Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Metro Human Relations Commission: User's Guide

If you live in Nashville and are discriminated against in employment, housing, financial services and transactions, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, you can file a complaint with the Metro Human Relations Commission. Sexual orientation, though not gender identity, is explicitly mentioned on their page. The Human Relations Commission can investigate the complaint, but cannot compel a settlement in the case of sexual orientation discrimination.

You should file your complaint within 180 days of the discriminatory action. The website provides all the information you need:

How to File a Complaint

To file a complaint of discrimination with the Metro Human Relations Commission please call our office at 615-880-3370 OR visit the Metro Human Relations Commission office.

The Human Relations Commission staff will assist you in writing a brief outline of facts, and word a charge of violation of local civil rights law or policy, on a form, which requires your notarized signature. You know your complaint better than anyone else. Give the Commission staff person all the details and answer all questions as fully as you can. Names, dates, places, addresses and details of what happened should be as accurate as possible. Documents such as payroll slips or rent receipts can help to support charges. If you have witnesses, it’s important to give full names, and how the Commission staff can contact them.

The executive director is very clear on the Human Relations Commission's authority to take and investigate complaints based on sexual orientation. He has said so in public and in conversation with me.

If you call and try to file a complaint based on sexual orientation and a Commission employee for some reason seems unsure, you may have to refer the employee to the website linked above and to the legal opinion given by then Law Director and now Mayor Karl Dean that establishes that the Human Relations Commission can accept such complaints. But since the information is correctly listed on the website, you shouldn't have any difficulty.

I would remind anyone filing such a complaint that you will not get a settlement. There are no federal, state, or local protections for you if you face discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, unless you are covered by the School Board's contract with Metro teachers. What filing a complaint accomplishes is making those who engage in discrimination publicly accountable. In other words, they have to explain themselves to a government body and no employer likes to do that. Complaints--if they go to a hearing--can additionally invite media and public scrutiny.

But until we pass federal, state, or local protections, that's all the recourse our community in Nashville has.

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