Who May File A Complaint

Anyone who believes that he/she has experienced discrimination in Howard County in the areas of Employment, Housing, Public Accommodation, Law Enforcement or Finance and you are covered by one or more of the following 16 protected basis:

Marital Status
Familial Status
Sexual Orientation
Personal Appearance
Source of Income
National Origin
Physical or Mental Disability
Gender Identity

You do not need to be a resident of Howard County. 

Where do I file a complaint?

You must file your complaint with the Office of Human Rights at 9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Suite 237, Columbia, MD 21046. Please call OHR at 410-313-6430 for specific information. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. 

When must a complaint be filed?

A complaint must be filed within 6 months of the alleged discrimination, except housing complaints must be filed within 1 year of the discriminatory behavior.

Do I need an appointment?

It is helpful to call for an appointment, but you can always call or walk in and OHR staff will attempt to assist you.

What forms (basis) of discrimination are prohibited?

It is unlawful to discriminate against a person based on Race, Religion, Creed, Marital Status, Familial Status, Sex, Age, Sexual Orientation, Personal Appearance, Source of Income, Color, National Origin, Physical or Mental Handicap, Political Opinion, Occupation, or Gender Identity.

Do I need a lawyer to have my complaint investigated?

You do not need a lawyer to go through this process, but you may elect to obtain one at anytime. OHR does not provide lawyers for parties to a complaint.

Are all complaints investigated?

All complaints are investigated unless the parties desire mediation or the Administrator finds lack of jurisdiction or no merit to the complaint.

What happens after complaints are filed?

Complaints are reviewed and assigned to an Investigator for investigation. The Respondent is notified of the investigation and the investigation is initiated.

Am I calling the right place to file an EEOC complaint?

OHR accepts employment discrimination complaints which have occurred in Howard County, MD. The employer must be located in Howard County and employ five (5) or more employees for an OHR charge and 15 or more to cross file with EEOC. The OHR can crossfile your complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if it is jurisdictional with them. You should not file separately with both. Call OHR with questions.

Will OHR represent me?

OHR will not represent you. OHR will conduct an impartial investigation of complaints filed with the agency.

If I file with OHR, can I still go to court?

Yes, you will have the right to go to the circuit court for the county in which the alleged discrimination took place not later than two (2) years after the occurrence of the alleged discriminatory act and 45 days after filing the complaint. You may have other rights which OHR staff will explain to you when you call or come into the office.

If I file with OHR, can my employer fire me?

There is a law which prohibits retaliation for filing a complaint or participating in a protected act (such as being a witness in a human rights investigation). However, your employer is permitted to supervise and evaluate and, yes, even terminate you for legitimate business reasons. This is a question which you should discuss with a staff member of OHR as each situation is unique.

If I have a disability, can my employer fire me?

There are laws which protect persons with disabilities. However, each situation is unique and needs to be assessed by a staff member who can let you know what rights you have under the law.

Should I quit my job?

Quitting a job is always a personal decision, but you do not need to quit or resign in order to file a human rights complaint. You can continue to work for the employer during the course of the investigation.

If I file a “Housing” complaint with OHR, can they still evict me?

That depends on the particular circumstances which are occurring. Eviction is a legal process which is governed by State laws. OHR does not handle landlord/tenant issues. OHR can take complaints that have to do with housing discrimination. Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. has a landlord/tenant line which can answer those questions (410-243-6007). Also, the Howard County Office of Consumer Affairs handles landlord/tenant questions; call 410-313-6420.

If I file with OHR, should I also file with EEOC?

No, if the complaint is cross-jurisdictional with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), OHR will crossfile the complaint with EEOC.

How long does it take to file a complaint?

That depends on the complexity of the issues. Generally the process will take an hour or two. OHR will attempt to accommodate your needs.

What is the procedure for filing a complaint?

First, complete the Intake form online under "Forms & Publications" in the left menu on your screen, then click “How to File a Complaint.” Forms can also be obtained by calling OHR at 410-313-6430. Once completed, the form can be mailed, faxed, emailed or brought into the office. Then the Intake Investigator will need to interview you. This can be done in person or over the phone. The Intake Investigator will draft a complaint for your approval which will then need to be signed. This can be done in the office or by mail.

How long does it take OHR to complete processing my case?

Investigation may take up to 360 days. OHR tries to complete investigations in a shorter time. For housing complaints the time is 100 days. However, if your case goes to hearing or court it could extend beyond the time it takes to complete an investigation.

I live in Howard County, but work in another county. Can I still file my complaint in Howard County?

OHR can only take complaints which occur in Howard County regardless of where the complainant may live.

Do you offer mediation?

OHR offers mediation for all parties to complaints prior to beginning the investigation. If both parties agree, a mediator will be assigned who will schedule mediation. If mediation fails or if one or both of the parties do not want to participate, the case will be assigned to an Investigator for a complete investigation.

Do you have anyone in OHR that can speak Spanish?

OHR will provide interpreters for any language if you need one. If you call the office, just let someone know you need an interpreter, and OHR will contact an interpreter by phone to assist you with filing a complaint.

Will OHR negotiate a cash settlement for me?

OHR will attempt mediation (see do you offer mediation section above) and may attempt settlement during the course of the investigation. OHR will enter into conciliation with the parties once a reasonable or probable cause finding is issued.

I have additional information for my case, should I mail it or bring it to the office?

OHR will accept all information and names of witnesses in whichever way is convenient for you. OHR will copy the information for you. 

How can I obtain information on the status of my case?

Once your case is filed, you will be assigned to an investigator. You can contact your investigator at any time during the investigation in order to check on the status of your case.