This guide will deal with the process of filing a discrimination complaint against a private employer and/or D.C. Government Agency. This guide will be specifically for those that work in the District of Columbia.
Filing Discrimination Complaints with the D.C. Office of Human Rights
An employee that works within the District of Columbia may file an employment discrimination complaint through the D.C. Office of Human Rights. The D.C. Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political affiliation. The first step in filing an employment discrimination complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights is filing what is referred to as an "Employment Intake Questionnaire Form." This may be done online through the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
To meet the criteria, the last act of discrimination or retaliation must have occurred within one year of the filing of the Intake Questionnaire. Once the Intake Questionnaire has been filed, the D.C. Office of Human Rights will review the Intake form to ensure that the Office has jurisdiction over the matter. The D.C. Office of Human Rights has jurisdiction over all employers conducting business in the District of Columbia. Note this jurisdiction does not apply to Federal Government agencies. That would be covered under Federal Sector Discrimination (see my guide on Federal Sector Discrimination).
If you are an employee of the D.C. Government and you experience discrimination in the work place, you must file an Internal Discrimination Complaint with the particular agency that you work for within D.C. Government before you can file a Complaint of discrimination with the D.C. Office of Human Rights. An exit interview letter must be provided to the D.C. Government employee, stating that he or she has been given an exit interview by the local EEOC Agency Office within the D.C. Government.
D.C. Office of Human Rights Process
Once the D.C. Office of Human Rights has ensured that it has jurisdiction over an employment discrimination matter, an Intake person from the Office will contact the Complainant and their representative if they have one, to come into the D.C. Office of Human Rights and to actually draw up a charge of discrimination. Once that charge has been drawn up, it will be sent to the respondent employer. The employer charged with discrimination will have the opportunity to respond to the allegations and to rebut any of those allegations of discrimination. The employer, through their attorney, may at that time offer a motion to dismiss probably on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. These motions are usually defeated because the D.C. Office of Human Rights has jurisdiction over the great majority of cases that are filed in their office.
Once the charge has been drawn up and provided to the respondent employer, a mandatory mediation session is arranged. One of the great benefits of going through the D.C. Office of Human Rights is, unlike a complaint of discrimination filed with the EEOC or through the Federal Sector, that the mediation is mandatory and requires both sides to show up for the mandatory mediation session.
If mediation fails, then the D.C. Office of Human Rights will conduct a full-blown investigation which can take up to a year or more. Once the investigation is completed, the D.C. Office of Human Rights will issue a finding of no discrimination or a finding of discrimination. If either party disagrees with the determination, they can ask for reconsideration of the matter, although realistically the majority of requests for reconsideration are denied. You may also submit new additional legal arguments and facts with your reconsideration request. If the D.C. Office of Human Rights finds there is discrimination, it will mandate a conciliatory meeting to try to settle the matter once again.
Additional resources provided by the author
Here are additional resources regarding the D.C Office of Human Rights process:
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