Human rights comission continues education role
Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 7:02 pm
By: Beverly Watts, Special to The Press
During an early December public roundtable session held in Jackson, the staff and three Tennessee Human Rights Commissioners shared information about the agency with nearly 50 people. The audience included elected officials, social service providers, and civic organizations.
We have been conducting these public forums for the past three years in a number of communities throughout the state with the intent of learning more about the types of discrimination occurring in each community as well as educating attendees about the state’s civil rights laws.
Our agency investigates allegations of discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on a number of protected classes.
Our charge is to resolve these issues and provide education and outreach to individuals, employers, housing providers, human resources managers/directors, and attorneys about identifying and preventing discrimination. We settle close to 10 percent of the cases brought to us and strongly urge mediation to resolve others. Mediation is offered within the first 45 days that a complaint is filed with the agency.
We have found in our work that housing discrimination is the most underreported claim. While lending practices are often in the news, they are difficult to track.
Disability cases are one-third of the complaints we receive and involve many different issues including accessible parking, the use of service animals necessary for a disability, and modification for ramps, among other issues.
The THRC also has responsibility for ensuring compliance with Title VI laws which prohibit discrimination based on race, color or national origin.
We coordinate compliance among all 44 state agencies. Annually, each state agency is required to submit a plan to THRC that details how they will not commit discriminatory practices under this law.
The THRC has been in existence under a variety of names and duties for more than 45 years. As we enter 2012, we will continue to strive for our vision of ensuring that all Tennesseans are treated with respect and equality.
We partner with state and federal agencies, grassroots, faith-based, and private organizations through our outreach and education efforts to promote eliminating discrimination. Through individual and coordinated efforts, we seek to heightened awareness and provide training to Tennesseans about the civil rights laws enforced by the Commission.
We want West Tennesseans to be aware that in 2012 we will offer Fair Housing training in April in Memphis as well as our annual Employment Law Seminar which will be held again in June in Nashville.
We continue to update our website – www.tn.gov/humanrights – and encourage citizens who want to learn more about our efforts to read our annual report online and look for upcoming events.
Editor’s note: Beverly Watts is the executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission.