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May 2012 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter


May 2012

In this issue:

New City Ordinance: Protections for mothers to breastfeed in public

african-american-mother_~BLD049016.jpgOn April 9th Seattle City Council voted unanimously to support a mother's right to breastfeed in public free from discrimination. The bill, sponsored by Councilmember Bruce Harrell, was supported by the Equal Start Community Coalition, King County Breastfeeding Coalition and the Seattle Women's Commission.

The bill, which amends the City's Unfair Public Accommodation Practices Ordinance, allows mothers to breastfeed and pump while in public places such as parks, buses, restaurants and shopping centers. They do not have to go to a special area or go into the restroom; they do not have to cover the baby with a towel or blanket. The owner, manager or employee of a public place cannot request that the mother stop breastfeeding her baby, cover up, move to a different area or leave.

A woman's right to breastfeed her child has been protected under Washington State law since 2009. The new City ordinance reinforces this protection and allows the Seattle Office for Civil Rights to investigate cases that occur within Seattle city limits. City-level enforcement of the public breastfeeding law will help ensure equity for all women in Seattle.

Breastfeeding is a normal, regular and important part of raising a healthy baby. Breastfeeding for the first six months of life reduces health risks for babies, particularly to the immune and digestive systems. In Seattle, communities of color experience the lowest breastfeeding rates and the highest rates of pre-term birth, infant mortality, maternal mortality, diabetes and obesity. Infant mortality and low birth weight disproportionally affect Native American and African American women in King County. While 75% of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, only 13% are exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increasing breastfeeding is difficult when women face discrimination for feeding their children in public. Eliminating societal barriers to breastfeeding will enable more women to continue to breastfeed their children for longer.

If you are prohibited from breastfeeding in a public place or told you must leave or use a different location and would like to discuss your rights or file a charge please contact the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at 206-684-4500. For more information on the law please visit: www.seattle.gov/civilrights.


New three-year plan for the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative
Community partnerships central to 2012-2014 plan

The City of Seattle has just released a new 2012-14 RSJI Three-Year Plan that focuses on ending racial inequity in the community. The new plan is the result of an extensive assessment last year involving City employees and community members. The City also released a 2009-2011 RSJI Accomplishments Report, detailing the many ways that RSJI is making a real difference in the lives of Seattle residents, businesses and City government.

Over the next three years the City of Seattle will join with community members and other institutions to develop shared goals and strategies in key areas including jobs, education, community development, criminal justice, health and the environment. The 2012-2014 RSJI Plan describes the City of Seattle's commitment to:

  • Use community-level racial inequity data to drive our strategies and track our progress over time.
  • Measure progress with the same dedication as we measure problems.
  • Strengthen partnerships across institutions and the community.

All City departments will:

  • Continue to apply racial equity tools to departmental programs and projects.
  • Build racial equity into policies and citywide initiatives.
  • Partner with other institutions and the community to achieve racial equity.

For more information about the plan, contact Elliott.Bronstein@seattle.gov or call 206-684-4507.


US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission issues updated civil rights standards for employers

On Wednesday, April 25th the US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidance for employers concerning the use of criminal records in employment decisions. Guidance was first issued by the agency in 1987 and applies to private and public employers with 15 or more employees.

The EEOC states that policies or practices that deny someone a job based on a criminal record may, in some cases, have a disparate impact on race and national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For this reason such policies can be found to be discriminatory and in violation of the law if the policy/practice is not job-related and the employer fails to show business necessity.

The updated EEOC guidance affirms the earlier guidance stating:

  • Criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin.
  • Arrests that have not led to convictions cannot be considered.
  • Across the board exclusions of anyone with a record are likely to violate Title VII.
  • Business necessity factors to consider include: age of the offense, seriousness of the offense, and the relationship to the job.

The new guidance provides best practices for employers, as well as examples for both employers and applicants of what would constitute a violation of the law. The guidance also:

  • Advises employers to create policies that determine specific offenses that may disqualify a person for specific jobs. 
  • Strongly encourages individual assessments of applicants.
  • Affirms the policies of many states and municipalities (including the City of Seattle) to postpone consideration of an applicant's criminal history until later in the hiring process, to allow for a more objective assessment once the applicant's qualifications and experience are known.

To read the updated guidance visit:
http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm
If you would like more information on the guidance, a presentation for your staff or clients or assistance with a policy, please contact Brenda Anibarro at (206) 684-4514.

If you feel you have been discriminated because of your race or national origin in employment due to the disparate impact of a company's criminal records policy you can file a charge with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. Our services are free and language translation is available upon request. Please call (206) 684-4500.

Special thanks to Sharon Dietrich and the National Employment Law Project for their analysis of the recent updates.


EEOC finds discrimination against transgender people to be protected under Title VII.

In a decision handed down by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 20, the agency concluded that intentional discrimination against a transgender person is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII.

The EEOC ruling is a critical protection for transgender people across the United States. A 2009 nationwide study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 47% of survey respondents experienced an adverse job action because of their gender identity with 26% losing their jobs. Particularly hard hit were those who were black (32%) or multiracial (37%). The EEOC decision is expected to have less impact in Washington State and the City of Seattle, where the civil rights of transgender people are already protected in employment, housing and public places.


SOCR welcomes new staff members Elizabeth Guerra, Thai Nguyen and Intern Eqraa Dubad!

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights was fortunate to bring on two new staff members this year. Elizabeth Guerra joined the Enforcement Team as a Civil Rights Analyst investigating charges of discrimination. Thai Nguyen has joined the Policy and Outreach Team to work on community outreach and engagement for the new Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance and Fair Housing Outreach. Eqraa Dubad, a student at Chief Sealth High School is interning for the office through the Seattle Youth Employment Program. We are excited to have Elizabeth, Thai and Eqraa on board!

Staff Profile: Elizabeth Guerra

What interested you about working at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights? What are you most excited about in your new position?

I am glad to be part of a group of people so committed to civil rights and to have the opportunity to learn from their experiences. I really appreciate the willingness of this group to address equity in all aspects of our work, even when the conversation is difficult. I believe this office walks the talk.

What background/experience do you bring to this work?

I worked in non-profit organizations with low income and homeless people for ten years before deciding to go to law school. I wanted to continue working for social justice and was lucky to first find work with the state for several years before coming to this position.

Who are some of your heroes? Who inspires you in your work for civil rights?

Both my parents, Helen and Ricardo, grew up very poor in very different places, my mother on a farm in rural Missouri and my father in a barrio in Corpus Christi, Texas. Their experiences as children led them to work with struggling families, the sick and dying, and people who needed kindness without judgment. Their quiet actions taught my brother and me that service to others is a blessing ourselves. They inspire me to do the work I do today.

Thai.bmpStaff Profile: Thai Nguyen

What interested you about working at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights/ what are you most excited about in your new position?

SOCR works on progressive issues to benefit the residents of Seattle and I admire that.  I am most excited that I get to play a role in my position as Policy Analyst for the Paid Sick and Safe Time campaign, with a focus on raising public awareness through outreach and education.

What background/experience are you bringing to this work?

My academic background is in public health so I naturally opted for a career in that field.  I spent 4 years at Public Health Seattle and King County in the Department of Environmental Health Services coordinating a program called the Tacoma Smelter Plume.  This project required event planning, outreach and education, and communicating with south King County residents about lead and arsenic soil contamination from the Tacoma Smelter.  In 2010, my work shifted towards policy development and implementation at the Seattle Housing Authority working on the Non-Smoking Initiative for the agency.  Here, I worked with residents and stakeholders through an extensive and inclusive public involvement process to initiate a Non-Smoking Policy portfolio-wide.

Who are some of your heroes? Who inspires you in your work for civil rights?

In primary school, I remember learning about Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat on the bus.  To this day, I am still inspired by her courage and faith during that violent era.

What are your interests outside of the office?

I enjoy finding great local restaurants, visiting boutiques, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends. I recently took up hot yoga and learned to love it; although I really thought I was going to pass out the first 10 minutes of class.  My next adventure is a class in Krav Maga.


Kudos

We received the following praise for Enforcement Manager, Mike Chin on a presentation he gave to University of Washington graduate students. Great job Mike!

Julie & Mike – Just wanted to send a quick note saying how awesome I thought Mike did today on the sick leave panel with the public health students. I was in awe of how powerfully he spoke of the Race and Social Justice Initiative and the work of SOCR, both within the context of paid sick leave and beyond. I think he really did your office, the Initiative and the City proud. The students clearly loved him too, very engaging speaker and clearly passionate about the issues.

We have received the following words of praise for Felicia Yearwood-Murrell who staffs the Commission for People with disAbilities and the Seattle Human Rights Commission. Way to go Felicia!

My co-worker recently attended a presentation that you did for the Meals Partnership Coalition and said it was the best information she has received in terms of service animals. Thank you!

I wanted to thank you again for speaking to our seniors last week. You presented a very complex issue in understandable terms and engaged the audience into active participation that was really interesting to listen to.

Felicia, as a Human Rights Commission member I really appreciate all you do with your follow-up on these kinds of issues that we mention at meetings and even those ones we don't which you believe are human rights concerns we should be aware of.

Kudos for Governing for Racial Equity Conference

January's snowstorm didn't stop SOCR staff from pulling together to produce the successful Governing for Racial Equity Conference. Kudos to Glenn Harris, Julie Nelson, Scott Winn, Monica Beach, Maria Rodriguez, Eddie Ferrer, Jacque Larrainzar, Elliott Bronstein, Mike Chin, Elizabeth Guerra, Latrice Ybarra and everyone who assisted by staffing the office for the day.
Announcements

Women in the Trades- Career Fair
Friday, May 11, 9AM - 2PM
Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center
www.wawomenintrades.com

9th Annual Seattle Race Conference!
Building Community to End Environmental Racism
Saturday, May 12th 8:30AM - 5PM
Seattle University Pigott Auditorium
http://seattleraceconference.org

Fair Housing Accessibility Training
Design and Construction Requirements • Accessible Common-Use Areas • Building Code Accessibility Compliance
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012:
8AM – 5PM
Seattle City Hall, Bertha Landes Reception Room
To register for this free workshop contact John Ritzu at jritzu@lcmarchitects.com 312-913-1717 x228 or Michael Chin at mike.chin@seattle.gov, 206-684-8063

Civil Rights 101 for Social Service Providers
Thursday, June 21, 2012
1:00pm- 5:00pm
Free! Registration required
810 Third Avenue
To register email Brenda.Anibarro@Seattle.Gov or call 206-684-4514

Get Engaged Program seeking youth applicants!
Get Engaged places young adults ages 18-29 on boards and commissions each fall. Commissioners help shape policy decisions, make recommendations, and provide citizen participation in city government. Get Engaged is dedicated to advocating for youth voices in City affairs and to cultivating local leaders, especially those who have had limited opportunities to be involved in civics and community. Click here for more information.
Applications due May 14th.

Community Presentation - "Race: the Power of an Illusion" Workshop
The next community presentation of the City of Seattle's "Race: the Power of an Illusion" training has been scheduled for Saturday, June 2. This free six-hour training is based on the three-part PBS series. It's an opportunity for you to experience the same training that City employees receive as part of the Race and Social Justice Initiative. To register for the event, e-mail Margaret.Olsen@Seattle.Gov or call 206-684-8672.

Train-the-Trainer Facilitation Workshop for "Race: the Power of an Illusion"
Would you like to become a facilitator for "Race: Power of an Illusion" training in your own organization or in the community? We have scheduled a "train-the-trainer" session on Saturday, June 23 from 9 am to 5 pm. To register for this training, e-mail Maria.Rodriguez@Seattle.Gov or call 206-684-0548.

Question One – A documentary on Maine's same-sex marriage referendum battle
May 25th - 31st
The Northwest Film Forum
Tickets: www.nwfilmforum.org



Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Julie Nelson, Director

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