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The Human Rights Commission is designed to enforce Bloomington's Human Rights Ordinance in a fair and timely manner, to educate community members about their rights and responsibilities under various civil rights laws, to raise awareness on all human rights issues, to ensure that contractors and subcontractors on city jobs pay employees applicable common wages, to ensure that the City, as an employer, governmental entity and provider of public accommodations, complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and to provide the community with information about the ADA.

The BHRC can be reached at 812-349-3429 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Commission's email address is human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What does the BHRC do?

The mission of the BHRC is to protect human rights in Bloomington, as that term is defined by the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance.  The BHRC investigates allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, or education on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, housing status, or veteran status. It also investigates complaints of familial status discrimination in housing. 

 

How does the BHRC fulfill its mission?

We strive to fulfill our mission by enforcing the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance, mediating disputes, educating the public, and providing information and referrals.

  

Who does this work?

The BHRC is made up of seven volunteer commissioners, four appointed by the mayor and three by the common council. They all serve two-year terms.  The commissioners oversee the work of the BHRC and make policy decisions.  When a complaint is filed with the BHRC, one of the commissioners investigate the complaint along with the director of the commission.  The BHRC staff is made up of a director/attorney and an assistant.

 

What is illegal discrimination under Bloomington’s ordinance?

Illegal discrimination is being treated differently because of your membership in a protected category – because of your race, sex, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, housing status, or veteran status.  

A few examples of cases the BHRC has investigated and negotiated settlements:

A store refused to consider a woman with a disability for a promotion, deciding that she could not handle the physical demands of the job without asking her if she could do the job. Our investigation showed that the new job would have been less physically demanding than the woman’s current job. We were able to get her the promotion and some back pay. 

A DJ in a bar made derogatory, vulgar comments about a gay man dancing on the dance floor and ordered him out of the bar.  The bar agreed not to hire the DJ again and to compensate the complainant with free tickets and appetizers. 

A nonprofit refused to allow a transgender man to take men’s pants, wanting to reserve them for men and not viewing the customer as a man. The nonprofit apologized and changed its policy. 

 

What is not illegal discrimination under the ordinance?

The ordinance applies only to institutions – employers, landlords, providers of public accommodation, and education.  If you have a dispute with your neighbor, that is typically not a matter for the BHRC.  Depending on the facts, it may be a matter for the police or another entity.  

It applies only to allegations of discrimination as defined by the ordinance.   If a former employer won’t pay you your last check, that is typically not a matter for the BHRC.  It’s a matter for the Wage and Hour Division of the Indiana Department of Labor.  If a landlord won’t rent to you because you are a smoker, that’s not a violation of the ordinance. No law prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to smokers. 

It can be hard to know if your problem is covered by the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance or not.  Feel free to call or email us to discuss your situation.  If it’s not covered by the ordinance, we will do our best to make an appropriate referral.  

 

What should I do if I think I’ve been discriminated against?

Contact the BHRC, 812 349-3429, or human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.  You have 180 days after the alleged discriminatory action to file your complaint, but the sooner you do so, the better.  With time, documents can go missing and witnesses can be hard to track down or forget details.

 

What happens if I file a discrimination complaint?

Step one is to meet with the director and tell your side of the story.  If your allegations don’t come under the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance, she will make an appropriate referral.  If they come under the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance, she will prepare legal documents for you to review. Once you’ve signed them, the complaint is officially filed with the BHRC.

Step two is for BHRC staff to assign your complaint to one of the commissioners, who will conduct the investigation along with the director.

Step three is for the BHRC to send a copy of your complaint to the respondent – the employer, the landlord, the provider of public accommodations, or education. The respondent will have twenty days to file its position statement.

The respondent’s position statement is usually a denial of having done anything wrong, but some respondents will offer to settle the matter while denying any wrongdoing. If they do, the BHRC will work with both you and the respondent to come up with a fair settlement that helps to make you whole and helps prevent future complaints.

Step four, if there is no settlement offer, is the BHRC investigation.  The investigating commissioner and director will typically interview both parties to get more information, as well as any witnesses, and review relevant documents and legal precedent.

Step five is the BHRC determination. The investigating commissioner and director, after conducting a thorough investigation, will issue a finding of either probable cause or no probable cause to believe illegal discrimination occurred.  If the finding is probable cause, the commissioner and director will also issue a proposed settlement, which can be negotiated. If the finding is no probable cause, you can appeal that decision to the chair of the BHRC.  

If the investigating commissioner and director find probable cause to believe discrimination occurred, but can’t work out a settlement, the case will go to the full commission (except for the investigating commissioner) for an administrative hearing.  If the full commission finds that the ordinance was violated, but a settlement still can’t be reached, the BHRC will take the matter to court. But that is quite rare. 

 

Will this process cost me money?

There is no fee for filing a complaint with the BHRC.

 

Will I need an attorney?

Both parties have the right to be represented by counsel during the investigation, but it’s not required, and it’s rare for complainants to have counsel.

 

Can I get a problem fixed without having to file a formal complaint? 

Sometimes. For example, the BHRC receives a lot of complaints about landlords not providing tenants with disabilities accessible parking, or not allowing them to have service animals. A letter from the BHRC, along with copies of relevant laws or regulations, often fixes that problem.  

 

I think I have been discriminated against, but the discrimination did not occur in Bloomington. What should I do?

If it happened outside of Bloomington, but within Monroe County, call the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, 812 349 2525. If it happened outside of Monroe County, but within the state of Indiana, contact the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, 1 800 628 2909.  

 

I’m an employer.  What do I do if someone files a complaint against me?

If you receive a complaint, it does not mean the BHRC has decided that you did anything wrong.  The BHRC has a duty under the ordinance to investigate complaints filed with it in a fair and impartial manner, protecting complainants from illegal discrimination and respondents from unfounded charges of discrimination.  We have a duty to be fair to both the complainant and the respondent.  You will have a chance to present your side of the story.  

 

I would like to know more about fair housing and fair employment, and I would like my colleagues to be more educated on these topics as well. Do you give talks to groups?

Yes. The BHRC is happy to talk to groups of landlords, tenants, employers, employees, and providers of public accommodation to discuss the relevant law and best practices. Just give us a call or send an email.  There is no charge for this service. 


 

The City of Bloomington strives to be a City without discrimination.  We hope that you never encounter discrimination from a landlord, employer or provider of public accommodation in Bloomington, or from the City itself, but if you do, we want you to know what to do. 

Fair Housing

Local, state and federal laws prohibit discrimination in housing on the basis of sex, race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, housing status or familial status.  For more about fair housing, click here for a brochure.  If you feel you have been discriminated against in housing on the basis of any of these protected categories, or if you have questions about your rights and responsibilities under fair housing laws, please contact the Bloomington Human Rights Commission at 812.349.3429 or human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.

You typically have 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination to file a formal complaint, but the earlier you file, the better.

Bloomington also protects your right to rent an apartment or house that complies with the Bloomington Housing Code.  If you have questions about your rights under the Code, or if you want to file a complaint about the condition of your rental space, click here for more information.

For additional Fair Housing information from the federal government, click here.

Fair Employment

Local, state and federal laws prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, veteran status or housing status. If you feel you have been discriminated against in employment on the basis of any of these protected categories, or have any questions, please contact the Bloomington Human Rights Commission at 812.349.3429 or human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.

As with fair housing, you typically have 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination to file a complaint, but the earlier you file, the better.

Accessibility Issues

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that requires employers, providers of public accommodations and housing providers to take steps to make their buildings and services accessible to people with disabilities. And it requires the City to make its services, including it sidewalks and programs, accessible to people with disabilities. If you have questions or concerns about barriers to accessibility, whether the barrier is in a private business or in a City-controlled program, please contact the Bloomington Human Rights Commission at 812.349.3429 or human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.  If you want to help make Bloomington a more accessible community, please consider joining the Council for Community Accessibility (CCA). Click here for more information about the CCA.  If you have questions about the City’s ADA Implementation Plan, email human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.

Title VI

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act requires recipients of federal funds, such as the City of Bloomington, to ensure that no one is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination in any of its services or programs on the basis of a protected category.  It is the City’s policy to prohibit discrimination and/or the exclusion of individuals from employment or participation opportunities in all of its facilities, programs, activities, or services on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, age, low income status, limited English proficiency, religion, citizenship status, military status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, housing status or any other category under any applicable law.  For a copy of the City’s Title VI notice, click here. For a complaint form, click here.  If you have questions about the City's Title VI Implementation Plan or to contact the City’s Title VI coordinator, email human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.  

Education

These laws change with regularity, and how they are interpreted by courts changes as well. We know that it can be hard for employers, landlords, providers of public accommodation and citizens alike to keep up. If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities under these laws, or if you would like a speaker to come to your group to talk about these issues, please contact the Bloomington Human Rights Commission.

Members

Byron Bangert

Appointed By:
Common Council
Term Expires:
2022-01-31

Carolyn Calloway-Thomas

Appointed By:
Mayor
Term Expires:
2021-01-31

Valeri Haughton

Appointed By:
Common Council
Term Expires:
2022-01-31

Pamela Jackson

Appointed By:
Common Council
Term Expires:
2021-01-31

Ryne Shadday

Appointed By:
Mayor
Term Expires:
2022-01-31

Jacob Simpson

Appointed By:
Mayor
Term Expires:
2021-01-31

Latosha Williams

Appointed By:
Mayor
Term Expires:
2022-01-31

Reports