Human Rights Commission banner

The Complaint Process

YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

All people of Washington have certain rights and responsibilities under the Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60). Under the law, everyone has the right to be free from discrimination at work, in housing, in a public accommodation, or when seeking credit and insurance. Discrimination occurs whenever we treat someone differently and deny him or her equal treatment or access because of: their membership in a Protected Class.

Protected Class Includes:

Race/Color
National Origin
Creed
Sex/Pregnancy
Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity
Veteran/Military Status
The presence of any sensory, mental, or physical actual Disability or perceived Disability
Use of a Service Animal
HIV or Hepatitis C
Marital Status (except in public accommodation)
Breastfeeding (in public accommodation)
Age (40+, employment only)
Families with Children (housing only)
State Employee Whistleblower

It is illegal to retaliate against any individual who files or participates in a discrimination complaint.

If you believe you are being discriminated against, try to document what is happening. Keep notes of the dates, times, words used, and actions or conduct you believe is discriminatory. Keep copies of any relevant letters, answering machine messages, etc. Note any witnesses to the action or situation. You have a responsibility to act in a timely manner. Under the Law Against Discrimination, you must file a formal complaint with the Commission within six months of the alleged discriminatory incident or action for employment cases, or twelve months for housing cases.

JURISDICTION OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Under the law, the Human Rights Commission can investigate complaints of alleged discrimination in the following areas:

EMPLOYMENT

ATTENTION

The Washington State Human Rights Commission has no jurisdiction over employers with fewer than 8 employees, Native American tribes, federal government, religious employers, or claims in which the last date of harm occurred more than 6 months prior to the filing date of this complaint (or more than 2 years prior in the case of a state employee whistleblower retaliation claim).

Your complaint will not be accepted for investigation if it does not meet jurisdictional requirements.

 If you have a complaint against federal government employers or religious employers, please contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 1-800-669-4000


AN EMPLOYER CANNOT:
• Refuse to hire you or discharge you from employment because of your membership in a protected class.
• Discriminate in compensation of other terms or conditions of employment.
• Print, circulate, or use any discriminatory statement, advertisement, publication, job application form.
• Make any inquiry in connection with prospective employment that is discriminatory.
LABOR UNIONS MAY NOT DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF A PROTECTED CLASS.
FOR EXAMPLE, A LABOR UNION CANNOT:
• Deny membership or membership rights and privileges.
• Expel from membership.
• Failing to represent a person in the collective bargaining unit.
EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES MAY NOT DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF A PROTECTED CLASS. FOR
EXAMPLE, AN EMPLOYMENT AGENCY MAY NOT
• Discriminate in classification or referrals for employment.
• Print or circulate any discriminatory statement, advertisement, or publication
• Use discriminatory employment application forms, or inquiries made in connection with prospective employment. The employer must have at least 8 employees, the discrimination must have happened in the state of Washington and the complaint must be filed within six months of the last date of harm.  The Washington State Human Rights Commission does not have jurisdiction over the federal government, Native American Tribes or religious employers.  Please contact the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000 if your complaint is against the federal government a religious employer or tribe.

HOUSING & REAL ESTATE housing
Fair housing is the right of all people to be free from discrimination in a real estate transaction.

    rental
    sales
    insurance
    lending

Unlike other discrimination complaints, complaints relating to housing or real estate must be filed within one year of the date of the alleged discrimination. Sales/Rentals of Housing, including Condos, Manufactured Homes, and Apartments, Sales/Rentals of Real Property, including Offices, Buildings, and Land, Mortgage Lenders Advertising

PLACES OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION

Any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement, including: Restaurants, Hotels, Motels, and Inns, Stores, Markets, and Shopping Malls, Theaters, Cinemas, Concert Halls, and Arenas, Parks, Fairs, and Arcades, Libraries, Schools, State and Local Government Offices, and Hospitals.

ATTENTION

The Washington State Human Rights Commission has no jurisdiction over certain services or entities including but not limited to: police actions; the decisions of courts, city and county commissions,or other administrative or licensing agencies; Internet sites; the denial of public benefits; child support; court ordered visitation; prison and jails and their inmate programs; child or adult protective services actions; Native American tribes; and the federal government.
The Washington State Human Rights Commission has no jurisdiction over claims in which the last date of harm occurred more than 6 months prior to the filing date of this complaint.

Your complaint will not be accepted for investigation if it does not meet the jurisdictional requirements.

 If you have a complaint against police actions; the decisions of courts, city and county commissions,or other administrative or licensing agencies; Internet sites; the denial of public benefits; child support; court ordered visitation; prison and jails and their inmate programs; child or adult protective services actions; Native American tribes; OR the federal government., please contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 1800-669-4000

CREDIT AND INSURANCE
Credit includes but is not limited to Credit Applications, Fees, and Collateral
Insurance includes but is not limited to Applications, Health, Auto, Home and Life.

RETALIATION
It is an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against a person for opposing illegal discrimination. If you believe that your employer retaliated against you, you may have a basis to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

This also includes State Employee Whistleblowers.
The law protects state employees who report in good faith an alleged improper governmental action to the State Auditor under RCW 42.40.

Commission Investigative Process

When a complaint is filed, the Commission’s investigators act as neutral fact-finders. The Commission is not an advocate for either side. Our role under the law is to gather facts about the situation and then determine whether there is cause to believe that discrimination occurred. The Commission will send a written notice to the person(s) alleged to have committed the act of discrimination. After an initial interview, the investigator will determine if there is a prima facie claim of discrimination that merits a full investigation.  If there is a prima facie claim, a Commission Investigator will investigate the complaint by gathering more evidence, interviewing witnesses, or conducting site visits.
It can take some time to complete a thorough investigation. Whenever appropriate, the Commission will meet with both sides to explore resolving the issues. Settlement is often a quicker and more satisfactory way to resolve the complaint.
Upon completion of the investigation, the Commission will issue a finding. If the evidence does not support the charge of discrimination, the Commission will issue a finding of "no reasonable cause" to believe discrimination occurred. If the Commission finds that there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred, we will seek conciliation of the complaint. Appropriate remedies in the conciliation process may include back pay, reinstatement, rent refunds, or training to eliminate the unfair practice. If conciliation fails, the complaint may be turned over to the Attorney General's office for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The Commissioners may grant reconsideration if the party can show that there was a misapplication of the law, or that relevant information provided during the investigation was not considered in the finding.


If you are considering filing a complaint of discrimination with our agency, please be aware that most complaints, which include employment, public accommodation, credit and insurance transactions, have a statute of limitations which is six months from the date of the alleged harm; housing discrimination is one year; and state employee whistleblower retaliation is two years. Your complaint must be filed within the statute of limitations time frame, or it cannot be accepted under any circumstances. Calculating days for the statute of limitations will include any day that the office is closed for temporary layoff, which would otherwise be a normal business day! Therefore, if timeliness is an issue, it is very important that your complaint be filed on a day that the office is open, before your statute of limitations expires.

 


The Washington State Human Rights Commission (Commission) enforces the Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60). The Commission works to prevent and eliminate discrimination by investigating civil rights complaints and providing education and training opportunities throughout the state.

To File a complaint:

We offer an on-line Complaint Questionnaire designed to stream-line the filing process

click here to begin


If you believe that you have been discriminated against, fill out our on-line Complaint Questionnaire or call one of the Commission offices and ask to speak with an Intake Officer. If the Intake Officer is not available when you call, please leave your name and a contact number where they can reach you.

The Intake Officer will contact you, usually the same day you call our office. They will explain the law and check whether the issues you're describing fall within our jurisdiction.