COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


[photo, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland] The Commission on Civil Rights originated in 1927 as the Interracial Commission (Chapter 559, Acts of 1927). In 1943, it became the Commission to Study Problems Affecting the Colored Population (Chapter 431, Acts of 1943). Renamed the Commission on Interracial Problems and Relations in 1951, it reorganized as the Commission on Human Relations in 1969 (Chapter 548, Acts of 1951; Chapter 83, Acts of 1968). It was renamed the Commission on Civil Rights in October 2011 (Chapter 580, Acts of 2011).

The Commission seeks to eliminate discrimination based on race, color, ancestry or national origin, religion, sex, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, genetic information, physical or mental disability, and age. Maryland anti-discrimination statutes for housing, employment, and public accommodations are administered and enforced by the Commission. It also initiates and investigates complaints of discrimination in State government agencies and enforces the State's commercial nondiscrimination policy.

William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland, July 2003. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


To evaluate the merits of a complaint, the Commission may conduct public hearings, administer oaths, and issue subpoenas. It also is authorized to compel attendance or testimony of witnesses and oversee exhibits of books, papers, records, and documents relevant or necessary for legal proceedings.

In addition to other relief, the Commission can issue a cease and desist order if evidence shows that a respondent has engaged in a discriminatory act. In cases of employment discrimination, it may award up to two years of back pay.

Commission work for fair employment practices is supplemented by a deferral relationship and funding from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Similarly, through cooperative agreements, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds case processing and community education for the Commission's fair housing efforts.

Nine members constitute the Commission. They are appointed to six-year terms by the Governor with Senate advice and consent. The Governor names the Executive Director (Code State Government Article, sec. 20-101 through 20-1203).

The Commission oversees the Office of General Counsel, and two divisions: Administrative and Support Services, and Case Processing. It also is aided by the Education and Outreach Unit.


ADMINISTRATIVE & SUPPORT SERVICES DIVISION

The Administrative and Support Services Division is responsible for two units: Fiscal Services, and Management Information Systems.


CASE PROCESSING DIVISION

The Case Processing Division originally formed as the Case Processing Department which disbanded in February 1998. It reformed in July 2000 under its present name.

Complaints filed with the Commission on housing, public accomodations, and employment, are received, processed, and investigated by the Case Processing Division. This Division processes complaints directly from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against and cases referred by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Division also offers mediation services to disputing parties. As an alternative to litigation, mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which an impartial third party facilitates communication between opposing sides to find a mutually satisfactory solution. Free mediation services are provided to complainants and respondents by volunteer mediators throughout the State.

Under the Division are two units: Intake, and Investigations.

INTAKE UNIT
Under Operations, the Intake Unit was renamed the Case Control and Mediation Unit in September 1999. Placed under the Case Processing Division in July 2000, it became the Records Control Unit in 2001, and regrouped as the Intake Unit in 2005.

The Intake Unit answers public inquiries about the role of the Commission and whether a specific act could give rise to a complaint of discrimination under Maryland law. The Unit also maintains files of pending and closed cases. To ensure coordination of enforcement efforts, the Unit works closely with federal agencies.

INVESTIGATIONS UNITS
Under the Investigation Units, investigators, to determine facts, interview witnesses, gather and analyze documents, conduct on-site visits, and hold fact-finding conferences (Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR 14.03.01.08/09)).


OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

The Office of General Counsel was authorized in 1969 (Chapter 153, Acts of 1969).

At all hearings and judicial proceedings in which the Commission is a party, the General Counsel represents the Commission. These included appearances before the Office of Administrative Hearings, and State and federal trial and appellate courts. Moreover, the Office issues opinions to commissioners and staff, trains investigators, and provides technical assistance to businesses, corporations, organizations, and State agencies (Code State Government Article, sec. 20-206).

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