Our Legal Approach

Our legal approach originally developed out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has changed and evolved over time, as our society has changed and evolved.  City government plays a role in protecting basic legal rights for individuals and groups under civil rights laws.

Intentional Discrimination:

When individuals believe they have been intentionally discriminated against because of disability, sex, race, color, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status (in housing), marital status (in credit), creed, or religion, they can contact our office.  We ask the individuals who contact us to describe what has happened to them, why they believe that one of the listed characteristics was the reason for this happening, and what evidence and witnesses they have to support their claim.  We also explain the basic investigation process and the kinds of evidence that will be collected during an investigation.  We acknowledge that sometimes the individuals do not have direct access to evidence they may need, so we also explain that they are not required to provide evidence in order to file the claim.  We then provide assistance in completing the necessary legal forms for those who decide to file a formal complaint to be investigated.  Once the complaint is filed, we forward it to the City Attorney's office for an investigation.  If there is a finding of probable cause to believe that illegal discrimination occurred, then our office works with the City attorney's office to negotiate a settlement to remedy what has occurred.  If no settlement is reached, then the case may proceed either to court or to a public hearing where the Human Rights Commissioners serve in a final decision making capacity.  Decisions made in a  court or by the Human Rights Commission are able to be appealed by either party through the court process.

Discrimination with a Disproportionate Negative Impact:

Sometimes during an investigation, the City might discover a situation where a business or housing provider has made a decision to operate in a certain way that is having a statistically significant negative impact on an entire group of people based on their disability, sex, race, color, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status (in housing), marital status (in credit), creed, or religion.  This area of the law is very complex, and there are multiple defenses that apply even when a negative impact on an entire group has occurred. This is because the law recognizes there is a need to balance the rights of one group against the rights of other groups. If there is a finding of probable cause to believe there has been an illegal disproportionate negative impact, then the same process is followed as described above.

You can learn more by browsing our resources.