How To File a Complaint, Case Processing & Services

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, color, 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.

Filing a Complaint 

To begin the process, you must contact the Office of Human Rights by:
  1. Telephone – (410) 313-6430; or
  2. Email at ohr@howardcountymd.gov; or 
  3. Call to schedule an appointment; or 
  4. Complete an online inquiry form found on OHR’s website. 
*None of the above actions are considered the filing of a formal complaint. 

Who Can File?

Any person can file a Complaint if the incident of alleged discrimination occurred in Howard County.  The Complaint must be filed within 6 months (Employment, Public Accommodation, Finance and Law Enforcement) or within 1 year (Housing) of the alleged discrimination. In the case of Employment discrimination, the employer must have 5 or more employees.

Case Processing Timeframe

OHR will complete its investigation within 180 days (Employment, Public Accommodation, Finance and Law Enforcement) or within 100 days (Housing).  These deadlines may be extended due to extenuating circumstances.

End of Investigation

Based on the evidence, OHR will issue a finding of No Reasonable Cause (NRC) or Reasonable Cause (RC) to believe that the Complainant experienced discrimination.  

Mediation 

Mediation is a method of resolving the dispute without the time and expense of an investigation.  OHR will ask if you would like to mediate the matter with a trained mediator at OHR.  Both parties must agree to mediate. 

Conciliation

If OHR issued a Reasonable Cause finding, the Administrator will contact the parties to attempt to arrange a settlement before it is sent to the Human Rights Commission for a public hearing. 

Appeal Process

If OHR issued a finding of No Reasonable Cause the Complainant may appeal the finding to the Human Rights Commission.  The appeal must be filed within 20 days of the date that the Finding was issued.  Appeals must be in writing and sent to The Human Rights Commission by email: hrc@howardcountymd.gov or delivered or mailed to HRC at 9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Suite 237, Columbia, MD 21046.

Public Hearing 

The Human Rights Commission will hold public hearings on a granted appeal or a Reasonable Cause finding that does not settle.  The Complainant must present all evidence of the alleged discrimination and damages. Any party to the proceedings may appeal the decision and order of the HRC to the Circuit Court of Howard County within thirty (30) days.

Alternative Action 

The Complainant can file their case in the Circuit Court for Howard County after forty-five (45) days of filing a complaint in the OHR.  In an employment case, the Complainant may also request a Right to Sue letter from EEOC ninety (90) days after the complaint has been filed with OHR. If the Complainant chooses either of these options, the complaint in OHR will be closed.