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U.S. Civil Rights Commission Comes to Fargo
Lisa Crowell
WDAY TV Script - 11/09/1999

Marv/WDAY News:

Discrimination is not a highly publicized topic in our region, but it does happen. North Dakota is the only state without a human rights commission to deal with complaints. Reporter Lisa Crowell tells us how an advisory committee wants to provide more support for victim's of discrimination.

Lisa Crowell/Wday News:

Denny Portra is a rural electrical contractor who was discriminated against by his boss.

Denny Portra/Discriminated On The Job:

"He apparently didn't like Indian people. He made a statement, 'that indian will never work here again as long as I'm manager.'"

Lisa Crowell/Wday News:

That was in 1992, and for the past 7 years Denny has been trying to resolve the discrimination dispute and attending meetings like these to raise awareness.

Carole Berrett/Advisory Chairperson:

"What we're really asking is that the next step be taken and there would be the enforcement of human rights."

Lisa Crowell/Wday News:

The North Dakota Human Rights Act was passed in 1983 to prevent discrimination, but a state advisory committee says cases like Portra's are common.

Denny Portra:

"I've spent thousands of dollars trying to fight this and in North Dakota we don't have large law firms and politically it's hard.

Lisa Crowell/Wday News:

The committee calls the North Dakota Department of Labor a "black hole," complaints go in, but nothing is done. The committee wants to establish a human rights commission to actively enforce the law.

Carole Barrett:

"We need to have a central location to file complaints, and bring parties together to reconcile and handle complaints without going into a court situation."

Lisa Crowell/Wday News:

A human rights commission could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. The advisory committee isn't saying every dispute would end up in court, but Portra says after his experience, there needs to be some system of checks and balances. Lisa Crowell, WDAY News.

Marv/WDAY News:

If North Dakotans do have discrimination complaints, they should be filed with the state Department of Labor.

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