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The mission of the Bloomington Human Rights Commission is to enforce the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance in a fair and timely manner, to educate community members about their rights and responsibilities under various civil rights laws and to advocate for changes in policies and law. The BHRC is also responsible for ensuring covered bidders comply with the City's affirmative action requirements and for issuing reports on bias incidents and hate crimes in our community. 

Education

The BHRC works to educate the public about civil rights laws in a number of ways:

  • Publishes a monthly newsletter, Rights Stuff, about developments in civil rights issues and community events. Current and past issues of Rights Stuff can be found here
  • Publishes brochures on a number of topics including fair housing, harassment and bias incidents. The brochure library can be found here. The BHRC speaks to groups about fair housing and fair employment, If you would like to arrange a talk for your group, please call (812) 349-3429 or email human.rights@bloomington.in.gov.
  • Publishes an activity book on Bloomington's diversity. 
  • Sponsors an annual essay/art contest for area students, to encourage young people to think about how human rights impact their lives. Past essay/art contest topics have included Were we born free and equal? and How has welcoming immigrants changed our society?
  • Recognizes a human rights award winner. Past recipients include Cindy Stone, Bloomington PRIDE, BPD's Resource Office Program and many more. A full list of past recipients can be found here. 
  • Marches in the Fourth of July parade, often along with the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, handing out materials we hope raise the profile of our commissions. Photos from these events and others can be found here. 
  • Talks to groups of landlords, tenants, employers, employees and providers of public accommodations about relevant law and best practices. If you would like to arrange such a conversation, give us a call at (812) 349-3429 or send us an email at human.rights@bloomington.in.gov. There is no charge for this service. 
  • Maintains a Facebook page to share information about the BHRC and human rights in general. 

Advocacy

The BHRC regularly takes steps to encourage changes in policies and laws and works with like-minded groups. In the recent past, we've done the following: cosponsored events with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Commission and the Council for Community Accessibility, worked with Bloomington United, helped the City declare November, 2019 Native American month, wrote letters to Indiana senators and representatives about China's Uyghur citizens, created a Fair Labor Initiative to recognize restaurants that certified they were in compliance with all applicable fair labor laws and urged IU to address its treatment of Japanese American students during World War II. 

Enforcement of the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance

The Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, color, national origin, ancestry, gender identity, sexual orientation, veteran status or housing status. It also prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of familial status. It has jurisdiction over entities within the Bloomington City Limits, with the exception of Indiana University. 

The Monroe County Human Rights Commission enforces a nearly identical ordinance. The MCHRC has jurisdiction over all unincorporated areas of Monroe County. Areas that are under the jurisdiction of the Town of Ellettsville or the Town of Stinesville are not covered by either the City or the County HRC. These areas are served by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC). The ICRC has statewide jurisdiction and may investigate a complaint in any part of the state of Indiana. 

If you feel you have experienced discrimination in Monroe County, but don't know whether the BHRC, the MCHRC or the ICRC is the right agency for you to contact, call one of the agencies and they can help you figure that out. 

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you feel you have been discriminated against within the City limits, you can contact the BHRC by calling (812) 349-3429 or by emailing us at human.rights@bloomington.in.gov. Or you can submit an online initial intake form and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. 

If the alleged discrimination occurred outside of the city limits but within Monroe County, you can contact the Monroe County HRC by calling (812) 349-2525, or emailing the MCHRC at mslk@co.monroe.in.us. Or you can submit an online initial intake form and someone will get  back to you as soon as possible.

Who does the work of the commission?

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 investigates the complaint, along with the director. The BHRC staff is made up of a director/assistant city attorney and an assistant. 

The MCHRC consists of seven members, who are all appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Monroe County Commissioners. MCHRC staff is made up of an attorney and an administrative assistant, who serve the MCHRC on a part-time basis. 

What is illegal discrimination under the City or County's human rights ordinance?

Illegal discrimination is being treated adversely 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, or in housing only, familial status. 

A few examples of cases the BHRC has investigated and then was able to negotiate 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, or asking her to demonstrate how she could. Our investigation showed that the new job would be less physically demanding than her current job. We were able to get her the promotion and 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. After we investigated, the bar agreed not to hire the DJ again and to compensate the complainant with free tickets and appetizers. 
  • An employer ignored complaints about harassment in the workplace. After we investigated, the employer agreed to take appropriate disciplinary action against the harassing employee. The employer also agreed to implement a policy on sexual harassment and provided an opportunity of the BHRC director to provide training on sexual harassment to its employees.
  • A nonprofit agency refused to allow a transgender man to take men's pants, wanting to reserve its limited supply of pants for men and not viewing the transgender man as a man. After we investigated, the agency apologized and changed its policy. 

What is not illegal discrimination under the ordinance?

The ordinances apply only to actions by institutions -- employers, housing providers, providers of public accommodations and educational entities. The commissions do not investigate behavior by people acting in their individual capacity or the personal viewpoints of individuals. Nothing in the ordinances dictates how individuals must think. 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. 

The ordinances apply only to allegations of discrimination as defined by the ordinances. If a former employer won't pay you your last check, that is typically not a matter for the BHRC. It may be 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, or because you are a student, that's not a violation of the ordinance. No local law prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to smokers or students. Only the classifications listed in the ordinance are protected. 

We recognize that it can be difficult to know if your concern is covered by a human rights ordinance. Feel free to call or email us to discuss your situation, or complete and submit our initial intake form. If you concern is not covered by an ordinance, we will do our best to make an appropriate referral to get you the assistance you need. 

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

If the alleged discrimination occurred within the City limits, contact the BHRC, (812) 349-3429, or email us at human.rights@bloomington.in.gov. Or complete and submit this initial intake form

If the alleged discrimination occurred outside of the City but within unincorporated areas of the county, call the MCHRC at (812) 349-2525 or email the MCHRC at mselk@co.monroe.in.us. Or complete and submit this initial intake form

You have 180 days after the alleged discriminatory action to file your complaint, but the sooner you do so, the better. With time, witnesses can be hard to track down or forget details. Documents can go missing. We can do a better job of finding out what happened if you file soon after the alleged discrimination.

What happens if I file a discrimination complaint?

Your first step is the intake process. You will meet a representative of the appropriate HRC. The representative may interview you to learn details of your situation, or may ask you to write down your complaint, if you are able to do that. You will meet with or talk to the attorney representing the HRC. Please understand that the attorney is not acting as your attorney, but is representing the HRC and is investigating your allegations to see if the human rights ordinance has been violated. You may hire your own attorney, but that is not required. If your allegations come under the jurisdiction of the ordinance, the HRC attorney will prepare legal documents for you to review. Once you've signed them, the complaint is filed with the HRC. 

Step two is for your complaint to be assigned to one of the commissioners, who will work with the attorney to investigate your complaint. 

Step three is for the HRC to send a copy of your complaint to the respondent -- the employer, landlord, provider of public accommodations or educational institution you are accusing of discriminating against you. 

The respondent has 20 days to respond to your complaint by filing what we call a position statement. The position statement is often a denial of having done anything wrong, but sometime respondents will offer to settle the matter while denying any wrongdoing. If they do, the director and investigation commissioner 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. The full commission will have to approve the settlement. 

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

Step five is the HRC determination. The investigating commissioner and attorney, after conducting a thorough investigation, will issue a finding of either probable cause or no probable cause to believe the human rights ordinance was violated. 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 have the right to appeal that decision to the chair of the HRC. 

If the commissioner and director find probable cause to be 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 HRC can take the matter to court. But that is quite rare. 

There is no charge to file a complaint with the HRC. You have the right to be represented by an attorney, but you don't have to have an attorney.

Affirmative action requirements for bidders

The Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance requires covered bidders to submit affirmative action plans (AAP) to the BHRC at least 24 hours before the deadline. Submit your plan to human.rights@bloomington.in.gov. 

You can use this checklist to see if your company's AAP includes everything the BHRC requires. 

If your company doesn't have an AAP, or if you realize your plan does not comply with Bloomington's requirements, you can adopt Bloomington's model plan as your own plan, or as a guide to update your existing plan. 

If you do not submit an AAP that complies with the City's requirements by the deadline, the BHRC contract compliance officer will find your plan to be unacceptable. Your company will not be eligible to be awarded a contract unless and until you successfully appeal the officer's decision to the Contract Compliance Committee of the BHRC. 

Hate crimes and bias incidents

The Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance defines a hate crime as including "verbal or physical abuse directed at individuals or groups because of their religion, race, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, housing status or status as a veteran." If you feel you have been a victim of a hate crime or a bias incident, we urge you to call the police at 911. If you prefer, you can report it here as well or instead. The BHRC does not investigate crimes, but is interested in hearing your story and when necessary, making appropriate referrals. The BHRC collects these reports and publishes them (without naming the victim or alleged offender) so that the community has a better understanding of the prevalence of these incidents. Current and past reports can be found here.  

The Monroe County Code does not have a similar provision to the BHRC's hate crimes provision, but the Monroe County Sheriff's Department should be contacted in the event that a hate crime has allegedly occurred outside the City limits and inside Monroe County. 

Annual and quarterly reports

The BHRC also publishes data surrounding its work both quarterly and annually. These reports can be found here.

 

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, governmental entities and housing providers to take steps to make their buildings and services accessible to people with disabilities. It requires the City to make its services, including its 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:
2023-01-31

Valeri Haughton

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

Pamela Jackson

Appointed By:
Common Council
Term Expires:
2023-01-31

Erin McAlister

Appointed By:
Mayor
Term Expires:
2023-01-31

Ryne Shadday

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

Latosha Williams

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