11:59am

Fri December 9, 2011
State Capitol

Report Shows Racism Complaints Most Prevalent

For the 51st year in a row, the Kentucky Human Rights Commission has heard more complaints about racial discrimination than any other issue. The commission handles cases of discrimination for any protected class in Kentucky. That includes race, gender, age, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion and smoking status. The panel released its annual report of filings this week (read it here). It covers any complaints sent to the panel between July of last year and July of this year.

Three hundred thirty three complaints were filed in that time. That’s four more than were heard last year and 11 more than were heard the year before. Just under half of the complaints filed dealt with race. The panel also received a number of calls that didn’t lead to complaints.

“We also received 3,269 inquiries from people all over the state who were afraid they were being discriminated against or who just wanted to talk about discrimination problems in their regions,” says commission spokeswoman Victoria Stephens.

Inquiries do not become complaints unless they cover discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and financial transactions. Also, sexual orientation is not a protected class in Kentucky, though the commission supports expanding protections.

Opponents of the new protections either site religion or say it would be too expensive to enforce new laws. However, the commission says that’s not the case.

“Our general counsel at the time did research on the issue and based on his findings, at least for the first few years, it wouldn’t cause a significant amount of additional labor to have to hire any additional staff,” says Stephens.

The annual report includes information on the push for local fairness laws in Berea and Richmond. Currently, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have such laws. The Louisville Human Relations Commission’s annual report has not yet been filed, but last year’s shows that of 238 complaints filed, fewer than 20 were based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

More than 400 complaints from this year and years prior were resolved this year. As in previous years, about four fifths lacked proper evidence to prove discrimination. Several, though, resulted in settlements and financial restitution. Stephens says that’s on a par with previous years.