Mission

The Office of Human Rights and Equity is an entity of the Howard County Government that seeks to eradicate discrimination, increase equal opportunity and protect and promote human rights in the County.

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How to File a Complaint

Commissions & Workgroups

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What We Do

  • Investigates and processes complaints of unlawful discrimination in Employment, Housing, Public Accommodation, and Financing (Lending Institutions).  The Office accepts complaints by Law Enforcement, but the complaint will be investigated by the Howard County Police Department.
  • Resolves complaints by conference, conciliation or mediation
  • Enforces the Howard County Human Rights Law
  • Conducts public hearings on issues affecting the protection and promotion of Human Rights
  • Conducts studies, surveys, and publishes reports
  • Recommends policies on Civil and Human Rights to the County Executive
  • Cooperates with other local, state, and federal agencies and officials to protect and promote better human relations
  • Serves as an advocate to address issues involving discrimination, human relations, and diversity
  • Initiates and participates in outreach activities and events with governmental and community organizations
  • Serves as a liaison with the public, governmental agencies and, community groups to develop educational programs, heightens public awareness of discrimination and methods of eliminating discrimination
Resources & Information
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How to File a Complaint
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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.

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Equity and Restorative Practices Unit
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The Equity and Restorative Practices (ERP) Unit utilizes an equity-centered lens to infuse concepts of equity in the county’s service delivery, decision-making, and resource distributions. ERP seeks to ensure a shared organizational understanding of racial equity and social justice by supporting departments and staff for transformational change and operationalizing equitable practices, policies, and procedures that result in more fair and just outcomes.   

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Contests and Awards
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Click here to view Contest details for Human Rights contests, including:

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission Poster, Essay, and Oratory contest details and winners.
  • Annual Living the Dream Award
  • Howard County High School Food Drive Contest

 

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Outreach & Training
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Vision: Normalize and elevate OHRE’s role in community engagement with an equity focus.

Mission: Increase the presence of the Office of Human Rights and Equity within the community; Create more opportunities for the community to inform county government of best practices.

Purpose: Provide opportunities, experiences, events, and/or workshops for the citizens of Howard County to affirm the inherent value and worth of all people.

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Reports & Publications
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See our annual reports, special reports and statements, and Human Rights brochures.

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Forms
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See all of our forms and applications, including documents for making a complaint, applying to the Human Rights Commission, and Human Rights Commission Award nominations.

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Policies and Regulations
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SECTION 12.200 HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

It is sometimes difficult for the average person to know what laws,  regulations and policies affect residents of the county.  For the past few years  Howard County has worked to make those laws, regulations and policies more  readily available to the public, and this page is a continuation of that effort.

Howard County law prohibits discrimination in the following five areas:

Employment - Sec. 12.208
Housing - Sec. 12.207
Public  Accommodation - Sec. 12.210
Law Enforcement - Sec. 12.209
Finance  - Sec. 12.211

To view these laws, please click on the link below:
  1. Click the following link: Howard County Code
  2. Click Title 12 Health And Social Services.
  3. Click Subtitle 2 Human Rights.

View the Rules of Procedure of the Human Rights Commission

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Online Inquiry Form
Content

View our online inquiry form. This is not a formal complaint.

Commissions & Workgroups
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Human Rights Commission
Content

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) was established in 1969. It is comprised of 11 members and a non-voting student member, 18 years old or under. Commissioners must live in Howard County and represent the diversity of county residents. The duties and responsibilities of the Commission are prescribed by law and include recommending a civil rights policy to the County Executive and the County Council. This includes having the authority to conduct surveys and studies concerning civil liberties in order to promote equality in the community. In addition to hosting the annual HRC awards, they support OHRE outreach activities.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Commission
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The Howard County Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission (MLK) was established by order of the Howard County Executive to encourage and coordinate appropriate ceremonies and activities honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Commissioners are appointed by the County Executive to serve an initial term of two years. Each year, the MLK celebration takes place on the third Sunday of January. The Day of Service takes place the next day on the third Monday of January. The Day of Service provides a variety of service opportunities throughout the community that is representative of Dr. King’s dedication to servant leadership.

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La Alianza Latina Workgroup
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The County Executive established La Alianza Latina as a workgroup during Hispanic Heritage Month in September of 2020. The goals of the workgroup are to promote diversity and civility and address many of the concerns and struggles that the Latino and immigrant communities experience. The workgroup is comprised of 16 Howard County residents, representing a variety of backgrounds throughout Central and South America. La Alianza Latina aims to assist constituents and educate them on certain services and programs that may seem out of reach – such as accessing community resources, starting a business, or purchasing a home.

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Asian American Pacific Islander Workgroup
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The Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) workgroup advises the Howard County Executive on policy initiatives and advocates on issues that affect the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Consisting of 18 members, in addition to the honorary chair, Maryland State Senator Clarence Lam; AAPI hosts public quarterly meetings and presents biannual reports. AAPI organizes cultural events and has informative discussions on emerging issues. It is with the hope that these conferences will foster stronger relationships between the AAPI and the community. The workgroup is dedicated to creating a safe place where AAPI residents feel valued and heard in the community.

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LGBTQ+ Workgroup
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The Howard County LGBTQ+ Workgroup was established on November 1, 2019. County Executive Calvin Ball signed an Executive Order to create an LGBTQ+ (Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+) Workgroup to promote the shared community values of diversity and civility. The Workgroup partnered with county agencies non-profit organizations, and other community groups to facilitate an environment of inclusion, communication, understanding, and respect throughout Howard County.

LGBTQ+ Workgroup held quarterly meetings that were open to the public and provided a yearly report to the County Executive that addressed and identified current and emerging issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ Workgroup terminated on April 1, 2021.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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Who may file a complaint?
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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:

Race
Religion
Creed
Marital Status
Familial Status
Sex
Age
Sexual Orientation
Personal Appearance
Source of Income
Color
National Origin
Physical or Mental Disability
Occupation
Gender Identity

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

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

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.

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If I file with OHR, should I also file with EEOC?
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No, if the complaint is cross-jurisdictional with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), OHRE will cross-file the complaint with EEOC. You should not file separately with both.  Call OHRE with any questions.

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Do I need a lawyer to have my complaint investigated?
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You do not need a lawyer to go through this process, but you may elect to obtain one at any time. OHRE does not provide lawyers for parties to a complaint.

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What happens after complaints are filed?
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All complaints are investigated unless the Administrator finds lack of jurisdiction or no merit to the complaint. The Respondent is notified of the investigation and the investigation is initiated. 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.  Also see Case Processing & Services page.

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Will OHRE represent me?
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OHRE will not represent you. OHRE will conduct an impartial investigation of complaints filed with the agency.

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If I file with OHRE, can my employer fire me?
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There is a law that 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 OHRE as each situation is unique.

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If I have a disability, can my employer fire me?
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There are laws which protect persons with disabilities. However, each situation is unique and needs to be accessed.  An investigator can discuss weather a complaint can be filed.

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

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I live in Howard County, but work in another county. Can I still file my complaint in Howard County?
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OHRE can only take complaints that occur in Howard County regardless of where the complainant may live.

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If I file with OHRE, can I still go to court?
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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 that OHRE staff will explain to you when you call or come into the office.

 

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Can OHRE provide Interpreters?
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OHRE will provide interpreters for any language if you need one. If you call the office, just let someone know you need an interpreter, and OHRE will contact an interpreter by phone to assist you with filing a complaint. OHRE has staff members that speak Spanish.

 

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