After the complaint has been properly
filed, the next step is to notify the person or organization against whom
it was filed. Complaint notification is to be followed according to the
law by a "prompt investigation." The realities of the case load
and of staff (and funds) available control how soon an investigation of
the complaint is possible.
The scope of the investigation required by a particular complaint is influenced by the specific situation. Sometimes the complaint alleges a simple act such as the refusal to rent a motel room to a minority person. If investigation reveals that no rooms were available and that the motel operator does, in fact, rent rooms to minority persons, the resolution of the complaint is a simple matter. However, discrimination and the investigation required is almost never that simple. Because discrimination takes so many forms, direct and indirect, an appropriate investigation may require the collection of a large quantity of information. To illustrate what is required by the brief phrase in the law--"shall make a prompt investigation thereof", (601A.9.3 line 6 and 7), a number of summaries of investigations undertaken during the past 19 months follows.
EXAMPLES OF INVESTIGATIONS
Employment - Religion
Allegation: Employee was required to work on Sunday, contrary to his religion.
Investigation: Complainant had been hired with the understanding that he would not have to work on Sunday. Employer entered into partnership after which the business remained open on Sunday. The Complainant's work schedule was changed and he was threatened with loss of his job if he did not work on Sunday. The investigation revealed that other employees without religious conflicts were available to work on Sunday. (Successful conciliation was attained. The Complainant's work schedule was revised and he did not lose his job.)
Employment - Disability (White Male)
Allegation: Demotion because of disability.
Investigation: The investigation began by obtaining a description of the duties from supervisors, and persons occupying the same type of job performed. The Complainant had suffered a coronary six months prior to his demotion. Investigation revealed that Complainant's doctor had released him as being recovered and able to return to work. For four months prior to the demotion, the Complainant did, in fact, retain and perform his old job. Fellow workers who were interviewed were of the opinion that Complainant's effectiveness in his work had not been lost. (Case pending further action.)
Housing - Race
Allegation: Because of race, the Complainant was unable to rent an apartment.
Investigation: The investigation involved interviews and examination of records. The Complainant had made an appointment by phone to see a vacant apartment. When Complainant met Respondent in person she was told there were no vacancies in the apartment complex. The apartment house records were examined and revealed that comparable apartments were, in fact, available and the comparable apartments were rented to Caucasians after the Complainant had been rejected and further, that the Respondent continued to advertise vacancies. (Settlement pending.)
Employment - Race and Sex in Recruitment, Hiring, Promotion, Conditions and Privileges of Employment
Allegation: the Employer discriminates on the basis of race and sex in personnel systems.
Investigation: A detailed interrogatory was submitted to the Respondent. The completed form was examined in detail to determine among other things: the recruitment methods and sources in use; the sex and race characteristics of the workforce, overall and in each job category or job title; the promotion pattern with respect to sex and race; the pay system; the fringe benefit systems and other policies such as maternity and sick leave. Interviews were conducted with persons holding employee selection or supervisory responsibility to detect discriminatory attitudes and biases and to provide further details with respect to information in the interrogatory. (Conciliation pending.)
Public Accommodation - Race
Allegation: Complainant alleged that a Municipal Board of Trustees failed to allow his group to use a Public Accommodation because of his race.
Result: The Complaint was served on Respondent. The Respondent's representative had based the refusal to rent on his personal assumption that the group might become "boisterous or rowdy." The normal operation of the auditorium was to rent it on a first come, first served basis for a fee. Service of the Complaint caused the Management to rent to the group and the case was closed, following later investigatory inquiry, as being "satisfactorily adjusted."
The Commission rules include a number of categories of case closures. The last of the cases summarizing investigations demonstrated that the service of a Complaint alone may cause a change in a discriminatory policy or practice, which is the purpose of the law. Because of the backlog of cases, investigation may begin a considerable length of time after the alleged act or acts occurred and the Complaint is received and served. The investigatory procedure may reveal that the Complainant wishes to withdraw the case, and indicates that desire in writing at which time the case is closed. "Satisfactorily adjusted" means that the Complainant has indicated in writing that the Complaint has been resolved to his or her satisfaction.
In situations such as those in which a Complainant cannot be located or the Respondent has gone out of business, a case may be "administratively closed" because, in the opinion of the investigating Commissioner, no useful purpose would be served by continued actions.
Sometimes a cursory examination of a complaint which is received will serve to show that the Commission has no jurisdiction under the law. Organizations which employ less than four people are not covered, but because the number of employees may not appear on the complaint, at least a preliminary investigation will be required to ascertain that fact. Complaints may be closed because of lack of jurisdiction at each and every step of the process. (Note other examples of investigation work in case examples in following sections.) A written report of the investigation is prepared by the staff.
Closures which do not require "Cause" findings:
102 - Cases Withdrawn
38 - No Jursidiction
118 - Administrative Closures
36 - Satisfactorily Adjusted
(120 matters received were not docketed as cases because of a lack of jurisdiction. Not counted in total cases received.)