About the Commission
The state of Hawai’i has a strong commitment to the protection of civil rights. Article I, Section 5 of the Hawai’i Constitution provides that “no person shall be denied the enjoyment of civil rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof because of race, religion, sex or ancestry.” The legislature gave meaning to this commitment by creating the Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC), through enactment of Act 219 in 1988 and Acts 386 and 387 in 1989.
The HCRC was organized in 1990 and officially opened its doors in January 1991. For twelve years the HCRC has enforced state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment (H.R.S. Chapter 378, Part I), housing (H.R.S. Chapter 515); public accommodations (H.R.S. Chapter 489), and access to state and state-funded services (H.R.S. §368-1.5). The HCRC receives, investigates, conciliates, and adjudicates complaints of discrimination. The HCRC has five (5) uncompensated volunteer Commissioners. They are appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the Senate, based on their knowledge and experience in civil rights matters and commitment to preserve the civil rights of all individuals.
By law the Commission may hold hearings and make inquiries, as it deems necessary, and has the authority to administer oaths and affirmations, conduct depositions, compel the attendance of parties and witnesses and the production of documents by the issuance of subpoenas, examine parties and witnesses under oath, require answers to interrogatories, and delegate these powers to any member of the commission or any person appointed by the commission for the performance of its functions.
Furthermore the law authorizes the Commission to enforce the State’s anti-discrimination statutes or any of its orders, conciliation agreements, or predetermination settlements by commencing civil action in circuit court; by issuing “right to sue” authority to complainants; or by ordering appropriate legal and equitable relief or affirmative action when violations are found.
The law also authorizes the Commission to appoint an executive director, deputy executive director, hearings examiners, investigators and other necessary support personnel as well as, an attorney to represent the commission in litigation.