About the Alexandria Office of Human Rights
& Human Rights Commission
Update: Human Rights Commission Statement in Response to Police-Involved Shooting
On November 13, 2013, the Alexandria Human Rights Commission provided a statement to the Alexandria Police Department (APD) in response to the Department’s internal investigation and public presentation regarding the police-involved shooting of Taft Sellers. In its statement, the Commission concludes that APD responded within policy when using lethal force, and provides four recommendations for consideration. The Commission intends to continue collaboration with the Police Department to address those recommendations.
Calendar of Events
On March 25, 1975, Alexandria City Council passed the Alexandria Human Rights Ordinance, one of the first in Virginia. The Alexandria Human Rights Commission was created to administer the provisions contained in the Ordinance. The Commission has the power to receive and mediate complaints alleging unlawful discrimination, negotiate settlements, conduct studies and hold hearings, and advise the City Council or City Manager on human rights issues affecting the City.
The Commission has 14 members, each appointed by City Council. Nine members are "at large"; the remaining five represent the Commission on Aging, the Economics Opportunities Commission, the Commission on Persons with Disabilities, the Commission for Women and the Landlord Tenant Relations Board, respectively.
See our membership information for more details.
Enforcement of the Ordinance is the responsibility of the Office of Human Rights, which receives, investigates, makes findings and conciliates complaints of discrimination brought under the Ordinance or Code and applicable federal and state laws. The Director of the Office of Human Rights serves as the staff liaison to the Human Rights Commission and works closely with the Commission in implementing its programs and carrying out its duties and responsibilities. The Office was designated in 1975 as a Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA), and has been under contract with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since 1978 to receive and investigate complaints brought under federal antidiscrimination laws.
The Office of Human Rights also houses the ADA Program Manager who addresses the rights of persons with disabilities and their advocacy efforts; conducts legal research and analysis and interprets the impact of disability-related laws and rulings on persons with disabilities; educates the public on the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended; and refers persons with disabilities to the appropriate and available community and legal resources at the local, state, and federal levels.
The ADA Program Manager routinely collaborates with the Departments of Human Resources; Housing; Transportation and Environmental Services; Planning and Zoning; Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities; JobLink; and other City departments. The Manager also staffs the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities.
The original Ordinance, which became effective April 21, 1975, prohibited discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, credit, health and social services, education and city contracts on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, marital status, or physical handicap.
Throughout the years, a number of changes were made which expanded the reach of the Ordinance. In 1988, the Ordinance was amended to include sexual orientation as a protected class; in 1991, the Ordinance was amended to include fair housing protection for families with children, and the protection for the "physically handicapped" was expanded to cover all disabilities. In 1994, the Ordinance was again amended to permit Predetermination Conferences and confidential advisory hearings by tribunal panels of three commissioners. More changes were made to the Ordinance in 1996, including a prohibition against discriminatory practices in commercial real estate, a clarification of the powers and duties of the Commission, and the addition of a civil penalties clause This clause gives the Commission the power to recommend to the City Manager, following a public hearing, the imposition of a $5,000 fine against any person found to have violated any section of the Human Rights Code.