NEWS & UPDATES
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IAOHRA PRESIDENT WARREN ADVOCATES FOR U.S. NHRI AT UNITED NATIONS IN GENEVA SWITZERLAND
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It is a tremendous honor to serve as the President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA), the premiere human rights professional leadership organization of state and local government agencies serving nearly 250 million people. Our agency members are statutorily charged with enforcing the human rights laws and work to prevent discrimination, bias, and hate. Our mission is to unite, educate, and strengthen state and local government human rights agencies.
In October 2023, I was so proud to be invited to represent IAOHRA at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland. I joined the largest United States delegation ever for the UN Human Rights Committee 139th session for the consideration of the United States’ fifth periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and several civil society briefings and consultations. IOAHRA’s contribution was to primarily to advocate for the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in the United States—similar to the 120 other democratic counties in the world. NHRIs are charged with an independent national leadership role to promote, facilitate, and coordinate human rights implementation and provide support and guidance to state and local human rights commissions.
Currently, there is no federal infrastructure in the U.S. to support human rights education, monitoring, or implementation—nor is there a comprehensive approach to human rights that incorporates all levels of government. Consequently, state and local officials are often unaware of their obligations stemming from U.S. ratified treaties like the ICCPR. An NHRI would support unprecedented progress toward domestic implementation of 3 key human rights treaties ratified 30 years ago.
Multiple civil society coalition letters and reports have been sent to the U.S. federal government urging the establishment of an NHRI. In December 2022, more than 100 civil society organizations sent a letterto the White House Domestic Policy Council supporting the creation of a commission to study the establishment of a U.S. NHRI. During the most recent Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Review, the U.S. NHRI was a central focus for IAOHRA. Additionally, in March 2023, IAOHRA sent a letterto the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress delineating the critical need for an NHRI.
On November 3, 2023, in its Concluding Observations the United Nations Human Rights Committee which monitors implementation of the ICCPR highlighted concerns over the lack of progress toward the establishment of a U.S. NHRI. The Human Rights Committee went on to reiterate its previous recommendations from nearly a decade ago, stating that the U.S. should establish an independent NHRI as a matter of priority, with a mandate to ensure implementation of the Covenant and monitor compliance with its provisions at the federal, state, local, and territorial levels.
Representing IAOHRA to advocate for a U.S. NHRI on such an esteemed global platform, helped expand and promote our international presence, leveraged meaningful collaborations, and could lead to significant long-term benefits for the United States. The insights, connections, and experiences gained in Geneva are pivotal in influencing the establishment of an independent NHRI in the United States in accordance with the Paris Principles. We must remain optimistic that a U.S. NHRI will be established to amplify the voices of state, local, and territorial human rights agencies at the national level.
Attending the sessions in Geneva was a critical opportunity to bolster the global impact of IAOHRA through meaningful engagement with international actors. These important connections provide a gateway to unite, educate, and strengthen human rights, as well as establish IAOHRA as a thought leader and resource on the international stage.
I am so proud of our IAOHRA member agencies who actively engage in enforcing anti-discrimination laws, as well as educating to protect fundamental rights—which advance the principles of the ICCPR daily. Our work is critical to giving international human rights meaning at the state, local, and territorial level. IAOHRA will continue to advocate for the creation of U.S. NHRI as part of its unwavering commitment to bring human rights home to the United States.
Posted December1, 2023
PHRC LAUNCHES SOCIAL JUSTICE AMBASSADOR PROGRAM
Harrisburg, PA- The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) is pleased to announce the creation of the PHRC Social Justice Ambassador Program. PHRC invites Pennsylvania residents and/or employees who support the mission to cultivate a Pennsylvania where all people can live, work and learn free from unlawful discrimination to apply for ambassadorship.
PHRC envisions at least one Ambassador for each county in Pennsylvania to serve that area’s unique community needs. Each Ambassador will be appointed by the PHRC to serve as a liaison and an extension of its outreach effort within a community. The Ambassador will act on a non-partisan basis to refer citizens for services and to assist the Commission in exploring training, outreach, and event opportunities in their respective community to further its anti-discrimination efforts in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, and education.
“The Commonwealth is comprised of 67 counties, with only three regional offices, which means PHRC is not always accessible,” said PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. “Through our Advisory Councils and now our Social Justice Ambassadors, the PHRC will be able to reach more people and provide them with a valuable service. We want everyone in Pennsylvania to know that discrimination is illegal and the PHRC will protect your rights.”
Those interested in becoming a PHRC Social Justice Ambassador, must submit an application to email@example.com. References will be requested and checked to verify the individual’s submitted information. Prior to appointment, the Ambassador will attend an interview panel. To learn more about the PHRC Social Justice Ambassador Program, visit the PHRC website, www.phrc.pa.gov. Questions can be directed to Kurt Jung at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The PHRC, the state’s leading social justice enforcement agency, urges anyone who has experienced acts of discrimination or hate to file a complaint with the PHRC by calling 717-787-4410. Information and resources are also available at www.PHRC.pa.gov.
Posted May 11, 2023
TENNESSEE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FORMER IAOHRA PRESIDENT, BEVERLY WATTS ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
NASHVILLE,TN (February 9, 2022) -Beverly Watts today announced her retirement as executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC). The announcement was made at the February 9th THRC Personnel Committee meeting. Watts will serve in her role through February 15, 2022.
Watts was appointed as the executive director in July 2007 and has over 30-years of experience in human and civil rights education and enforcement in the public and private sector.
In addition to her service at THRC, Watts has served in leadership roles at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), National Fair Housing Training Academy, and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. She is the recipient of several awards and honors for her leadership.
Board Chair Robin Derryberry said, “I would like to thank Director Watts for her service to this agency which is greatly appreciated.”
Personnel Committee Chair Annazette Houston said, “Director Watts, I thank you for your service to the agency.”
Former THRC Commissioner and author of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, Jocelyn Wurzburg said, “I want to thank Ms. Watts for bringing the Commission into the fold of those who really cared about eliminating discrimination, I thank you for your service."
The Tennessee NAACP State Conference President, Gloria Sweet-Love said, “Director Watts has served the citizens of Tennessee with distinction, we appreciate and salute her.”
Deputy Director Muriel Malone Nolen will act as interim executive director for the agency.
The Commission's role is to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination laws which prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age (40 and over in employment), familial status (housing only), and retaliation in employment, housing and public accommodations and coordinate compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is the mission of the Commission to safeguard individuals from discrimination through education and enforcement.
Posted February , 9, 2022
WEST VIRGINIA'S HUMAN RIGHTS HERO RETIRES
Yodora Booth was an Honoree at the Governor’s Civil Rights Day in recognition of her career of service to the cause of human rights. Ms. Booth’s decades of professional leadership enabled the HRC to evolve, survive, and administer justice throughout her career and into the future after her retirement. She was more than a mentor and friend to scores of current and past employees of the HRC.
On October 8, 2021, the HRC celebrated the well-deserved retirement of Director of Operations Yodora Booth. “Doe” came to the Commission as an intern from Garnet Career Center in 1980 for on-the-job training to complete her studies in accounting and a new technology, word processing. She worked part-time for the HRC in several roles until she was hired into a full-time position in 1988 and quickly worked her way into a job as an employment and public accommodation Investigator. In 1993 Ms. Booth switched over to the housing investigation unit and coordinated the HRC’s annual Fair Housing Conference and other outreach events.
Ms. Booth was promoted into her final job, Director of Operations, in 2006 and given primary responsibility for supervising all Investigators, coordinating with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, processing and assigning cases, and helping with outreach and education. Importantly, Booth frequently represented West Virginia and the HRC at numerous trainings and conferences that took her literally from coast to coast, from Orlando to Seattle, San Diego to Cape May, and many places in between. Human Rights professionals from all over the country know and admire Yadora “Doe” Booth.
“If there is a more committed and dedicated civil right worker and professional than Yodora Booth I do not know him or her. Doe’s work ethic and commitment to do the work the right way speaks volumes of her constant desire to insure equal justice and fair treatment for everyone. I have known Doe well over twenty years and she has always been the consummate professional and, just as important, a wonderful person. Our friendship is one I treasure. The world of human and civil rights enforcement will miss her, and her space can only be filled by someone who is equally committed. All the best, my friend, in the next chapter of your journey.”
- Jim Stowe, Director of Montgomery County MD Office of Human Rights & Former President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies.
In February 2015, Yodora was an Honoree at the Governor’s Civil Rights Day in recognition of her career of service to the cause of human rights. Ms. Booth’s decades of professional leadership enabled the HRC to evolve, survive, and administer justice throughout her career and into the future after her retirement. She was more than a mentor and friend to scores of current and past employees of the HRC.
REMEMBERING ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU
Reactions to the death Sunday of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu:
“Archbishop Tutu was a towering global figure for peace and an inspiration to generations across the world. During the darkest days of apartheid, he was a shining beacon for social justice, freedom and non-violent resistance. ... Although Archbishop Tutu’s passing leaves a huge void on the global stage, and in our hearts, we will be forever inspired by his example to continue the fight for a better world for all.” — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend, and a moral compass for me and so many others. A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere. He never lost his impish sense of humor and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries, and Michelle and I will miss him dearly.” — Former U.S. President Barack Obama.
“I’m saddened to learn of the death of global sage, human rights leader, and powerful pilgrim on earth. ... A great, influential elder is now an eternal, witnessing ancestor. And we are better because he was here.” — Dr. Bernice King, youngest daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I remember with fondness my meetings with him and his great warmth and humour,’’ the tweet from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on The Royal Family site said. “Archbishop Tutu’s loss will be felt by the people of South Africa, and by so many people in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and across the Commonwealth, where he was held in such high affection and esteem.”
“The death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (always known as Arch) is news that we receive with profound sadness — but also with profound gratitude as we reflect upon his life. ... Arch’s love transformed the lives of politicians and priests, township dwellers and world leaders. The world is different because of this man.” — Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
“I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a critical figure in the fight against apartheid and in the struggle to create a new South Africa — and will be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humor.” — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“No words better exemplify his ministry than the three he contributed to a work of art at The Carter Center: love, freedom, and compassion. He lived his values in the long struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, in his leadership of the national campaign for truth and reconciliation, and in his role as a global citizen. His warmth and compassion offered us a spiritual message that is eternal.” — former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
Posted Dec, 2021
EEOC ANNOUNCES NEW RESOURCES ABOUT SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY WORKPLACE RIGHTS
Federal Agency Continues Its Work in Forefront of LGBTQ+ Rights
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is observing LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, by announcing the release of new resources to educate employees, applicants and employers about the rights of all employees, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, to be free from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment. The materials include a new landing page on the EEOC website that consolidates information concerning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination and a new technical assistance document to help the public understand the Bostock decision and established EEOC positions on the laws the agency enforces.
The new landing page consolidates information the public needs to know about the scope of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as information about harassment, retaliation and how to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Additionally, there are links to EEOC statistics and updated fact sheets concerning recent EEOC litigation and federal sector decisions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
“All people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, deserve an opportunity to work in an environment free from harassment or other discrimination,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said. “The Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County is a historic milestone that resulted from the struggle, sacrifice, and vision of many brave LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who had championed civil rights for the LGBTQ+ communities. The new information will make it easier for people to understand their rights and responsibilities related to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
These materials are part of EEOC’s effort to ensure that the public can find accessible, plain language materials in a convenient location on EEOC’s website. Neither the new landing page nor the new technical assistance document, titled “Protections Against Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” state new EEOC policy; rather, these resources rely on previously voted positions adopted by the Commission. The technical assistance document:
Explains the significance of the Bostock ruling;
Compiles in one location information about sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination;
Consistent with Bostock, reiterates the EEOC’s established positions on basic Title VII concepts, rights, and responsibilities as they pertain to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and
Provides information about the EEOC’s role in enforcing Title VII and protecting employees’ civil rights.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Posted June 23, 2021
EEOC CONDEMNS ANTISEMITISM IN UNANIMOUS RESOLUTION
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has unanimously approved a resolution condemning the recent violence, harassment, and acts of bias against Jewish individuals in the United States, the agency announced today. The resolution reaffirms the Commission’s commitment to combat all forms of harassment and discrimination against members of the Jewish community, and to ensure equal opportunity, inclusion, and dignity for all in the workplace.
“Hatred, bigotry, and antisemitism violate our nation’s core principles and impact all of us,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “The recent violence and harassment against Jewish persons serve as a reminder of the challenges we face as a nation and the importance of the agency’s work. The Commission stands with the victims, their families and the nation’s Jewish communities.”
The EEOC advances equal opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information about the Commission is available on EEOC’s website at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Posted May 27, 2021
IAOHRA Congratulates IAOHRA Alantic Region member…Rachel Wainer Apter
Rachel Wainer Apter nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy to be an associate justice of the state Supreme Court.
NEW JERSEY - Gov. Phil Murphy has selected a nominee to serve New Jersey's highest court, slated to fill the seat Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia will leave behind later this year. Read more.
Posted March 21, 2021
Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations Human Rights News
Read LA County Commission on Human Relations 2019 Hate Crime Report Here. See Motion Establishing an Antiracist Los Angeles County Policy Agenda Here.
Posted Feb. 24, 2021
Federal News | Whitehouse.gov - Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States (Jan 26.2021)
Advancing inclusion and belonging for people of all races, national origins, and ethnicities is critical to guaranteeing the safety and security of the American people. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons, families, communities, and businesses at risk.
The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin. Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons. These actions defied the best practices and guidelines of public health officials and have caused significant harm to AAPI families and communities that must be addressed. More
Posted Jan 29, 2021
Farewell and Thank You from Catherine E. Lhamon
I write to share news that I will no longer Chair or be a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights after January 20, 2021. I’m proud of the work that we have done, and I hope the work has been useful to you. Thank you for being a dedicated partner with me in our collective effort to make real the civil rights promises federal law has made for decades. More.
Posted Jan 21, 2021