How Do I File A Claim?
How do I file a state claim with the DCOHR?
To file a complaint with the DCOHR you must first call the office and schedule an interview. After scheduling an interview you must complete a complaint form, which can be obtained on the DCOHR website at Complaint FormThe last step in the process of filing a claim is to meet with an intake officer at the DCOHR.
How do I contact the DCOHR?
The DCOHR can be reached by telephone at (202) 727-4559. It is located at the District of Columbia Government, Office of Human Rights, 441 4th Street NW, Suite 570 North,Washington, D.C. 20001.
The website of the DCOHR is: D.C. Office of Human Rights.
Against whom can I file a claim?
You can file a claim under the DCHRA against any employer, employment agency or labor organization regardless of the number of workers they employ. The DCOHR is empowered to investigate any claim of discrimination against any "person, group of persons, organizations or corporations" whether public or private.
If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?
When you decide to file a claim, you will be required to disclose all of the information about the discrimination you experienced. Once you file your complaint the DCOHR will first attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation. Mediation is mandatory, and during this process you may be required to meet with your employer for 2 hours at the DCOHR and see if an agreement can be worked out. After forty-five (45) days, if mediation fails the DCOHR will weigh the merits of your claim and determine if there is enough evidence for them to pursue your case. If there is 'probable cause' on which to base a claim of discrimination then a public hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, three members of the Commission on Human Rights ("Commission"), which is made up of fifteen (15) volunteers who have been appointed by the mayor, will listen to and decide your case.
How long will the process take?
The DCOHR attempts to resolve all discrimination disputes within two hundred seventy (270) days of its filing. Within fifteen (15) days of the filing of your complaint the DCOHR will notify your employer of the complaint and provide them with a copy. Before the Office conducts a full investigation it will provide the parties with forty-five (45) days to mediate the claims. If mediation fails the DCOHR will complete its investigation of the complaint within one hundred twenty (120) days of when your employer was notified and will determine if there is enough evidence of discrimination for the process to continue. After unsuccessful mediation, the DCOHR may try to strongly persuade the parties to settle their claims because they feel the evidence is so lopsided. There are sixty (60) days allotted for this conciliation process.
Do I need an attorney?
You do not need an attorney to file a complaint with the DCOHR. If the DCOHR finds enough evidence to suggest discrimination ("probable cause") after conducting an internal investigation of your complaint they will continue pursuing your claim. If they do not find 'probable cause' they will dismiss it, and if you intend to pursue your complaint further you will need an attorney.
Where do I find an attorney?
You do not need an attorney to file your claim with the DCOHR or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but either agency should be able to assist you in locating an employment lawyer.
What if I can't afford an attorney?
You can file your claim free of charge with the DCOHR. So long as the DCOHR determines there is enough evidence to suggest discrimination they will continue to investigate your claim without needing an outside attorney. In the event they dismiss your claim you may be able to obtain an attorney on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they will only be paid if you win money from your employer.
What will my attorney need from me?
Your attorney will require your patience, trust, honesty, and candor. Your attorney will need to know all the details about the discrimination you have faced from your employer. She has an ethical obligation to maintain attorney-client confidentiality — that means, everything you say to your attorney remains private. Your attorney may also ask you to recall names, documents, dates, and even times as you reconstruct the events surrounding the discrimination. The more you can help in this effort, the easier it will be for her to ultimately help you.
Do I have to contact the DCOHR?
You do not need to contact the DCOHR if you chose to bring a private lawsuit for discrimination against your employer.
Can I sue my employer directly without going through the DCOHR?
Yes, you are allowed to bring a private lawsuit against your employer in a D.C. court. However, if you decide to pursue a private claim in court you are prohibited from filing the same claim with the DCOHR.
What do I do after my initial contact with the DCOHR?
Your initial contact with the DCOHR will be when you schedule your interview. After this initial contact, you will fill out a complaint form, and then meet with an intake counselor who will help you finalize your complaint.
Who will investigate my complaint?
The Director of the DCOHR has the authority to investigate all claims that come into the office or to delegate that responsibility to other officers working in the office.
What happens after I submit my claim?
After you submit your complaint to the DCOHR, your employer is contacted within fifteen (15) days and given a copy of your complaint. Within three to five weeks of the filing date you and your employer will be asked to come into the DCOHR and attend a mediation session that normally lasts for 2 hours. If mediation does not resolve the dispute after forty five (45) days, the DCOHR will conduct a more thorough investigation of your complaint to see if there is probable cause to determine whether they should continue pursuing your case. If the DCOHR determines that probable cause does exist, then they will give the parties sixty (60) days for conciliation and try to persuade them to settle their claims. If the parties still are unable to come to an agreement after the sixty (60) days, the case will be heard before three members of the Commission and a judgment will be made on your claim.
What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the DCOHR determines that no probable cause exists on which to base the claim it will dismiss your claim. At this time you must obtain your own attorney if you want to pursue a private lawsuit in a D.C. Court.
What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the DCOHR determines that probable cause exists it will notify all parties of their findings and recommend that they reach a settlement on their own (this is known as conciliation). After sixty (60) days if this does not happen the DCOHR will set a hearing date and members of the Commission will hear both sides and make a determination.
Can I sue my employer?
Yes. You are able to bring a claim against your employer either through the DCHRA or through a private lawsuit.
What is a "right to sue" letter?
To bring a private lawsuit in Federal Court you must first obtain a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC. The DCHRA does not require that you begin administrative remedies before bringing a claim in a D.C. court.
Can I appeal a decision of the Commission?
Yes. If the Commission settles the case in favor of your employer or you are otherwise not satisfied with the outcome, you may submit an application requesting their reconsideration of your claim. Another way to appeal is to file a petition with the D.C. Court of Appeals to review the Commission's decision.
Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?
In order to file a federal claim for employment discrimination you must first contact the EEOC. You will either file the claim through the EEOC or they will issue you a right to sue letter, which permits you to work with an outside attorney and bring your case in federal court. Most attorneys in D.C. will first file claims in D.C. Superior Court because the monetary damages available are higher than those available in federal court.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?
The major disadvantage of filing a federal claim in the District of Columbia is that federal law limits, or caps, the damages available to victims of discrimination. There is no such cap in the District of Columbia.
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