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PANEL SEEKS TO REQUIRE ANTI-BIAS ENFORCEMENT

SHARE PANEL SEEKS TO REQUIRE ANTI-BIAS ENFORCEMENT

The Utah Anti-Discrimination Task Force wants to force the State Industrial Commission or the Utah attorney general's office to enforce any "cause" finding orders obtained by Utahns who have filed charges against their employers and proved they were discriminated against.

This is a key part of a report adopted Tuesday by the task force after seven months of meetings, hearings and report writing. The report was adopted by a 6-1 vote. The measure requiring the commission or attorney general to enforce the findings passed by a 4-3 vote.One of the biggest complaints that task force members heard during the various meetings and public hearings was that once an employee received a "cause" finding against an employer, the order wasn't enforced.

Complainants' frustration was heightened by the fact that it took many months and sometimes years to obtain the order.

The draft report adopted by the task force contained the word "shall" when referring to who should enforce the findings. Some task force members expressed concern about a state agency taking the side of a complainant against business. They suggested using the word "may."

But those task force members who voted to make enforcment mandatory said the commission has had the authority to enforce an order by civil means and hasn't chosen to do so.

Commenting on the report, Kay S. Cornaby, task force chairman, said, "I believe the charge the task force was given has been carried out in a thorough and effective manner and I am pleased with the recommendations." A final report will be issued with two weeks incorporating some changes made during Tuesday's meeting. The Legislature will deal with the report later this year.

The task force was formed late last year at the commission's request by then-Gov. Norm Bangerter because of the large number of complaints about how long it took to go through the anti-discrimination process. People also complained that once they received a "cause" finding it wasn't enforced.

Other task force recommendations for the Utah Anti-Discrimination Division are:

- Hire additional clerical, investigative and legal staff to lower the caseload and complete investigations quicker.

- Develop standard operating procedures within the division, including appropriate conduct between staff members and complainants.

- Develop an educational program for the employees and employers so they will know what constitutes discrimination.

- Emphasize mediation, conciliation and similar resolution techniques in an effort to resolve the differences as quickly as possible.

- Educate the staff to ensure competent handling of cases. Some task force members prefer hiring qualified people rather than relying on on-the-job training.

- Create an Anti-Discrimination Advisory Council to advise the division on policies and procedures and have the Legislature study the possibility of creating a Human Rights Commission.