Anchorage Press: Anchorage Press News
Scott Christiansen | Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 11:05 am
The director of the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (AERC) says no one should avoid bringing a claim of discrimination to her office, even if they suspect they will not be covered under the city’s anti-discrimination law. Certain types of claims brought by gay, lesbian or transgender people can be investigated by the commission, despite an Anchorage election in which voters refused add LGBT people to a local civil rights law.
Last week, the Press reported on an April 2012 ruling by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that opens the process for transgender people when their claim is that they have been discriminated against because of their sex. Pamela Basler, executive director of the AERC, answered questions later in the week about the process, saying that sex discrimination and sexual harassment on the job are illegal, regardless of the victim’s gender or identity.
We encourage people to come forward if they have a complaint of sexual harassment on the job, Basler said. “That’s defined as verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. That can happen between or among all sorts of people, and if that is happening in the workplace it is illegal.”
“Last April, Anchorage voters rejected a law that would have added gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the list of protected classes included in the local anti-discrimination law. Legal remedies may still available via the AERC in some cases,” Basler said, particularly cases dealing with employment practices or harassment, which is why the Commission wants to hear from anyone who may have a claim, even if they believe local law won’t protect them.
Basler said sex stereotyping is the most clear-cut example of such a case. In those cases, one key part of the fact pattern, Basler said, that within the workplace there is a person who believes people of a specific sex must act in a specific way” and the Commission encourages people to come forward so an investigator can examine the fact pattern behind the claim of discrimination. Many of these fact patterns have always been in the cases we have addressed. It is so fact dependent, and it is very difficult to explain what sex-stereotyping is, so what we want is for people to come down and talk with us.
The Commission recently issued a report to the Anchorage Assembly with statistics from 2007 to 2011. The report shows an average of 22 complaints of sex discrimination per year. Complaints of discrimination because of pregnancy or the person’s status as a parent are included in that category. The years 2007 and 2008 were lowest, with 17 complaints each. There were 29 such complaints in 2009, the highest of the five years covered.
The city has a contract with the U.S. EEOC, called a “workshare agreement,” under which the city receives money for the AERC’s role in enforcing anti-discrimination rules under U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.