Fayetteville planners have completed a research analysis of other university cities with civil rights ordinances similar to the new law City Council members approved in August.
The document packet was prepared in advance of a panel session scheduled for Thursday evening where 19 people will help provide input on how to implement the city’s new civil rights ordinance.
The ordinance, which goes into effect Sept. 20, prohibits business owners and landlords from unjustly firing or evicting someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background, marital status or veteran status. It creates a civil rights administrator position to receive and investigate complaints from residents who feel they are victims of those specific types of discrimination.
The packet includes: a white paper comparing four peer university cities with similar populations that have civil rights ordinances; a spreadsheet of comparable elements from the four peer cities ordinances and procedures; an example of a draft brochure and complaint intake form that city staff have put together for future use; a copy of Fayetteville’s recently passed ordinance; and a variety of background documents from the four peer cities that includes annual reports, brochures, and complaint forms. A quick look at the documents shows that planners analyzed Bloomington, In., Columbia, Mo., Ames, Ia., and Iowa City, Ia., all of which have similar populations to Fayetteville ranging from 61,792 to 115,276.
Common elements amongst the peer cities
The research indicates the four cities have common elements regarding their civil rights legislation, and similar procedural actions for how they administer complaints, investigations, and prosecution.
Those elements include:
- They all utilize a Human Rights Commission for hearing registered complaints and these boards all meet monthly.
- They all typically investigate claims of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations. Some also investigate discrimination related to credit, education and ADA complaints.
- They are all internally staffed by City employee(s).
- They all have developed sophisticated procedures for registering, investigation, mediating and prosecuting complaints.
- They all keep records of the number and type of complaints that are lodged in a fiscal year. This is typically summarized in an annual report that states the number and type of inquiries, investigations and prosecutions undertaken within the last year.
- They all typically cover discriminatory actions related to age, race, ethnicity, national origin, marital status, sex, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, familial status, disability and retaliation.
- They all participate in, and many have annual budgets for, public education and outreach programs.
- Telephone conversations with peer cities HRC staff indicate that staff ranges from 1 to 4 people administering these programs.
- Telephone conversations also indicate that there can be a significant amount of time and resources investigating claims that are ultimately deemed to not have merit.
- Some peer cities partner with the Law Departments at the local university for interns and conciliation mediators.
- Staff for HRC’s are varied and include Assistant City Attorneys, Assistant City Managers and Human Rights Coordinator/Equity Director. However, they all commonly have a background in the Law. This is confirmed with discussions with staff with the Human Rights Campaign who said that it is most common, although not exclusive, to have someone with a legal background as the Staff for a Human Rights Commission.
- Bloomington Indiana has their staff partner with a HRC member to do the investigation and processing of each case. This creates a team process and the HRC members take turns in partnering in investigations.
- Bloomington HRC staff also reviews Affirmative Action Plans for contractors who are doing work for the City in addition to the other tasks assigned.
Elements of Fayetteville’s ordinance that are different from the peer cities
There are some elements of Fayetteville’s ordinance that are different from some or all of the peer cities analyzed.
Those elements include:
- Fayetteville’s ordinance addresses the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations and does not address credit, education or ADA complaints.
- Some peer cities have very strong State Human Rights Ordinances and Commissions that are utilized for many complaints especially in regard to housing and employment.
- Fayetteville’s ordinance includes protections for “gender expression” which is not found in any of the four peer cities evaluated. Gender expression refers to the way in which individuals manifest masculinity or femininity. It is expressed through appearance, speech, behavior, movement and other factors for which the individual wishes to be understood as either masculine or feminine.
- “Socio-economic Background” is not defined in Fayetteville’s Ordinance. An example of how someone could be discriminated against for socio- economic background would be if a landlord refused to rent to someone because they felt like the potential renters employment would not be able to cover the cost of the monthly rent without the landlord going through a credit check to determine the renters ability to pay: “I am not going to rent to you because you are dishwasher and you obviously don’t make enough money to afford to live here.”
Source: City of Fayetteville