9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Suite 237
Columbia, MD 21046
9820 Patuxent Woods Drive, Suite 237
The Howard County 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. The Office serves as a catalyst in fostering attitudes and beliefs among Howard County residents which confirm that all individuals have an equal opportunity to enjoy a wholesome and productive quality of life and can pursue their lives free of discrimination.
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.
How to File a Discrimination Complaint
National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Awards are the premier national honor to recognize innovative and transformative programs that provide new services for county residents, improve existing programs, upgrade working conditions, and enhance citizenship participation and public policymaking. In 2022, the Office of Human Rights & Equity won two NACo Achievement Awards for Reading Human Rights and the MLK Pop Up Food Pantry. In 2021, the OHRE won one award for the Humanity Matters Dialogue Series.
In 2023, the OHRE is being recognized for three NACo Achievement Awards. Click on the links below to read more about each initiative:
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.
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.
The Community Outreach Unit increases the presence of the Office of Human Rights & Equity within the Howard County, Maryland community by creating opportunities for residents to affirm their humanity while protecting that of their neighbor's. The Outreach Unit accomplishes this by providing trainings and workshops, listening sessions, and events to government agencies, organizations, and community members around racial equity, social justice, and human relations.
Click here to view Contest details for Human Rights contests, including:
See our annual reports, special reports and statements, and Human Rights brochures.
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.
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.
Employment - Sec. 12.208
Housing - Sec. 12.207
Public Accommodation - Sec. 12.210
Law Enforcement - Sec. 12.209
Finance - Sec. 12.211
View our online inquiry form. This is not a formal complaint.
Watch the Office of Human Rights & Equity's training sessions, webinars and events!
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.
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.
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.
In October 2022 the County Executive and the County Council voted to establish the LGBTQIA+ Commission to continue the much needed work of equity, inclusion, communication, understanding, and respect for all gender and sexual identities. The purpose of this Commission is to advance policy and systemic change for all persons who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer, Non-binary, and who identify in other capacities along the LGBTQIA+ Spectrum. The Commission is made up of 17 voting members and will seek out 2 non-voting student members in the new year. They meet bi-monthly beginning on January 12, 2023.
The County Executive established La Alianza Latina as a workgroup during Hispanic Heritage Month in September of 2020. The goals of the workgroup were to promote diversity, civility, and address the concerns and struggles that Latino and immigrant communities experience. In October 2022, the County Executive and the County Council voted to establish La Alianza Latina Commission in order to continuing the work of advancing policy and systemic change for the uplift of Latino families, businesses, and residents. The Commission consists of 16 voting members and 2 student non-voting members. Each appointed member was appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council. La Alianza Latina Commission meets bi-monthly beginning on January 24, 2023.
The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Commission 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 Commission is dedicated to creating a safe place where AAPI residents feel valued and heard in the community.
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:
Source of Income
Physical or Mental Disability
You do not need to be a resident of Howard County.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OHRE will not represent you. OHRE will conduct an impartial investigation of complaints filed with the agency.
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.
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.
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.
OHRE can only take complaints that occur in Howard County regardless of where the complainant may live.
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.
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.
"Black Transmen Inc. sponsors a new black trans equality movement, that includes the power and admiration of black transmen living life in spite of societal and/or traditional expectations of gender identity. We affirm and celebrate the beauty, strength and uniqueness of the transmasculine community."
"Blaq Equity Baltimore envisions a society where all Black LGBTQ people thrive and feel safe, supported, and whole. Our mission is to foster a sense of belonging and connectedness among the Black LGBTQ community in the Baltimore metropolitan area and increase our capacity to be mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, sexually, and economically healthy. We strive to create programs that educate, empower, and uplift our diverse community."
"The Office of Disability Services strives to promote the self-sufficiency and well-being of people with disabilities through information, referral, advocacy and education."
"At HopeWorks our mission is to support and advocate for people in Howard County affected by sexual and intimate partner violence and to engage the community in creating the change required for violence prevention."
"Luminus empowers New Americans by offering legal, social, and language services to help them achieve their goals. We also seek systematic changes that will better the lives of all immigrants."
"It is the mission of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights to ensure opportunity for all through the enforcement of Maryland’s laws against discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state contracts; to provide educational outreach services related to provisions of this law; and to promote and improve civil rights in Maryland.
Our vision is to have a State that is free from any trace of unlawful discrimination."
"The Mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination."
"PFLAG acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. We promote the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, as well as their families and friends."
"The Pride Center of Maryland offers over 30 programs and services that reflect our dedication to ensuring Maryland’s sexual and gender minority community have equal access to care, services, and a space where they can be their authentic selves. Each year, we serve thousands of Maryland residents in order to fulfill our commitment of uniting, empowering, and advocating on behalf of sexual and gender minorities of Baltimore and Central Maryland."
"Somos Familia was founded by two moms from the East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area) with Latino gay and bisexual sons in 2007 to reach out to other families. With a group of volunteers and staff of different generations, we established the following mission and vision:
Somos Familia builds leadership in our Latinx families and communities to create a culture where people of diverse genders and sexual orientations can thrive..."
"Our mission is to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities by providing community recreational and leisure opportunities and promoting lifelong skills.
We provide accommodations and supports for inclusion of individuals with disabilities and medical or health conditions into programs offered by Howard County Recreation & Parks. These supports and accommodations include but are not limited to sign language interpreters, adaptive equipment, specialized training for staff, and increasing the staff to participant ratio."
"Hope for young LGBTQ lives starts here. We believe LGBTQ young people deserve a welcoming, loving world. And we wake up every day dedicated to making that a reality."
"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information."
"The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the Federal agency responsible for national policy and programs that address America's housing needs, that improve and develop the Nation's communities, and enforce fair housing laws. HUD's business is helping create a decent home and suitable living environment for all Americans..."
"The Women’s Giving Circle is building a community of philanthropists and creating a permanent legacy to address the needs of women and girls in Howard County."
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