Almost a month to the day after the cessation of the discriminatory law, "Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Black Law Students Association partnered with OutLaw, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered organization, to welcome the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR). OutLaw student leader, Tyrone Hanley, introduced Alexis Taylor, General Counsel at the OHR, to present on Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the jurisdiction of the Office. Ms. Taylor explained that the DC Office of Human Rights is an agency of the District of Columbia government that seeks to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity, and protect human rights in the District. The Office enforces the DC Human Rights Act and other laws and policies on non-discrimination. The Office also operates as the advocate for the practice of good human relations and mutual understanding among various racial, ethnic and religious groups in the District of Columbia.
The Office of Human Rights seeks to confront discrimination by adjudicating complaints by DC government employees and private citizens. Ms. Taylor explained that her office deals mostly with retaliation complaints, but that the OHR often conducts vigorous and proactive outreach programs in addition to investigations and public hearings on unlawful discrimination. Claims based on federal laws such as Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, the American with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act are also investigated and enforced by her office. The OHR uses trained volunteer mediators to mediate unlawful discrimination complaints through the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program as well. In addition to the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended, the OHR enforces other laws including the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act of 1990, Parental Leave Act, and Language Access Act.
When asked how the Office of Human Rights reacts to multiple complaints filed against a particular organization or business, Ms. Taylor responded that it was standard procedure for the OHR to conduct an inquiry of the systemic problems, produce an advisory notice or report, and, if warranted, recommend investigating the business or organization at a higher level (such as the Office of the Attorney General). However, Ms. Taylor cautioned that these measures depend on the situation and are not required in every case. Throughout the presentation, she stressed the importance of being a knowledgeable self-advocate. In closing, the common message was: "know your rights.”