L.A.’s new anti-discrimination agency: Here’s how it works

To provide direct support to Angelenos who face discrimination, the City of Los Angeles’ Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department established a unit to investigate complaints of discrimination by employers, landlords and businesses.

City residents whose civil rights have been violated have already had the opportunity to file complaints with state and federal civil rights agencies, such as the US Commission on Equal Opportunity. But Capri Maddox, executive director of LA’s new civil rights division, said her group will help Angelenos avoid the significant backlogs they may face at higher levels of government.

Specifically, Maddox said, the division is a response to “our community-based organizations like the Black Worker Center, UCLA [Labor] Center and others who came forward to say they wanted to see local enforcement in trade, education, employment and housing in the private sector,” Maddox said.

“We seem to miss some of the places and spaces where people are discriminated against,” she continued.

Violence, hate crimes and hate speech can be committed by managers, landlords or business owners, she said. “So we want to consciously say in the city of Los Angeles that ‘hate has no home in this city,'” Maddox said.

If someone has been discriminated against in LA, they can file a complaint with the department and begin the process of redress for their complaints. Here are some details.

How do you submit a complaint?

Before filing a Complaint, you should know that filing a Complaint will not prevent you from pursuing any other available criminal, civil or other legal remedy.

You can file a complaint by visiting the LA Civil Rights website, emailing civilandhumanrights@lacity.org, or calling (213) 978-1845. Joumana Silyan-Saba, the department’s director of policy and enforcement, said the department will assess whether the alleged discrimination meets four criteria:

  1. It happened within the city of Los Angeles.
  2. It took less than three years to submit the admission form.
  3. The alleged discrimination occurred in the private sector (commerce, education, employment or housing). The department does not have the authority to investigate complaints against public entities, including other city offices.
  4. The alleged discrimination was against a person in a protected class (which includes discrimination based on race, sex, disability, nationality or religion).

Filing a complaint is a difficult first step.

“There can be situations where people come into our offices with all their written documents in a plastic bag and cry or speak a language other than English or don’t really understand how the process even works,” Maddox said.

Maddox and Silyan-Saba said the admissions and investigation team tries to keep empathy and compassion at the forefront of this process.

Silyan-Saba said her team recognizes that those who reach out to the department also experience trauma and are therefore equipped to address that aspect as well.

Will my identity be revealed?

Complaint intake (where you provide basic contact information) and review procedures are confidential. But once the investigator moves to the enforcement phase, Silyan-Saba said, the trial will become public.

For example, when the department files an infringement notice, it is a public document identifying the complainant and the person accused of discrimination (the defendant). If the defendant requests an administrative hearing, that is also a public hearing.

If you are concerned about retaliation for filing a complaint, Maddox said, retaliation against anyone for exercising rights protected by the City of Los Angeles Civil and Human Rights Ordinance is prohibited and punishable as a misdemeanor.

What happens after I file a complaint?

Once it has been determined that the criteria are met, the investigation phase begins. The investigator will work with the complainant to obtain any additional documents or information needed. The investigator will also discuss the process with the complainant.

The investigator will go through the same process with the respondent and ask the individual for any relevant records. This part of the investigation may require site visits.

The department has subpoena powers, so investigators can compel people to provide documents and other evidence.

If it finds that discrimination has taken place, the department will consult with the complainant and issue a notice of violation. The defendant then has 15 days to request an administrative review.

When the defendant requests a hearing, a hearing officer reviews the case and confirms all, some, or none of the allegations of violations and penalties. The procedure ends there, unless the defendant or complainant can demonstrate a misuse of powers by the Hearing Officer. In this case, the case goes to the city’s Civil Rights Commission, which reviews the case again. According to the municipal code, the commission has the last word.

The Agency may encourage the complainant and the defendant to negotiate a settlement, although this is not required. It can also refer the two sides to a mediator.

What are the possible outcomes?

Going to the department for help and filing a complaint, says Silyan-Saba, is first and foremost acknowledging the wrongs that may have been done to you.

Aside from validation, there are also potentially significant consequences for the respondent if the department finds that discrimination has taken place.

Based on the findings of the investigation, the department may impose administrative and compensatory penalties of up to $250,000. It can also direct the respondent to take corrective action, such as For example, to undergo training, post signs, or update policies. The corrective actions are determined on a case-by-case basis.

If you file a complaint that does not meet the four criteria, the department will refer you to other community organizations, government agencies, or legal organizations that can provide legal assistance.

If your complaint meets the four criteria, but investigators determine that the practices are not discriminatory, the department will refer the case to another organization that can help you.

And if your complaint is not within their purview, the department escalates the matter to state or federal civil rights authorities.

“So even if there is neither a resolution nor a breach notification, we will do everything we can to ensure that the people who reach out to us can find some type of resource that we can direct them to.” said Silyan-Saba.

How did the division come about?

According to Lola Smallwood Cuevas, a founding director of the Black Worker Center and project director of the UCLA Labor Center, the department and its discrimination grievance process have been ongoing for eight years. Those two organizations, along with the Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California and a multiracial coalition of workers and community organizers, pushed for a local enforcement agency because “residents wanted that kind of division,” Cuevas said.

Advocates believe state and federal agencies are not doing enough to stop discrimination against workers and community members, she said. Her view, she said, was that “we need a more robust, active on-site deployment strategy for this protection.”

“There had to be a local department to give residents more say [in] and access to how those rights are protected,” Cuevas said. In addition, a local agency would “ensure that there is a record and monitoring at the local level of where and how this discrimination takes place and that we develop proactive strategies to tackle it and hold bad actors accountable”. said Cuevas.

San Francisco and San Diego already have agencies that investigate discrimination complaints at the local level. Now that LA has one, Cuevas said, it could become a model for statewide partnerships “to create a seamless enforcement strategy that supports the.” [city’s] Diversity and ensures diversity in our homes and at our workplaces.”

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https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-09/l-a-has-a-new-discrimination-complaint-resource-heres-what-you-should-know L.A.’s new anti-discrimination agency: Here’s how it works

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