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Workplace anti-discrimination bill on hold

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SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal that would expand civil remedies at the state level for workers filing discrimination claims failed to find support from a panel of lawmakers Monday.

HB213, sponsored by Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, was held by the House Business and Labor Committee following a unanimous vote.

The bill would allow employees with discrimination claims to seek civil lawsuits and action through the state court system, and not rely solely on the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division.

Wheatley described the current process for legal remedy as a backlogged system with only three or four investigators to consider more than 500 annual charges.

"Complete investigations can take 12 to 18 months," he said.

The length of time required to resolve the issues are problematic to employees and employers, Wheatley said, and some opt to drop the claims or file for civil action through the federal court system.

David Stevenson, a plaintiff employment attorney, spoke in opposition to the bill, citing a lack of caps for compensation to claims.

Stevenson also described a common defense argument used at the federal level, where plaintiffs must "exhaust" their administrative remedies through a reviewing federal agency before taking further action.

"This law does not specify that the … Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division should look at these claims and investigate them for any period of time," he said.

The way the law reads, an employee may immediately request a right to sue without any review, Stevenson said.

"I think quite a few concerns have been raised, and they are fairly legitimate and decent sized, and they are more than we are going to be able to resolve here in committee today," said Rep. Jon Stanard, R-St. George. Email:

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