On Thursday, the House passed legislation by a vote of 36-0-5 that will ensure individuals with disabilities are not turned away from having discrimination cases heard.
House Bill 311, sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith, clearly spells out existing state and federal law for matters that are heard before the state Human Relations Commission. Strict interpretation of the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law (DEAL) has resulted in the dismissal of cases that should have been heard by the HRC. Under this bill, existing state policies, practices, and procedures would be clearly defined, making sure the scope of the law’s protections are enforced and ensuring an individual with a disability who is discriminated against has an opportunity to be heard. HB 311 now heads to the Senate for consideration.
This bill stems from a Delaware Superior Court case, Ray v. State Human Rels. Comm’n, 2021 Del. Super. LEXIS 668, where the Superior Court overruled a State Human Relations Commission ruling that determined businesses do not have to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities under Delaware’s Equal Accommodations Law. That overruled state determination was based on a strict interpretation of the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law (DEAL) that has resulted in the dismissal of cases that should have been heard by the Human Relations Commission.
The General Assembly created DEAL to specifically help people with cases involving discriminatory practices through a process in which their complaint may be mediated. By not having the opportunity to be heard by the Human Relations Commission, individuals with disabilities must instead decide whether to engage in potentially costly and lengthy legal battles. So House Bill 311 will clarify the DEAL to make sure disabled discrimination cases are heard.
|House Bill 311 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Griffith, Heffernan, Longhurst, Bentz, Kowalko, Lambert, Lynn, Mitchell, Morrison, Osienski, Hensley||House Passed 36-0-5. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Freel Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Briggs King Collins D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Shupe Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Absent: Bolden K.Williams Minor-Brown Ramone Smyk|
|McBride, Gay, Hansen, Paradee, Pinkey, Townsend|
|Current Status:||Senate Judiciary|
Representative Krista Griffith: “The House overwhelmingly passed my bill to ensure individuals with disabilities are not turned away from having discrimination cases heard. […] It is very painful for an individual with a disability when an entity refuses to make a reasonable change to allow him or her to fully participate in a policy, practice or procedure. This legislation makes clear that the commission may not turn away people with disabilities who are alleging they were denied a reasonable accommodation. They have the right to be heard. People with disabilities, regardless of the type of disability, should never feel as if they’re being silenced, humiliated or uncomfortable in the workplace, in school, healthcare centers or the state. We have a moral, legal and ethical obligation to ensure that all people are served equitably.”
Sen. Sarah McBride: “While everyone agrees people with disabilities should be protected from discrimination, businesses, landlords and even local governments still are not always providing true and equal access. This bill will make clear that the kind of passive discrimination that people with disabilities actually face in their daily lives is unacceptable and in violation of both federal and state law. I want to thank Rep. Griffith for introducing this legislation and I look forward to working with her to get it passed this year.”