Most Idaho Discrimination Cases Are About Sex And Disability

Feb 10, 2015

It’s been more than a week since Idaho lawmakers killed the “Add the Words” bill that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. If it had become law, the ban would have expanded the investigation authority of the Idaho Commission on Human Rights.

That got us wondering what the commission does investigate. So we asked for some data using Idaho’s public records laws.

Idaho's Legislature created the commission in 1969 when it passed the state's Human Right Act. For most of its history, the commission was an independent entity. The commission became part of the Idaho Department of Labor after Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter recommended eliminating it’s funding in 2010.

The commission gets about 2,000 calls each year alleging discrimination, in 2014 they agency collected 2,188 discrimination allegations. Idaho's human rights commission has six investigators who take up about 500 cases a year from those calls.

Most of those cases are about discrimination based on sex or disability. Age and national origin are less common, and race and religion make up just a small fraction of cases. 

Credit Data: Idaho Human Rights Commission | Chart: Adam Cotterell

More than a quarter of cases also allege retaliation. In the parlance of the human rights commission, retaliation is when someone (like an employer) tries to get back at someone (like an employee) who has done a legally protected action.

For example, if you feel you’re being harassed at work because of your national origin, you have the right to complain to your supervisor. If your supervisor then fires you for complaining, that’s retaliation. So a case may involve age discrimination and retaliation, or religious discrimination and retaliation.

At least two-thirds of cases involve someone claiming to have been unfairly fired or forced into an involuntary resignation. Nearly a third allege some kind of harassment. That doesn’t include the 15-to-20 percent who claim sexual harassment.  

The vast majority of cases the commission investigates allege discrimination in the workplace. In 2014, public accommodation, housing and education combined accounted for about 6 percent of cases.

Over the last four years, the commission has dismissed more than two-thirds of cases it investigates after not finding enough evidence to proceed. When that happens, the person who brought the case still has the right to sue the person or organization being accused of the discrimination.

Over the past four years, fewer than 20 percent of cases have resulted in what might be considered a successful outcome from the point-of-view of a person filing a discrimination complaint. That includes things like settlements, or both sides agreeing to mediation.

In the years immediately preceding 2011, about a quarter of cases had outcomes like settlement or mediation.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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