When a complaint of discrimination is filed with the Human Rights Bureau (Bureau), the Bureau must informally investigate the allegations. The filing of a complaint does not constitute a finding or decision by the Bureau that you or your company engaged in discrimination.
The person or entity named in a complaint is referred to as a Respondent. The person or entity that files a complaint is referred to as a Charging Party.
Once the Bureau receives a complaint, we send it off to the named Respondent(s). Respondents have 10 business days to respond. (If there’s good cause, you can contact the Bureau for more time.) Respondents are only obligated to admit or deny the charges in a response, but you may be asked to provide more information.
After we get Respondent’s response back, the Bureau assigns an investigator. If the Bureau is unclear about the allegations contained in the complaint, the assigned investigator contacts Charging Party to clarify the nature and scope of the investigation. (This may happen when a charging party has drafted his or her own complaint or if he or she filed an “Intake Questionnaire” form with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)
If both parties are interested in resolving a complaint, the Bureau offers a variety of options to assist with settlement. These options are 100% voluntary. While we encourage you to consider it, the parties are in no way mandated to participate. Participation extends the time frame for processing the complaint by up to 45 days.
In a few weeks, your investigator will be in touch to answer questions you have about the process. He or she will also ask you to provide certain information. This is your opportunity to tell your side of the story and you should take advantage of it. You may be asked to respond to Request(s) for Information (RFI), such as a copy of policies or personnel files. You may be asked to provide contact information for or to make people available for witness interviews. (You may be present during interviews with management personnel, but an investigator is allowed to conduct interviews of non-management level employees without your presence or permission.) You may be asked for comparative information. The Bureau has up to 180 days to conduct its investigation (120 days for housing complaints). We want to work with you perform an efficient and effective investigation. We ask that you provide prompt responses, even if you believe the charge is frivolous. If you have concerns regarding the scope of the information being sought, let us know, in some instances, the request may be modified.
Please note, by law, Respondents are required to retain documents and other information related to a complaint of discrimination. Also, as a party to the proceeding, you can request and review information contained in the Bureau’s file.
Once the Bureau gathers the relevant information, the investigator writes out his or her analysis in a Final Investigative Report. It is the function of the Bureau to make a finding as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe a preponderance of the evidence supports any allegation of unlawful discrimination. If the Bureau finds there is no reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination occurred, it will issue a notice of dismissal. At this point, charging party can file his or her complaint directly in a district court or charging party can appeal to the Human Rights Commission. If the Bureau finds there is reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination occurred, it will attempt to conciliate the complaint (work to resolve the matter voluntarily). If it cannot be resolved, the complaint will be transmitted to the Office of Administrative Hearings for a contested-case proceeding.
Finally, it is important that you not retaliate against any person for participating in this process. Retaliation is the Bureau’s second highest filing. Many Respondents successfully defend the original complaint of discrimination, but move forward to a contested case on a subsequent charge of retaliation. Learn more about retaliation to protect yourself.