Ohio cut funding, eliminated more than half its civil rights enforcement staff since 2000
Posted February 14, 2019 in Press Releases
Although hate crimes are on the rise and more Ohioans are filing civil rights complaints, two decades of funding cuts have reduced enforcement capacity at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) to meet rising demands, according to a new report from Policy Matters Ohio.
Since 2000, state policymakers cut funding for the OCRC by $1.4 million in today’s dollars, nearly 20 percent. Today OCRC has a staff of 80, compared to 199 in 2000, a loss of more than half the staff. A regional office was closed and the agency had to curtail education and outreach.
OCRC staff are working in an increasingly demanding environment. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of cases filed with the OCRC rose by 27 percent. The #MeToo movement brought more sexual harassment victims forward. Sexual harassment cases filed with the agency rose by 41 percent between 2016 and 2018. The agency has become more efficient, as investigative staff averaged 94 completed investigations per staffer, an 8 percent increase over 2016.
“Whether they are black, white or brown, and whatever their gender, all Ohioans deserve fair treatment,” said report author Wendy Patton. “We all deserve protection from discrimination and harassment.”
Federal policies are making it more difficult for victims of harassment and discrimination to seek redress. The Trump Administration now allows federal contractors to force workers to resolve sexual harassment and discrimination through arbitration, which keeps the claims secret. The administration also weakened sexual harassment enforcement on campuses.
“The state must safeguard the civil rights of all Ohioans in an era of increasing tension and decreased protection,” Patton said. “Policymakers have a chance to restore funding to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in the 2020-2021 state budget and ensure all Ohioans have recourse from discrimination.”