On Monday, Sept. 29, the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will hold a public hearing on several pieces of legislation, including Bill 20-321, the Human Rights Act Notice Requirement Amendment Act of 2013. This legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Barry, would clarify that the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act extend equally to all who face discrimination in the District, including those whose claims are against the District government.
Specifically, the bill clarifies that a special provision in the D.C. code requiring injured parties with possible claims against the District to notify the District government of their injury within 6 months or lose their right to sue (even if the statute of limitations is substantially longer) should not apply to claims brought under the human rights act.
I support this legislation. The D.C. Human Rights Act provides that: "Every individual shall have an equal opportunity to participate fully in the economic, cultural, and intellectual life of the District and to have an equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of life, including, but not limited to, in employment, in places of public accommodation, resort or amusement, in educational institutions, in public service, and in housing and commercial space accommodations." [§ 2-1402.01]
The D.C. HRA provides all of the people of D.C. core protections against discrimination. And for many of our residents it provides substantially more protection than similar federal legislation, because, for example, it protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and other characteristics not protected by Congress.
But under current law, it is easier to enforce your rights if you are discriminated against by a private actor than if it is the District government itself that has discriminated against you. That doesn't make sense.
When it comes to human rights, we should hold our government to the highest standards.