The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (KCHR) was founded in 1960 to help stop discrimination of people based on their race or ethnicity. When the Kentucky Civil Rights Act was passed in 1966, KCHR took on the task of enforcing this law throughout the state. This commission is similar to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees or potential employees based on age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or disability. KCHR reviews complaints filed by employees to determine if they have a valid claim of discrimination, sexual harassment, or wrongful termination under state and federal employment laws.
Not all employers are governed by the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. An employer must have at least eight full-time workers for twenty or more weeks in a year for the act to apply. Federal anti-discrimination laws also may not apply to those businesses that have a small number of full-time employees. An employee must file a claim with KCHR within 180 days of the incident to have his or her claim considered.
Once a complaint is received by KCHR, an enforcement officer is assigned to the case to act as a neutral party between the employee and employer and investigate the claim. A letter is sent to the employer who has 20 days to respond with its side of the story. The officer will conduct an investigation, talking to witnesses and reviewing documentation. If he feels that discrimination most likely occurred, the case will be referred to a staff attorney. If he does not think discrimination occurred, he will recommend that the complaint be dismissed for “no probable cause.” Both sides will be encouraged to conciliate the case throughout the investigation, which is similar to settling a dispute out of court. If a conciliation agreement cannot be reached, the complaint will be heard by the KCHR and a decision will be made by the commission.
At a recent KCHR Board of Commissioners meeting on June 21, 2012, in Danville, Kentucky, the board considered several complaints, including one involving a racial discrimination complaint against a Lexington company. The company allegedly did not pay the employee for paid time-off wages when he left the company. The employee claimed the company’s actions were racially motivated. The KCHR officer determined that probable cause existed and the company agreed to conciliate the complaint before a final hearing was held. The company denied the allegations but agreed to pay the ex-employee $3,500 and to have civil rights training and be monitored by KCHR for one year to make sure they are complying with the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
While anyone can file a complaint with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, actually doing so may be a bit daunting. If you think you have been discriminated against or have been a victim of sexual harassment or wrongful termination, a Kentucky employment law attorney can help you to assess the situation and determine whether a complaint or lawsuit should be filed. Charles Miller and Rheanne Falkner are employment attorneys located in Louisville Kentucky. They help workers throughout Kentucky and Indiana with all types of employment issues.
Human rights commission issues rulings on discrimination complaints; The Lane Report; June 21, 2012