For Immediate Release: October 17 2011
Charges of Discrimination up 20% at Department of Human Rights as Department Moves to Investigate Charges More Quickly
Charges of discrimination filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in the first six months of 2011 increased 20 percent over the number of charges filed in the second half of 2010, according a report the department has submitted to the Minnesota Legislature.
Despite the increased caseload, the department has been able to reduce the average time it takes to resolve a charge by 25 to 30 days, the department reported.
The Department of Human Rights is required to investigate and reach a determination on charges within one year under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. However, in the second half of 2010 it was taking the department an average of more than 400 days to reach a determination, and some charges were taking significantly longer.
"It had clearly been taking too long to resolve certain cases, and the department has taken affirmative steps to reduce that," Lindsey said. These steps including meeting with department's enforcement officers to get their ideas on streamlining the process, and implementing their best suggestions.
One suggestion was to make less use of lengthy questionnaires, previously required in most cases before a charge was drafted. As a result, the department has deemphasized the questionnaires and asked its enforcement officers to obtain enough information when someone first contacts the department, so that a charge can written "on the spot" when possible.
"We are continually examining our process and committed to improving it," Lindsey said. "We intend to reduce the time it takes to resolve a charge even further, to make sure that it takes a lot less than a year."
Lindsey noted that the department's improved performance in resolving cases more quickly was achieved despite a three-week government shutdown during which the Department of Human Rights was closed, the loss of three full-time positions, and a funding cut of about five percent. The cut was included in the budget compromise that ended the state shutdown; the department had been facing proposed budget cuts of 50 to 65 percent before the shutdown.
The department also increased the number of cases that it was able to investigate and resolve as part of its work-sharing agreement with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). From Oct. 1, 2010 through Sept. 30, 2011, the department investigated 427 EEOC cases, exceeding its goal for that contract period.
"When cases of employment discrimination may violate both the state Human Rights Act and federal law, those cases are cross filed with the Department of Human Rights and EEOC," explained department Investigations Unit supervisor Melanie Miles. To avoid duplicate investigations, the department is paid by the EEOC to resolve many of these charges, with the dollars returned to the state's general fund.
"We are pleased that we have increased the number exceeded our goal in this area, despite a government shutdown, a budget cut, and an increase caseload overall," said Miles.
For more information contact Jeff Holman, 651.539.1090, firstname.lastname@example.org