Is Utah's anti-discrimination law working? Tough to tell


    Is Utah's anti-discrimination law working? Tough to tell

    (KUTV) - It's been almost a year since Utah state law changed to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under anti-discrimination statutes for housing and employment, and new data show nearly every discrimination complaint filed in the last year has been dismissed.

    At the time it was signed by Governor Herbert, the law was praised as a victory of compromise between religious liberty and gay rights. After leaving the governor's desk, the bill went into the hands of the Utah Labor Commission to enforce the law and take against employers or landlords who discriminate.

    "So at this point, we've only had a few cases that we've really addressed and most of them have been closed without cause," Labor Commission anti-discrimination unit director Alison Adams-Perlac said.

    In response to a 2NEWS public records request, the Labor Commission released data which shows all but one discrimination case filed since the law was changed has been dismissed without any action taken.

    THE DATA

    Employment Discrimination Complaints

    Cases Filed: 18

    Cases dismissed without "cause": 7

    Cases dismissed for "lack of jurisdiction": 8

    Cases currently in intake: 3

    Housing Discrimination Complaints

    Cases Filed: 8

    Cases dismissed without "cause": 7

    Cases resolved with conciliation agreement: 1

    When a case is dismissed without cause, the labor commission determined that there was no proof of discrimination. "Lack of jurisdiction" means the complainant either waited too long to file the complaint, or the alleged violation does not violate state statute.

    "Looking at the information and the numbers that we have, we've determined that we need to do more education and outreach to the LGBTQ community to make them more aware of this law," Adams-Perlac said.

    Education, she said, about what is discrimination and what isn't. She says a lot of the complaints simply didn't violate the law or there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation.

    But the labor commission would not talk about any specific cases, and did not provide context for any cases where the allegation didn't violate statute, or have insufficient evidence.

    As part of a public records request filed earlier this month, 2NEWS requested to examine the complaints, even with all identifying information about the involved parties redacted. The request and a subsequent appeal were denied citing a state statute that prohibits the commission from releasing information about complaints.

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    But there is more to the story than just the number of dismissed cases, according to Equality Utah Director Troy Williams, who was among the original supporters of anti-discrimination expansion for sexual orientation and gender identity.

    "The law is working, I know of several people who have been able to come out at work, put the photo of their marriage on their desk without the fear of being discriminated against, fired, or evicted from their home," Williams said.

    He said many LGBT individuals have been able to live more open lives without fear of being retaliated against by employers or landlords.

    "What we're seeing now is gay and transgender being integrated into the legal and cultural fabric of this state, this is amazing," Williams said.

    He said he would support state programs to educate the LGBT community about anti-discrimination laws.

    "It is our concern that people are just not aware of the law, or the requirements of the law," Adams-Perlac said.

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