Summary: The City of Atlanta has established a Human Relations Commission (HRC) to promote mutual respect and understanding within the city of Atlanta. The HRC investigates and hears complaints regarding discrimination, makes recommendations on how to resolve such complaints, and initiates activities in keeping with its mission.
Statutory Purpose: Recognizing the need for a permanent body on human relations, the Atlanta City Council created the HRC as a “vehicle for addressing illegal discrimination in public accommodations, private employment, and housing within the City.” The prohibited forms of discrimination involve race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, and physical disability.
Policy: The City of Atlanta has adopted a Human Relations Code to protect the public welfare, health, peace, and safety within the City regarding open public accommodations, equal employment opportunity and fair housing.
Membership: The HRC consists of seven members with three-year, staggered terms. Two are appointed by the Mayor of Atlanta, two by the President of the Atlanta City Council, and three by the at-large Members of the Council. No member can serve more than two consecutive terms. The membership of the HRC is intended to reflect the diversity of the people protected under the ordinance. The HRC elects its own officers. The City’s Law Department provides legal assistance, and the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services provides administrative support.
Specific Functions: The HRC focuses its efforts on the elimination of discrimination in public accommodations, private employment and housing. Some of its functions are as follows:
- Receive, investigate, and make recommendations to the Mayor and the appropriate City agency for the resolution of complaints alleging discrimination, including racial profiling
- Initiate actions to test, investigate, and file complaints regarding violations of the Human Relations Code
- Conduct studies and recommend needed ordinances and resolutions
- Develop human relations plans and policies for the City of Atlanta
- Investigate conditions that may lead to tension and conflict among racial, religious, and national groups and recommend remedial actions as may be needed
- Convene conferences on public accommodations, private employment, and housing and work with leaders in these fields in developing programs of voluntary compliance and enforcement of the Human Relations Code
Procedures: Any person or organization claiming to be aggrieved by a discriminatory practice occurring within the City of Atlanta may file a complaint with the HRC. The complaint must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services on a form provided by the HRC or “any paper suitable for a complaint” within 180 of the days of occurrence of the alleged unlawful discriminatory act. The Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services maintains a list of information which must be included in a complaint. If the alleged activity is of a continuing nature, the date of its occurrence will be deemed to be any date subsequent to its inception, up to the date of its cessation. The person filing the complaint must promptly deliver a copy of the complaint to the alleged offender and other “necessary “parties as determined by the HRC.
Within 30 days after receiving a complaint, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services will conduct an initial investigation and report the findings to the HRC. The HRC will receive the report and attempt to eliminate the alleged practice by conference, conciliation or persuasion. The HRC may also, at its option, continue the initial investigation to obtain additional information or conduct a hearing. The respondent will have the opportunity to file a written answer to the complaint at least three business days prior to the hearing.
The Chair of the HRC may request the Committee of Council of the Atlanta City Council to issue subpoenas on behalf of the HRC to compel the production of records or the appearance of witnesses.
After conducting a hearing, the HRC will issue findings of fact, its decision, and at the discretion of its Chair, an opinion with the reasons for the decision. The Mayor and the appropriate department of City government will have 30 days in which to respond to the HRC's findings.
Enforcement: In the event of a finding of discrimination in violation of the Human Relations Code, a letter may be sent asking the alleged offender to desist from the actions cited in the complaint. In addition, the Mayor may take any of the following actions:
- Inquire whether due cause exists to revoke a professional or business license issued by the City or a contract with the City
- Ask any City agency to investigate whether the alleged offender has violated any other City ordinance
- Request any appropriate community agency to investigate whether the alleged offender has violated any state or federal law.
Within one year after a conciliation agreement or decision, the HRC will investigate whether the respondent is complying with the terms of the agreement or recommendations.
Other Remedies: In addition to filing a complaint with the HRC, an aggrieved person may seek prosecution of alleged violations of the Human Relations Code in Atlanta Municipal Court; but if the person filing the complaint agrees to a conciliation agreement, the basis of an ordinance violation is limited to the enforcement of the terms of the agreement or settlement.
The filing of a complaint with the HRC does not invalidate, restrict, or deny any right or remedy a person may have under state or federal law or preclude any cause of action in court for the violation of anyone's civil rights.