Human Rights Commission

On Nov. 16, New Orleans residents voted overwhelmingly to add a human rights commission to the City’s Home Rule Charter. Once established, the Commission will work to safeguard residents and visitors from unlawful discrimination within the City of New Orleans.

Below are some frequently asked questions:

The human rights commission will provide a free administrative process to safeguard residents from unlawful discrimination. Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against may file a complaint and can attempt to resolve the situation or ensure that appropriate enforcement actions will be taken.

A local human rights commission provides a simple one-stop shop whereby residents can file a discrimination complaint at no cost to them. It also provides education and training on our anti-discrimination laws for our businesses, landlords, and other members of our community.

The Mayor’s Office of Human Rights and Equity (OHRE) works to advise city leaders on important policy issues, serves as a bridge to the city’s marginalized communities, and works to establish systems of accountability that protect human rights. While the Human Rights Commission falls under the broad umbrella of the OHRE, it will act as an independent body under the City Charter, tasked with safeguarding individuals from unlawful discrimination.

In New Orleans, the Human Relations Commission was created to safeguard residents from discrimination, but because it was not in the City Charter, it lacked the power to take administrative complaints of discrimination. The new Human Rights Commission will be better able to fulfil the Human Relations Commission’s original mission in accordance with state law.

In the coming months, the Human Relations Commission will produce a report with recommendations on how the new Human Rights Commission will operate. This report will be available to the public. The existing Human Relations Commission will then cease to operate and the Human Rights Commission will be established, appointed and empowered to carry out its mission.

We are currently creating the processes needed for our Human Rights Commission to operate efficiently and effectively. The creation of this Commission is the result of more than 30 years of hard work by civil rights advocates, and we believe it is necessary to take the time to do this right.

To fully establish our Human Rights Commission a few things have to happen first:

  • Update our City’s human rights law (Chapter 86) to reflect the new charter change;
  • Give residents the opportunity to serve on the new human rights commission and appoint its members;
  • Create regulations on how the new commission should function and present them to the public for input, and;
  • Provide for the appropriate level of staffing for the new commission and provide for its daily operations.

While we are working hard to implement this efficiently, we anticipate it will take between six months to a year for the new commission to be fully operational. We want to do this right and we want to be thorough, comprehensive and intentional. We want to give our residents the opportunity to provide maximum input.

Eight members of the commission will be appointed by the Mayor and seven will be appointed by the City Council. Commissioners will serve a three-year term.

The commission will offer an administrative process but does not provide legal services or advice. The commission can take, mediate and investigate complaints and generate findings that could go to Civil District Court for enforcement.

Orders drafted by the commission would have to be enforced by Civil District Court, which would review any finding of the commission. The human rights commission will conduct its monthly meetings publicly and any member of the public can attend these meetings.