What process does the Commission use to investigate a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint of discrimination is not a lawsuit, but will be given serious attention by the Human Rights Commission. The Commission does not represent either side, and will investigate the complaint in a fair, impartial manner. At all times, the burden of proof rests with the Complainant to show that discrimination occurred. All complaints are fully investigated and the position of each side is given thorough consideration. At the close of the investigation, a finding will be made in favor of either the Complainant or the Respondent. At any time in the process, the two sides may reach a settlement.

Investigation:
After the complaint is filed, the investigator will collect and summarize the facts. He or she must collect the BEST evidence available for each side. Thus you may be asked to supply documents which support your position. The investigator may seek information to compare the treatment given the Complainant to treatment given others similarly situated. Your lawyer is welcome to participate in the investigation, but a lawyer is not required.

Determination by Chairperson and Director:
After the investigation is finished, the investigator presents the facts and recommendations to the Chairperson and Director, who review the material and make a determination of Probable Cause or No Probable Cause that an illegal act of discrimination did occur. The Complainant has fifteen (15) days to ask for reconsideration of a No Probable Cause finding by the Commission. A finding of Probable Cause is not the final decision, but is a finding that a discriminatory act may have been committed. If a decision of Probable Cause is made, both sides are given the chance through negotiations to find a solution that both parties find satisfactory.

Conciliation:
If Probable Cause is found in a case, a formal attempt at resolving the case will be made. The parties are given the chance to compromise their differences with negotiations through a Commissioner. This process is called conciliation. The type and amount of damages available to the Complainant depend on the type of case. Only in housing cases may punitive damages be awarded. If the Respondent proposes a Conciliation Agreement, which the Commission feels is satisfactory, the Complainant will be notified, and will have ten (10) days after that notice to sign the proposed Agreement. If at the end of the ten (10) days the Complainant has not signed the proposed Conciliation Agreement, the complaint will be dismissed. If settlement is achieved, a written Conciliation Agreement will be issued for signatures by all parties. When approved, a Conciliation Agreement has the same effect as a Final Order.

Public Hearing:
If conciliation fails, the case is heard at a formal Public Hearing. The burden of proof is on the Complainant. A designated Hearing Officer presides at the Public Hearing.

Final Order:
A Final Order by the Commission is binding. Either party may seek judicial review within fifteen (15) days.

Remedies:
If the Commission finds discrimination, a Final Order may include a Cease and Desist Order and require further remedies that will eliminate discrimination. This might include reinstatement to a job, monetary relief where evidence showed that there was some resulting loss, making a house or apartment available and validating selection devices.

 

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