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D.C. Employment Laws

The DC Human Rights Act ("DCHRA") prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political affiliation. Some of DCHRA's key provisions follow:

DCHRA [D.C. Code Ann. § 2-1402.11(a)] makes it illegal for an employer:

(1) To fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any individual; or otherwise to discriminate against any individual, with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, including promotion; or to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities, or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee;

Section 2-1402.11(b) makes it unlawful to do any of the aforementioned acts "for any reason that would not have been asserted but for, wholly or partially, a discriminatory reason based on the actual or perceived: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of any individual."

DCHRA also requires that an employer reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs unless doing so would cause an undue burden on the employer's business.

Coverage

Employer Coverage: The DCHRA applies to employers regardless of size, and it defines employer broadly as including any person acting in the interest of an employer. The DCHRA applies to private-sector companies and the D.C. Government. It does not apply to the Federal Government.

Employees Covered: The DCHRA covers individuals who are 18 years of age or older.

Establishing a Claim

The main arguments advanced by employees bringing a DCHRA claim are as follows:

  • Disparate Treatment (intentional discrimination)
  • Disparate Impact (neutral policies or practices that adversely affect a protected group)
  • Failure to Accommodate (religion)
  • Retaliation

Enforcement

The DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) enforces the DCHRA. In general, an employee starts the process by filing a complaint (charge) with the OHR within 1 year of the discriminatory act. DC government employees must consult an EEO counselor within 6 months of the discriminatory act.

Potential remedies under DCHRA include:

  • Administrative claim with the Office of Human Rights (OHR) – compensatory damages; attorney's fees
  • Private suit - Any relief the court deems necessary.
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* Searcy Business Litigation & Employment Law represents clients in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia, including Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Prince William County, the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax. The firm also serves clients in the Virginia counties of Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Frederick, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren, as well as the cities of Fredericksburg and Winchester, Virginia and more.

All legal information provided on this website is general and should not be used or relied on as legal advice as legal advice cannot be given without full
consideration of all relevant information relating to a specific situation.

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