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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Human Rights Commission Sees Big Increase In Race Complaints

Bob Kinzel
/
VPR
Karen Richards retired as director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission at the end of 2018.

The Vermont Human Rights Commission saw a sharp increase in the number of cases it accepted due to discrimination based on race or national origin last year.The number of cases in each category in 2018 doubled from the prior year, according to the commission’s annual report, which came out this month.

Of the 10 cases involving race, seven were investigations into public accommodations, two involved workplace issues, and one centered on housing.

The report says the increase “appears to be reflective of a national and state trend towards more openly expressed animus against both people of color and immigrant populations.”

The Vermont Human Rights Commission enforces state anti-discrimination and civil rights laws. Protected categories include race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age and disabilities.

Disability rights accounts for about half of the commission's cases.

The increase "appears to be reflective of a national and state trend towards more openly expressed animus against both people of color and immigrant populations." - 2018 Vermont Human Rights Commission Report

The commission accepted 70 cases last year, up from 62 in 2017.

The Vermont Human Rights Commission considers some complaints as “informal,” when they raise narrow or limited legal issues, such as a businesses failure to adequtely pose handicapped accessible parking signs.

The 2018 report says the commission is including complaints about Vermont's new gender-neutral bathroom law as informal to “ provide places of public accommodations adequate time for compliance.”

 

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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