement concerning gift cards. The man purchased $6,500 worth of gift cards; later he was surprised and dismayed to find the cards held no value, yet the $6,500 charge remained on his credit card account until he called two days later to report the charge to customer service. The customer alleged discrimination based on race; the department store contended they feared identity theft based solely on the amount of the man's purchase, not his race. In settlement, the store agreed to give the man a $500 gift card.
Race and Social Justice a 2010 priority for Mayor and City Council
Seattle Mayor McGinn and City Council both prioritized the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) in 2010.
Mayor McGinn has made race and social justice a main focus within his new administration. City departments continue to focus their RSJI efforts through annual work plans, and the Mayor's Youth and Family Initiative (YFI) is committed to eliminating racial disparities in key indicators such as education, child care, children's health and the criminal justice system. (See this issue's lead story for more information on YFI.)
After the Mayor's Office participated in RSJI training, Mayor McGinn blogged about the experience:
"This past week the Mayor's Office spent eight hours reviewing the history and purpose of the Race and Social Justice Initiative. We discussed the impacts of race and social justice on community engagement, policy development and city programs and services …As Mayor, I see the work of the Office of Civil Rights and the Race and Social Justice Initiative as vitally important to the success of the city, and I am committed to incorporating it into all aspects of my administration."
Seattle City Council passed a resolution affirming the Race and
Social Justice Initiative in December 2009. This February the City Council members
listed Race and Social Justice as a top priority in their vision for Seattle and key
efforts in 2010. As part of fostering safe, just and healthy communities for all,
Council committed to "take action to promote racial and social equity in city
government actions and growth management planning". To view the complete list of
Council's priorities for 2010 please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/council/issues/council_priorities.htm.
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights is honored to continue to lead this Initiative and inspired by the commitment of Mayor McGinn and Seattle City Council to achieve racial equity for all residents. For more information on the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative visit: http://www.seattle.gov/rsji or call 684-4500.
Our staff work hard to provide excellent customer service and to treat everyone with dignity and respect. The following thank you letter was sent to Merle Weiss, a Civil Rights Analyst who conducts investigations of discrimination charges. Kudos to Merle!
Thanks for the effort you made on my behalf. I appreciate your phone calls, home visit and willingness to check out the facts. I am disappointed that we cannot go further. I am sure you gave it your best shot.
With warm wishes …