DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINTS

The Howard County Office of Human Rights (OHR) helps to settle complaints of unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, law enforcement, finance and places of public accommodation such as educational institutions, stores, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, etc.

The Office of Human Rights works to settle complaints through the process of mediation, initially. Both parties must agree to mediate. If mediation fails, the complaints will be formally investigated. OHR may find no reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred or reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred. Where reasonable cause is found, the case will be either conciliated (parties reach agreement) or scheduled for Public Hearing by the Human Rights Commission. Where no reasonable cause is found by the Administrator, the case may be appealed to the Human Rights Commission. In all cases, after the complaint has been on file for 45 days, the complainant may go to Circuit Court of Howard County to pursue the matter.

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination means acting or failing to act or unduly delaying any action regarding any person because of race, sex, creed, religion, national origin, age, occupation, personal appearance, political opinion, sexual orientation, marital status, physical or mental disability, familial status, source of income or gender identity in such a way that such persons are adversely affected in housing, employment, financing, law enforcement, or public accommodations.

How to File a Complaint

If you think you have been discriminated against, call or visit the Howard County Office of Human Rights to discuss your concern with our staff. We will explain our role, our process and determine if your concern is covered by our law. Complaints must be officially filed with our office within six months of the alleged act of discrimination in the areas of employment, public accommodation, financing and law enforcement. In the area of housing, you have one year from the date of the alleged discrimination to file your complaint. We can also refer you to other appropriate resources if your issue or problem does not come under our jurisdiction.

To begin the process, go to How To File a Complaint

Complaint Process

CASE PROCESSING OUTLINE*

Unfair Employment, Public Accommodation, Law Enforcement**, Finance

COMPLAINT:

1. Must be filed in writing, under oath and within 6 months after the alleged violation.
2. The complainant may reasonably amend the complaint at any time after it has been filed.
3. The complainant may withdraw the complaint at any time.
4. The complaint may be settled at any time before a finding of reasonable cause/no reasonable cause is issued.

DISMISSAL: (Complainant's Failure to Establish a Violation) 

5. Within 15 days of the filing, if the administrator determines if the facts as alleged are insufficient to establish a violation, the complaint will be dismissed.
6. The dismissal letter stating the reason(s) for dismissal at this point and the process for complainant to seek reconsideration will be sent, by certified mail to the complainant, with a copy being sent by certified mail to the respondent.
7. At this point to seek reconsideration, within 15 days of receiving the dismissal letter the complainant must send a letter to the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission stating the reason(s) for disagreement with the dismissal of the complaint.

INVESTIGATION: (Authorized)

8. Within 180 days of the authorization, the administrator shall issue written findings of the results of the investigation.
9. Due to exigent circumstances, at the discretion of the administrator, the time period may be extended for an additional 180 days.

FINDING OF REASONABLE CAUSE AND CONCILIATION

10. Within 30 days of a finding of reasonable cause, the administrator shall attempt to rectify the violation by conference, conciliation, and persuasion.
11. Conciliation agreement shall be reduced to a legally enforceable written instrument signed by the complainant, respondent, and the administrator.
12. If no conciliation agreement is reached, notice of failure is sent to all parties by certified mail, and the matter referred to the commission for a public hearing.

FINDING OF NO REASONABLE CAUSE

13. The administrator will issue a decision and order.
14. Advise the parties of their right, within 20 days of the finding, to request an administrative hearing before the Human Rights Commission.
15. Give detailed information about the method for requesting the administrative hearing.
16. Require any prospective appellant to list the reasons for appeal.

ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS

17. Failure to conciliate: The Human Rights Commission shall hold an administrative hearing in case of failure to reach an agreement after a reasonable cause finding by the administrator
18. After no reasonable or probable cause finding: The Human Rights Commission may hold an administrative hearing upon the request of any party.
19. The administrator shall certify the entire file and his/her finding and transmit documents to the Human Rights Commission.
20. The chairperson shall serve notice on all parties giving the time and place of the hearing.

DECISION AND ORDER

21. If the Human Rights Commission finds that, the respondent did not engage in unlawful acts it shall issue a decision and order, and dismiss the complaint.
22. If the Human Rights Commission finds that the respondent engaged in unlawful acts it shall issue a decision and order, ordering the respondent to cease and desist from the acts, and order appropriate action(s), including remedy..

APPEAL TO CIRCUIT COURT

23. Within 30 days of its issuance, any party to the proceedings may appeal the decision and order to the Circuit Court of Howard County.
24. If an appeal is taken, the Human Rights Commission is a party to the appeal.


*For a more detailed discussion, See, Section 12.212 of the Howard County Code.

**For charge processing of law enforcement, See, Section 12.209 of the Howard County Code.

(06/11/03)

CASE PROCESSING OUTLINE*

Housing

COMPLAINT

1. Must be filed in writing, under oath, within 1 year of the alleged unlawful housing practice.
2. Within 10 days of receipt, the complaint will be acknowledged and the complainant will be advised about the investigation time limits.
3. Within 10 days of the filing of the complaint, respondent will be furnished a copy of the complaint; respondent will be advised of its procedural rights and obligations.
4. Within 10 days of receiving the complaint, respondent may file a written answer under oath, which may be reasonably and fairly amended at any time.

DISMISSAL: (Complainant's Failure to Establish a Violation)

5. Within 15 days of the filing, if the administrator determines the facts as alleged are insufficient to establish a violation, the complaint will be dismissed.
6. The dismissal letter stating the reasons for dismissal at this point and the process for complainant to seek reconsideration will be sent, by certified mail to the complainant, with a copy being sent by certified mail to the respondent.
7. At this point to seek reconsideration, within 15 days of receiving the dismissal letter the complainant must send a letter to the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission stating the reasons for disagreement with the dismissal of the complaint.

INVESTIGATION: (Authorized)

8. Shall begin within 30 days of receiving complaint.
9. Within 100 days, shall determine whether or not probable cause exist to believe an unlawful housing act has occurred or is about to occur.
10. If determination has not been made within 100 days, complainant and respondent will be advised of the delay and the reason(s) for the delay.

DISMISSAL FOR LACK OF PROBABLE CAUSE

11. Notify complainant by certified mail and explain the reason(s) for dismissal. Furnish copy to the respondent.
12. Within 20 days of receiving dismissal letter, the complainant may appeal to Human Rights Commission for reconsideration.

PROBABLE CAUSE (REFERRAL TO THE COMMISSION)

13. Notify complainant and respondent by certified mail.
14. Within 30 days of notification, if no conciliation is reached, matter is referred to the Human Rights Commission.
15. Administrator shall notify Human Rights Commission of finding and lack of conciliation.
16. Administrator shall certify file and findings, and transmit documents to the Human Rights Commission.
17. Human Rights Commission shall issue a charge on behalf of complainant for further proceedings.
18. Human Rights Commission shall send a copy of charge to the parties with time, date, and place of a public hearing.

PUBLIC HEARING

19. Within 120 days of receiving a probable cause notification, the Human Rights Commission shall conduct a public hearing.
20. If the Human Rights Commission cannot begin the hearing within 120 days, it shall notify the complainant and respondent.
21. The hearing shall be conducted as expeditiously and inexpensively as possible.

DECISION AND ORDER

22. Within 60 days of conclusion of the hearing, the Human Rights Commission shall issue its findings of fact and conclusions of law.
23. The Human Rights Commission shall serve each party with the decision and order.

APPEAL TO CIRCUIT COURT

24. Within 30 days of its issuance, any party aggrieved by the decision and order may appeal to the Circuit Court of Howard County for judicial review of the decision and order.
25. If an appeal is taken, the Human Rights Commission is a party to the appeal.
26. If no appeal has been filed with the Circuit Court of Howard County within 30 days, the commission’s findings of fact and conclusions of law and final order shall be conclusive.


*For a detailed discussion, See, Section 12.207 of the Howard County Code. (06/09/03)