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Official statement from Seattle Office for Civil Rights regarding Capitol Hill Pride letter

For Immediate Release 

On Thursday, June 17, 2021, Capitol Hill Pride organizers Philip Lawson and Charlette LeFevre sent an email communication addressed to the NAACP, staff at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, Seattle Human Rights Commission, and the Washington Human Rights Commission, among many other Washington State officials, regarding the reparations fees for the Taking B(l)ack Pride event.  

In light of some confusion regarding the role of our office, the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) would like to make clear the role of the Seattle Human Rights Commission (SHRC) within the City of Seattle, and the distinction between that and our Enforcement division.  

Under Seattle Municipal Code 3.14.931, the SHRC’s duties are listed as follows:  

The Seattle Human Rights Commission shall act in an advisory capacity to the Mayor, City Council, Office for Civil Rights, and other City departments in respect to matters affecting human rights, and in furtherance thereof shall have the following specific responsibilities: 

A. To consult with and make recommendations to the Director of the Office for Civil Rights and other City departments and officials with regard to the development of programs for the promotion of equality, justice, and understanding among all citizens of the City; 

B. To consult with and make recommendations to the Director of the Office for Civil Rights with regard to problems arising in the City which may result in discrimination because of race, religion, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology, age, ancestry, honorably discharged veteran or military status, genetic information, the presence of any disability, alternative source of income, participation in a Section 8 or other subsidy program, right of a mother to breastfeed her child, or the use of a service animal by a disabled person, and to make such investigations and hold such hearings as may be necessary to identify such problems; 

C. As appropriate, recommend policies to all departments and offices of the City in matters affecting civil rights and equal opportunity, and recommend legislation for the implementation of such policies; 

D. Encourage understanding between all protected classes and the larger Seattle community, through long range projects; 

E. Hear appeals and hearings as set forth in Chapters 14.04, 14.06, 14.08, and 14.09 of the Seattle Municipal Code; 

F. Report on a semi-annual basis to the Mayor and the City Council. The reports shall include an annual or semi-annual work plan, a briefing of the Commission’s public involvement process for soliciting community and citizen input in framing their annual work plans, and updates on the work plans; and 

G. Meet on a quarterly basis through a designated representative with the Seattle Women’s Commission, the Seattle LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Commission, and the Seattle Disability Commission to ensure coordination and joint project development. 

Unlike the Washington Human Rights Commission, the SHRC does not operate in the same capacity when it comes to investigating discrimination cases. Discrimination in housing, employment, public places, and contracting in the City of Seattle goes directly through the Seattle Office for Civil Rights Enforcement division. The SHRC does hear appeals from findings of the investigations conducted by our Enforcement division, but they are not a part of the claim intake or investigatory process. 

Because the email forwarded by Capitol Hill Pride was addressed to the “Human Rights Commission”, our staff forwarded the communication onto the co-chairs of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. Upon further review, we now understand Capitol Hill Pride intended their initial email to be processed as a civil rights complaint through the SOCR Enforcement division.  

Generally, when our office receives a complaint for investigation, the following procedure is followed:  

If a person believes they have experienced discrimination, a person may contact SOCR to schedule a meeting to discuss their complaint. If the allegations are sufficient to meet the elements of discrimination, the claimant may request to resolve their complaint through an alternative resolution process facilitated by a third-party mediator or sign the discrimination charge. Once the claimant signs the discrimination charge, the investigator will gather relevant documents, conduct interviews, and information necessary to complete the investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the investigator will draft an investigative report whether a violation has occurred.   

Given that this is now an active complaint, our office is unable to offer further comment on this matter beyond this statement of clarification.