Seattle Mulls Vets as Protected Class [Archive] - Glock Talk


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06-10-2009, 15:39
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June 10, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer <!-- Uncomment this when the Jive comments functionality is available -->

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The Seattle City Council is considering legislation that would add veterans to a list of protected classes under the city's anti-discrimination law.
State and federal law already prohibits discrimination against veterans in areas such as employment and housing. The proposed ordinance would give veterans an option within local government for filing a complaint, and possibly a more convenient route if they've been denied a job or housing in Seattle due to their military status.

City Councilmember Nick Licata, who is co-sponsoring the legislation, said the war in Iraq has raised the profile of veterans returning from duty and that it is important "to make sure that their needs are met" after serving their country.

A hearing on the legislation is set for Wednesday before the City Council's committee on Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel. Licata, the committee's chairman, said the idea for the legislation came through discussions with veteran advocates.

Any active duty member, reservist or honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Services would be included under the legislation, which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, contracting or public accommodation. Other categories protected under the law include race, color, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology, age, creed, religion, ancestry and disabilities.

Licata said the legislation also would provide another layer of protection for vets who are disabled from a combat-related brain injury. In addition, there is discussion about creating a commission for people with disabilities.

The city's Office of Civil Rights, which investigates discrimination complaints, supports the legislation. The office first seeks a settlement between parties but in cases where discrimination occurred and the two sides disagree, the case could be referred to the City Attorney's office.
Employment and personal finances are among the most pressing concerns for service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reservists and National Guard troops are particularly concerned about finding and keeping their civilian jobs, especially with longer and more frequently deployments in recent years and the current recession, said David Zurfluh, president of the Northwest chapter of Paralyzed Veterans Of America, an organization that advocates for veterans' health care and civil rights.

While there are support groups and veteran centers in King County, having one more watchdog could be useful, especially with 2,500 soldiers from the Washington National Guard's 81st Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Lewis expected to return home this summer, and as the U.S. withdraws forces from Iraq in coming years.

"When (veterans) are returning from deployment in greater numbers, there are possibly more people slipping through the cracks, so if you have a safety net and can catch them, that's great," he said.

In 2007, the state Legislature went beyond federal law and added veterans to the Washington Law Against Discrimination. The law was passed amid rising concerns about combat veterans being screened for jobs with questions about whether they could work with someone opposed to the war or whether they suffered from psychological problems.

Since the law took effect, eight complaints, or about 1 percent of all discrimination complaints statewide, have been filed in the past year with the state Human Rights Commission, said Seth Kirby, the commission's legislative and regulatory manager.

Six complaints centered around employment; two on housing. Two complaints originated in Seattle. All were investigated and resulted in findings of no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. In most cases, the complainant reached some form of settlement, he said.
While the state commission has an office in Seattle with nine employees, Seattle may be able to do more outreach to veterans locally, Kirby said.
"I do think people like having the option of having places to go locally. If the city of Seattle chose to expand the law in this way, it provides another option for veterans and service members," he said.

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06-11-2009, 18:34
Long overdue IMO!

06-27-2009, 12:37
This is long overdue nationwide.

06-27-2009, 13:43
Very good idea. Very, very sad that it's needed. It seems today's kids coming back are starting to be treated the way we were when we returned to "the world". It's truely shameful the way this nations civilians have treated those who protect them.