Commission on Human Rights
KY Human Rights Commission annual report released, discrimination complaints high
LOUISVILLE – The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights received 421 discrimination complaints during the 2008 reporting year, from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. This is the second highest number of complaints for the agency, with 423 in 2007.
Executive Director John J. Johnson said, “These statistics remind us that everyday we must remain vigilant in promoting and protecting human rights in our own state.”
As has been the case since the commission began enforcing civil rights laws for Kentucky in 1966, race and color is most often the protected class listed in discrimination complaints. However, cases alleging discrimination based on race and color decreased in the last 10 years. There were 219 cases alleging discrimination based on race and color in 1998. In 2008, complainants alleged race and color discrimination 158 times.
A discrimination complaint can list more than one basis. For example, a complainant can allege a person discriminated against him based on his race and his age. Therefore, the number of new complaints does not equal the number of the bases of complaints. For the 421 complaints that people made this year, there were 458 bases or protected classes listed in those complaints.
The protected class of disability has experienced the highest increase in the last five years, with 46 disability cases in 2003 and 99 cases in 2008. There were nine religion complaints this year, which was slightly up from four last year. Sex discrimination cases remain high with 93 complaints this year.
As to the cause of the high number of complaints this year, the commission has no definitive answer. “But, we believe that public awareness regarding the individual’s right to equality has become more widespread over time,” said Executive Director Johnson.
“The Kentucky Civil Rights Act and the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act with their protections of equal access and reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities have come to the public’s attention,” he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey three-year estimate of 2005-2007, Kentucky has one of the highest disability rates in the nation. Among Kentuckians age five and above, 21.2 percent claim at least one disability. The national average is 15.1 percent.
“Kentuckians with disabilities are starting to challenge owners of public accommodations such as restaurants and retail stores, owners of rental property, and employers to bring their facilities and policies into compliance with these laws that guarantee equal opportunity,” Mr. Johnson said.
The annual report is online at the commission website: www.kchr.ky.gov. Click on reports and publications on the left, then click on reports.