NOTE: This news release has been retained for historical use ONLY! While the text was accurate at the date of the release, the contact information may be out of date.
5/23/2001 9:45:00 AM
Elliott Bronstein (206) 684-4507
Fair Contracting: A New Law For Doing Business In Seattle
Your drywall company won the bid for a new 70-unit apartment building in north Seattle. But from the day your crew moved on-site, the general contractor has stood in the way of your work. His employees refuse to coordinate their activities with you. They spout a steady stream of ethnic slurs. You complain to the contractor, who says simply, "I knew you people couldn’t handle a job this size. Why don’t you just take off?"
You know all about employment discrimination, but this is a different situation. You’re a private businessperson – you have a signed contract in hand. Does the law offer you any protection?
The City of Seattle now has a tool to fight contract discrimination: the Fair Contracting Practices Ordinance. Unanimously approved by Seattle’s City Council in 2000, the Fair Contracting Ordinance prohibits discrimination in contracting within the City’s boundaries. It also directs the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) to investigate complaints of illegal discrimination in contracting.
"With this law on the City’s books, contract discrimination has become our business," says Germaine Covington, Director of SOCR. "If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in a contract on the basis of your race, gender, disability or other protected class status, you need to contact the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at (206) 684-4500."
Seattle’s Fair Contracting Ordinance covers all contracts over $5,000 for business and/or service within the City of Seattle. If a company is headquartered outside Seattle, the law applies to contracts for work performed within the City. It covers all aspects of contracting, including the bidding process. Claims must be filed within 180 days of the most recent incident.
Was your subcontracting bid turned down because of discrimination in the bidding process? Did someone break your contract based on your race, gender, disability or other protected class status – and for no valid business reason? Has a contractor withheld payments to you out of personal prejudice? Seattle’s Fair Contracting law can protect you from discrimination.
If you file a formal complaint, SOCR will conduct a full investigation. An investigator will interview everyone involved (including witnesses), review records and documents, and conduct site visits to gather evidence. SOCR also has the authority to subpoena records and documents.
If an investigation shows that discrimination occurred, SOCR will help the parties involved reach a settlement agreement. Settlements can include reimbursement for lost profits, restoration of the terms of the contract, payment of attorney’s fees or re-hiring of workers. Under the ordinance, SOCR can assess limited fines for damages in some cases.
"When it comes to conducting business, the City of Seattle believes in an even playing field," says Covington. "Companies that enter into a contract certainly can operate based on valid business decisions. But they cannot make contractual decisions that discriminate against people because of their race, their gender, their disability or other protected class status."
For more information about your rights under the Fair Contracting Practices Ordinance, contact the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at (206) 684-4500. You also can find SOCR on the Web at www.cityofseattle.net/civil.
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