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Know Your Rights: LGBTQ+ Discrimination in Connecticut

Discrimination

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Discrimination | Public Accommodations | Connecticut

Connecticut Public Accommodations Q&A

What is a “place of public accommodation?”

A place of public accommodation is “any establishment which caters or offers its services or facilities or goods to the general public” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-63(1)). This definition is intentionally broad and includes hotels, restaurants, rest areas, hospitals, and Connecticut public schools. The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) views public schools and public colleges as public accommodations.

Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes. 

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBT in places of public accommodation?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Such places may not deny full and equal accommodations or discriminate in any way because of a person’s sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81d), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64(a) (1) & (2)).

A specific law also forbids discrimination at golf clubs on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity or expression, marital status or sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 52-571d (b) & (c)). If you are denied membership or access to a golf club on the basis of any of the above, you may file a complaint in Superior Court to restrain further violations and recover damages of at least $250, plus costs and attorney’s fees (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 52-571d (g)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you wish to file a complaint, you should contact an intake officer at one of the regional offices of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The intake officer will discuss your concerns, explain the complaint process, and advise you about what help CHRO may be able to provide to you. If CHRO has jurisdiction, you will be given an appointment to come to a regional office to file a complaint. The contact information for CHRO’s administrative headquarters and four regional offices is below:

  • ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS 25 Sigourney Street Hartford, CT 06106 PHONE: (860) 541-3400 OR (800) 477-5737 FAX: (860) 246-5068
  • CAPITOL REGION OFFICE 450 Columbus Boulevard Hartford, CT 06103-1835 PHONE: (860) 566-7710 FAX: (860) 566-1997
  • EASTERN REGION OFFICE 100 Broadway Norwich, CT 06360 PHONE: (860) 886-5703 FAX: (860) 886-2550
  • WEST CENTRAL REGION OFFICE Rowland State Government Center 55 West Main Street, Suite 210 Waterbury, CT 06702-2004 PHONE: (203) 805-6530 FAX: (203) 805-6559
  • SOUTHWEST REGION OFFICE 350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor Bridgeport, CT 06604 PHONE: (203) 579-6246 FAX: (203) 579-6950

The complaint must be in writing and under oath, and it must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint (“the complainant”) as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (“the respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82). There is no charge to file a complaint.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHRO process, but the defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the CHRO within 300 days of the last discriminatory act or acts (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82(e)). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Note: Until 2019, complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the last discrimination act or acts.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once?

Yes. Connecticut’s public accommodations non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, disability, lawful source of income or veteran status (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64).

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHRO?

When you file a complaint with the CHRO, you will be given a packet of information explaining the CHRO procedures and deadlines. Please review these and follow the deadlines.

The complaint will be served on your respondent, who must answer the complaint under oath within 30 days. If you wish to respond or comment on your respondent’s answer, you have 15 days to do so.

Within 60 days of receiving the respondent’s answer, the CHRO will review the complaint and determine if any further investigation is necessary. This is called a merit assessment review (MAR). It is based solely on your original complaint, the answer, and any additional comments you make regarding the answer. Since many cases are dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, GLAD recommends that you reply to the respondent’s answer.

If the case is dismissed, you will be given 15 days to request the right to move your complaint from CHRO into the courts. If you do not request to remove your complaint, the CHRO will review your case and decide whether to uphold the dismissal or reinstate your complaint.

If the case is not dismissed, an investigator will be assigned and a mandatory mediation conference will be held within 60 days. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, either party or the CHRO can request early legal intervention. The CHRO has 90 days to decide whether to grant this request. If granted, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to decide the merits of the case in a trial-type hearing.

If there is no request for early legal intervention, then the investigator will continue to collect evidence and will make a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause.” If a finding of “reasonable cause” is made, you can request either to have the case heard at the CHRO or to move it to Superior Court. If a finding of “no reasonable cause” is made, you have 15 days to request reconsideration.

What are the legal remedies the CHRO may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

Cease and desist orders and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws. The CHRO may also order civil fines to be paid to the state (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-86 (a); sec. 46a-64 (c)).

Should I take my case away from the CHRO and file in court? How do I do so?

This is a decision you should make with your lawyer. Greater damages are available to you in state court than at the CHRO, including emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees.

Complainants are no longer required to have their cases heard by the Commission. The complainant and the respondent may jointly request a release of jurisdiction at any time after a complaint is filed with the Commission. 

After 180 days from the filing of the complaint, the complainant may request a release of jurisdiction if the complaint is still pending.  Prior to 180 days, the complainant may request that the Commission conduct an expedited case assessment review and issue a release after case assessment is done. The Commission has 10 business days to issue the release.  After issuing the release, the Commission will dismiss the complaint and close the case. 

You must file your court action within 2 years of the date of filing your complaint with the CHRO; and

You must file your court action within 90 days after you receive a release from the CHRO to file your case in court.

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHRO complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Connecticut, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”


News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Connecticut, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

Discrimination | Credit, Lending & Services | Connecticut

Connecticut Credit, Lending & Services Q&A

Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in credit, lending and services?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes. 

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in credit, lending and services?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What protections exist under Connecticut anti-discrimination law with regard to credit?

Any person who “regularly extends or arranges for the extension of credit” for which interest or finance charges are imposed—e.g. a bank, credit union, or other financial institution—may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81f) or gender identity or expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-66(a)) in any credit transaction.

Example: GLAD brought and settled a claim against a credit union which refused to allow an effeminate looking man from applying for a loan until he came back looking more masculine. A federal court ruled that this stated a claim of sex discrimination (Rosa v. Park West Bank, 214 F.3d 213 (1st Cir. 2000)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you wish to file a complaint, you should contact an intake officer at one of the regional offices of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The intake officer will discuss your concerns, explain the complaint process, and advise you about what help CHRO may be able to provide to you. If CHRO has jurisdiction, you will be given an appointment to come to a regional office to file a complaint. The contact information for CHRO’s administrative headquarters and four regional offices is below:

  • ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS 25 Sigourney Street Hartford, CT 06106 PHONE: (860) 541-3400 OR (800) 477-5737 FAX: (860) 246-5068
  • CAPITOL REGION OFFICE 450 Columbus Boulevard Hartford, CT 06103-1835 PHONE: (860) 566-7710 FAX: (860) 566-1997
  • EASTERN REGION OFFICE 100 Broadway Norwich, CT 06360 PHONE: (860) 886-5703 FAX: (860) 886-2550
  • WEST CENTRAL REGION OFFICE Rowland State Government Center 55 West Main Street, Suite 210 Waterbury, CT 06702-2004 PHONE: (203) 805-6530 FAX: (203) 805-6559
  • SOUTHWEST REGION OFFICE 350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor Bridgeport, CT 06604 PHONE: (203) 579-6246 FAX: (203) 579-6950

The complaint must be in writing and under oath, and it must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint (“the complainant”) as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (“the respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82). There is no charge to file a complaint.

If you are a state employee, you may file your case directly in court. State employees can skip over the CHRO process entirely.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHRO process, but banks and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the CHRO within 300 days of the last discriminatory act or acts (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82(e)). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Note: Until 2019, complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the last discrimination act or acts.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once?

Yes. Connecticut’s credit non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, and present or past history of mental, intellectual, learning, or physical disability or veteran status (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-66).

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHRO?

When you file a complaint with the CHRO, you will be given a packet of information explaining the CHRO procedures and deadlines. Please review these and follow the deadlines.

The complaint will be served on your respondent, who must answer the complaint under oath within 30 days. If you wish to respond or comment on your respondent’s answer, you have 15 days to do so.

Within 60 days of receiving the respondent’s answer, the CHRO will review the complaint and determine if any further investigation is necessary. This is called a merit assessment review (MAR). It is based solely on your original complaint, the answer, and any additional comments you make regarding the answer. Since many cases are dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, GLAD recommends that you reply to the respondent’s answer.

If the case is dismissed, you will be given 15 days to request the right to move your complaint from CHRO into the courts. If you do not request to remove your complaint, the CHRO will review your case and decide whether to uphold the dismissal or reinstate your complaint.

If the case is not dismissed, an investigator will be assigned and a mandatory mediation conference will be held within 60 days. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, either party or the CHRO can request early legal intervention. The CHRO has 90 days to decide whether to grant this request. If granted, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to decide the merits of the case in a trial-type hearing.

If there is no request for early legal intervention, then the investigator will continue to collect evidence and will make a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause.” If a finding of “reasonable cause” is made, you can request either to have the case heard at the CHRO or to move it to Superior Court. If a finding of “no reasonable cause” is made, you have 15 days to request reconsideration.

What are the legal remedies the CHRO may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

Cease and desist orders and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. allowing person to apply for credit on non-discriminatory terms) (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-86 (a); sec. 46a-98 (outlining additional damages available for cases filed in Superior Court within one year of discriminatory act)).

Note that when cases are filed in court, emotional distress damages and attorneys’ fees are also available to a successful complainant. These are not available from the CHRO (See Bridgeport Hospital v. CHRO, 232 Conn. 91 (1995); Delvecchio v. Griggs & Browne Co., Inc., 2000 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1149 (April 17, 2000)(“The CHRO is without authority to award the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees, punitive or compensatory damages or damages for emotional distress.”)).

Should I take my case away from the CHRO and file in court? How do I do so?

This is a decision you should make with your lawyer. Greater damages are available to you in state court than at the CHRO, including emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees.

Complainants are no longer required to have their cases heard by the Commission. The complainant and the respondent may jointly request a release of jurisdiction at any time after a complaint is filed with the Commission. 

After 180 days from the filing of the complaint, the complainant may request a release of jurisdiction if the complaint is still pending. Prior to 180 days, the complainant may request that the Commission conduct an expedited case assessment review and issue a release after case assessment is done. The Commission has 10 business days to issue the release. After issuing the release, the Commission will dismiss the complaint and close the case. 

You must file your court action within 2 years of the date of filing your complaint with the CHRO; and

You must file your court action within 90 days after you receive a release from the CHRO to file your case in court.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

  • State or Federal Court: You may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done as discussed above.
  • Connecticut Department of Banking: You can file a complaint with the Department of Banking. For more information see: Online eLicensing Instructions 

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 1-800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful if you bring to your attorney an outline or diary of what happened on the job that you are complaining about. It is best if the information is organized by date and explains who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them), as well as what happened, who said what, and who was present for any important conversations or incidents. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHRO complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For more information about filing a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Banking, see: Online eLicensing Instructions

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Connecticut, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

News & Press Releases


To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Connecticut, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

Discrimination | Employment | Connecticut

Connecticut Employment Q&A

Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in employment?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes.

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in employment?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What do the employment provisions say? Who do they apply to?

The non-discrimination law applies to public and private employees. It forbids employers from refusing to hire a person, discharging them, or discriminating against them “in compensation, or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment” because of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(1)) or gender identity or expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(1)). This covers most significant job actions, such as hiring, firing, failure to promote, demotion, excessive discipline, harassment, and different treatment of the employee and similarly situated co-workers.

In addition, employment agencies may not discriminate based on sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(2)), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec.c. 46a-60(a)(2)), either by refusing to properly classify or refer their customers for employment or in general. Labor organizations (e.g. unions) similarly may not discriminate (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(3); Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(3)). The law also forbids all of these entities from advertising in such a way as to restrict employment because of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(4)), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(6)).

Finally, the State of Connecticut and its agencies are forbidden from discriminating based on sexual orientation (see generally Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-81g to 46a-81o) and gender identity or expression (see generally Conn. Gen. Stat. secs 46a-70 & 46a-71), both in their own employment practices as well as in their provision of services. The law also imposes an affirmative obligation on state agencies to adopt rules to enforce the non-discrimination provisions and to establish training programs. Contractors and subcontractors who provide services to the state must certify in writing that they will not discriminate when fulfilling the contract terms.

Effective June 7, 2016, Connecticut added sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, as well as religion, sex and national origin, as protected categories under its law banning discrimination in membership, unit formation, promotion or accommodations in “the armed forces of the state” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 27-59).

Does the law apply to every employer in Connecticut?

No. As broad as the law is, there are several exemptions to its application.

  • Employers with fewer than 3 employees are not subject to the law (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(10)).
  • Certain religious employers are also exempt. See below on Religious Exemption to the Prohibitions on Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Discrimination.
  • Any employer, agency, or labor organization may defend against a discrimination claim by arguing that it is a “bona fide occupational qualification” of the particular job to have a non-LGBTQ+ employee fill it (Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-81c; 46a-60 generally). Luckily, although this defense is technically allowed by law, it is strictly applied and rarely successful (see, e.g. The Evening Sentinel et al. v. National Organization for Women, 168 Conn. 26, 36 (1975) (“A BFOQ exists only if no member of the class excluded is physically capable of performing the tasks required by the job”); Conn. Institute for the Blind v. CHRO, 176 Conn. 88 (1978) (“The standard for a BFOQ purposely imposes a heavy burden on an employer whose refusal to hire is prima facie discriminatory”)).
  • The ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program, which is established under federal law to provide officers to the U.S. military, may continue to discriminate in its “conduct and administration” at colleges and universities (Conn. Gen. Stat.  sec. 46a-81q.  It is worth noting that LGBTQ+ individuals are no longer excluded from the military and ROTC programs; and effective 2021 transgender individuals can serve in the military and will be allowed participation in ROTC.

Does Connecticut law forbid sexual harassment on the job?

Yes. Connecticut law defines sexual harassment as:

Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when (a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(8)).

Can I file a complaint of sexual harassment if I’m LGBTQ+?

Yes. It is just as unlawful to sexually harass an LGBTQ+ individual as it is to harass anyone else. Some harassment is specifically anti-LGBTQ+, and may be more fairly characterized as harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Other harassment is sexual in nature and more appropriately categorized as “sexual harassment.” Both types of harassment can happen to the same person, and both are forbidden.

Both the United States Supreme Court and several state courts have found same-sex sexual harassment to violate sexual harassment laws on various occasions:

  1.  (Compare Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998) (man can sue for sexual harassment by other men under federal sexual harassment laws);
  2.  Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co., 424 Mass. 285, 676 N.E.2d 45 (1997) (same-sex sexual harassment forbidden under state law)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you wish to file a complaint, you should contact an intake officer at one of the regional offices of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The intake officer will discuss your concerns, explain the complaint process, and advise you about what help CHRO may be able to provide to you. If CHRO has jurisdiction, you will be given an appointment to come to a regional office to file a complaint. The contact information for CHRO’s administrative headquarters and four regional offices is below:

 

  • ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS 25 Sigourney Street Hartford, CT 06106 PHONE: (860) 541-3400 OR (800) 477-5737 FAX: (860) 246-5068
  • CAPITOL REGION OFFICE 450 Columbus Boulevard Hartford, CT 06103-1835 PHONE: (860) 566-7710 FAX: (860) 566-1997
  • EASTERN REGION OFFICE 100 Broadway Norwich, CT 06360 PHONE: (860) 886-5703 FAX: (860) 886-2550
  • WEST CENTRAL REGION OFFICE Rowland State Government Center 55 West Main Street, Suite 210 Waterbury, CT 06702-2004 PHONE: (203) 805-6530 FAX: (203) 805-6559
  • SOUTHWEST REGION OFFICE 350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor Bridgeport, CT 06604 PHONE: (203) 579-6246 FAX: (203) 579-6950

The complaint must be in writing and under oath, and it must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint (the complainant) as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (the respondent). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82). There is no charge to file a complaint.

If you are a state employee, you may file your case directly in court. State employees can skip over the CHRO process entirely.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves.

However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHRO process, but employers and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. 

GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the CHRO within 300 days of the last discriminatory act or acts (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82(e)). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Note: Until 2019, complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the last discrimination act or acts.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was fired both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. Connecticut’s employment non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, and present or past history of mental, intellectual, learning, or physical disability (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60).

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHRO?

When you file a complaint with the CHRO, you will be given a packet of information explaining the CHRO procedures and deadlines. Please review these and follow the deadlines.
The complaint will be served on your respondent, who must answer the complaint under oath within 30 days. If you wish to respond or comment on your respondent’s answer, you have 15 days to do so.

Within 60 days of receiving the respondent’s answer, the CHRO will review the complaint and determine if any further investigation is necessary. This is called a merit assessment review (MAR). It is based solely on your original complaint, the answer, and any additional comments you make regarding the answer. Since many cases are dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, GLAD recommends that you reply to the respondent’s answer.

If the case is dismissed, you will be given 15 days to request the right to move your complaint from CHRO into the courts. If you do not request to remove your complaint, the CHRO will review your case and decide whether to uphold the dismissal or reinstate your complaint.

If the case is not dismissed, an investigator will be assigned and a mandatory mediation conference will be held within 60 days. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, either party or the CHRO can request early legal intervention. The CHRO has 90 days to decide whether to grant this request. If granted, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to decide the merits of the case in a trial-type hearing.

If there is no request for early legal intervention, then the investigator will continue to collect evidence and will make a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause.” If a finding of “reasonable cause” is made, you can request either to have the case heard at the CHRO or to move it to Superior Court. If a finding of “no reasonable cause” is made, you have 15 days to request reconsideration.

What are the legal remedies the CHRO may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

Hiring, reinstatement, or upgrading; back pay; restoration in a labor organization; cease and desist orders; and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the antidiscrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices, etc.) (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-86 (a – c)).

Should I take my case away from the CHRO and file in court? How do I do so?

This is a decision you should make with your lawyer. Greater damages are available to you in state court than at the CHRO, including emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees.

Complainants are no longer required to have their cases heard by the Commission. The complainant and the respondent may jointly request a release of jurisdiction at any time after a complaint is filed with the Commission. 

After 180 days from the filing of the complaint, the complainant may request a release of jurisdiction if the complaint is still pending. Prior to 180 days, the complainant may request that the Commission conduct an expedited case assessment review and issue a release after case assessment is done. The Commission has 10 business days to issue the release. After issuing the release, the Commission will dismiss the complaint and close the case. 

You must file your court action within 2 years of the date of filing your complaint with the CHRO; and you must file your court action within 90 days after you receive a release from the CHRO to file your case in court.

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Federal employment non-discrimination law, called Title VII, applies to employers with at least 15 employees. 

Someone who brings a claim of discrimination may sometimes pursue protections under both state and federal law. This is true because there may be overlapping provisions of state and federal law. For example, Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, and disability (which includes HIV status), but does not expressly forbid discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

However, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020, see: 17-1618 Bostock v. Clayton County (06/15/2020)), the Supreme Court held that firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination. For more information on how the EEOC enforces discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees, see: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Discrimination | US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

GLAD recommends that, where there may be overlapping state and federal jurisdiction, you explore filing with CHRO first but keep in mind the possibility of pursuing a federal claim as well. If you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should check off “sex” as well as “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as the bases for your claim and request that CHRO cross-file your complaint with the EEOC.

Federal complaints must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, if you initially institute your complaint with CHRO and indicate that you wish to have the complaint cross-filed with the EEOC, then the time limit is extended to the earlier of 300 days or 30 days after CHRO has terminated the case (34 United States Code 42 sec. 2000e-5(e)(1)). (People who work for federal agencies are beyond the scope of this publication.)

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

  1. Union: If you are a member of a union, your contract (collective bargaining agreement) may provide additional rights to you in the event of discipline, discharge, or other job-related actions. If you obtain relief under your contract, you may even decide not to pursue other remedies. Get and read a copy of your contract and contact a union steward about filing a complaint. Deadlines in contracts are strict. Bear in mind that if your union refuses to assist you with a complaint, you may have a discrimination action against them for their failure to work with you, or for failure of duty of fair representation.
  2. State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHRO, EEOC, or both, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done as discussed above.

In addition, you may wish to bring a court case to address other claims which are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies. For example, if you are fired in violation of a contract, fired without the progressive discipline promised in a handbook, or fired for doing something your employer doesn’t like but which the law requires, these matters are beyond the scope of what the agencies can investigate and the matter should be pursued in court. Similarly, if your claim involves a violation of constitutional rights—for instance, if you are a teacher or governmental employee who believes his or her free speech or equal protection rights were violated—then those matters must also be heard in court.

What can I do if my employer fires me for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal for your employer to retaliate or punish you because you filed a complaint. If they do so, you can file an additional complaint against them for retaliation. “Retaliation” protections cover those who have filed complaints, testified or assisted in the complaint process, or opposed any discriminatory employment practice (Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-60 (4); 46a-64c(a)(9)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at https://www.glad.org/know-your-rights/glad-answers/ or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still working under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their job, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Even if you have been fired, you may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information to make an informed decision. 

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened on the job that you are complaining about, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). Try to have on hand copies of your employee handbooks or personnel manuals, as well as any contracts, job evaluations, memos, discharge letters and the like. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

 

Resources

For more information about the CHRO complaint process see:

 

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For more information about filing an EEOC discrimination complaint see: https://www.eeoc.gov/how-file-charge-employment-discrimination.

 

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Connecticut, go to: https://www.glad.org/our-impact/cases/ and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

 

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Connecticut, go to: https://www.glad.org/news/news-press/ and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

 

Discrimination | Housing | Connecticut

Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in housing?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes. 

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in housing?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What is prohibited by the housing anti-discrimination law in Connecticut?

The housing laws are intended to prohibit discrimination in transactions related to public and private residential housing, including listing, buying, selling, renting, and financing, whether for profit or not (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64c(a)(1) & (2)). Other practices are forbidden, too, including discriminatory advertising, misrepresenting the availability of a dwelling, denying access to a multiple listing service, or altering the terms of a transaction because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression (see generally, Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64c).

Are any landlords exempt from the housing anti-discrimination law?

Owner-occupied buildings with four units or less are not subject to the sexual orientation portion of the law, and owner-occupied buildings with two units are not subject to the gender identity or expression aspect of the law (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64c (b)(1)(B)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you wish to file a complaint, you should contact an intake officer at one of the regional offices of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The intake officer will discuss your concerns, explain the complaint process, and advise you about what help CHRO may be able to provide to you. If CHRO has jurisdiction, you will be given an appointment to come to a regional office to file a complaint. The contact information for CHRO’s administrative headquarters and four regional offices is below:

  • ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS 25 Sigourney Street Hartford, CT 06106 PHONE: (860) 541-3400 OR (800) 477-5737 FAX: (860) 246-5068
    • CAPITOL REGION OFFICE 450 Columbus Boulevard Hartford, CT 06103-1835 PHONE: (860) 566-7710 FAX: (860) 566-1997
    • EASTERN REGION OFFICE 100 Broadway Norwich, CT 06360 PHONE: (860) 886-5703 FAX: (860) 886-2550
    • WEST CENTRAL REGION OFFICE Rowland State Government Center 55 West Main Street, Suite 210 Waterbury, CT 06702-2004 PHONE: (203) 805-6530 FAX: (203) 805-6559
    • SOUTHWEST REGION OFFICE 350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor Bridgeport, CT 06604 PHONE: (203) 579-6246 FAX: (203) 579-6950

For housing complaints, contact the Housing Discrimination Unit at (800) 477-5737 ext. 3403 or (860) 541-3403

The complaint must be in writing and under oath, and it must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint (“the complainant”) as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (“the respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82). There is no charge to file a complaint.
If you are a state employee, you may file your case directly in court. State employees can skip over the CHRO process entirely.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHRO process, but landlords and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the CHRO within 300 days of the last discriminatory act or acts (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82(e)). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Note: Until 2019, complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the last discrimination act or acts.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was evicted both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. Connecticut’s housing non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, disability, lawful source of income, familial status and veteran status (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64c). 

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHRO?

When you file a complaint with the CHRO, you will be given a packet of information explaining the CHRO procedures and deadlines. Please review these and follow the deadlines.
The complaint will be served on your respondent, who must answer the complaint under oath within 30 days (10 days for a housing case). If you wish to respond or comment on your respondent’s answer, you have 15 days to do so.
Within 60 days of receiving the respondent’s answer, the CHRO will review the complaint and determine if any further investigation is necessary. This is called a merit assessment review (MAR). It is based solely on your original complaint, the answer, and any additional comments you make regarding the answer. Since many cases are dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, GLAD recommends that you reply to the respondent’s answer.

If the case is dismissed, you will be given 15 days to request the right to move your complaint from CHRO into the courts. If you do not request to remove your complaint, the CHRO will review your case and decide whether to uphold the dismissal or reinstate your complaint.

If the case is not dismissed, an investigator will be assigned and a mandatory mediation conference will be held within 60 days. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, either party or the CHRO can request early legal intervention. The CHRO has 90 days to decide whether to grant this request. If granted, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to decide the merits of the case in a trial-type hearing.

If there is no request for early legal intervention, then the investigator will continue to collect evidence and will make a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause.” If a finding of “reasonable cause” is made, you can request either to have the case heard at the CHRO or to move it to Superior Court. If a finding of “no reasonable cause” is made, you have 15 days to request reconsideration.

What are the legal remedies the CHRO may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

Damages— i.e., expenses actually incurred because of unlawful action related to moving, storage, or obtaining alternate housing; cease and desist orders; reasonable attorney’s fees and costs; and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-86 (a, c)). The CHRO may also order civil fines to be paid to the state (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81e(f)).

Should I take my case away from the CHRO and file in court? How do I do so?

This is a decision you should make with your lawyer. Greater damages are available to you in state court than at the CHRO, including emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees.
To sue an entity in state court as opposed to the CHRO, you must follow several steps and meet various deadlines (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-101 to 46a-102).

Complainants are no longer required to have their cases heard by the Commission. The complainant and the respondent may jointly request a release of jurisdiction at any time after a complaint is filed with the Commission. 

After 180 days from the filing of the complaint, the complainant may request a release of jurisdiction if the complaint is still pending. Prior to 180 days, the complainant may request that the Commission conduct an expedited case assessment review and issue a release after case assessment is done. The Commission has 10 business days to issue the release. After issuing the release, the Commission will dismiss the complaint and close the case. 

You must file your court action within 2 years of the date of filing your complaint with the CHRO; and

You must file your court action within 90 days after you receive a release from the CHRO to file your case in court.

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Persons who identify as LGBTQ and believe they have experienced housing discrimination because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity can assert their rights under the Fair Housing Act by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can find more detailed information about the protections HUD provides to LGBTQ people here: Housing Discrimination and Persons Identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ)

There is information about filing a housing discrimination complaint with HUD here: File a Complaint – Main Page | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The form for submitting a complaint can be found here: https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_12150.PDF

HUD views LGBTQ discrimination as a form of “sex” discrimination, so if you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should indicate “sex” as the discrimination factor.

A HUD complaint must be filed within one year of the last act of discrimination. The statute of limitations for bringing fair housing complaints in federal courts is not later than two years after the occurrence or the termination of an alleged discriminatory housing practice. However, if an administrative case is filed with HUD, the statute of limitations is tolled during the period of time in which HUD is evaluating the complaint. In English, what that means is that the time HUD has the case does not count when calculating the two year statute of limitations.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHRO, HUD, or both, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done. In addition, you may wish to bring a court case to address other claims which are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies, e.g. if you landlord is not meeting his obligation to provide a safe living space. 

What can I do if my landlord threatens me for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal for your landlord to retaliate or punish you because you filed a complaint. If they do so, you can file an additional complaint against them for retaliation. “Retaliation” protections cover those who have filed complaints, testified or assisted in the complaint process, or opposed any discriminatory employment practice (Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-60 (4); 46a-64c(a)(9)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still residing under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their housing, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Even if you have been evicted, you may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information to make an informed decision. 

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). Bring a copy of your lease, along with any notices and letters you have received from your landlord. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHRO complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For information about the HUD complaint process see:

Learn About the FHEO Complaint and Investigation Process | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

 

Discrimination | Employment | Connecticut

Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in employment?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes.

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in employment?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What do the employment provisions say? Who do they apply to?

The non-discrimination law applies to public and private employees. It forbids employers from refusing to hire a person, discharging them, or discriminating against them “in compensation, or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment” because of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(1)) or gender identity or expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(1)). This covers most significant job actions, such as hiring, firing, failure to promote, demotion, excessive discipline, harassment, and different treatment of the employee and similarly situated co-workers.

In addition, employment agencies may not discriminate based on sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(2)), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec.c. 46a-60(a)(2)), either by refusing to properly classify or refer their customers for employment or in general. Labor organizations (e.g. unions) similarly may not discriminate (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(3); Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(3)). The law also forbids all of these entities from advertising in such a way as to restrict employment because of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(4)), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(6)).

Finally, the State of Connecticut and its agencies are forbidden from discriminating based on sexual orientation (see generally Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-81g to 46a-81o) and gender identity or expression (see generally Conn. Gen. Stat. secs 46a-70 & 46a-71), both in their own employment practices as well as in their provision of services. The law also imposes an affirmative obligation on state agencies to adopt rules to enforce the non-discrimination provisions and to establish training programs. Contractors and subcontractors who provide services to the state must certify in writing that they will not discriminate when fulfilling the contract terms.

Effective June 7, 2016, Connecticut added sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, as well as religion, sex and national origin, as protected categories under its law banning discrimination in membership, unit formation, promotion or accommodations in “the armed forces of the state” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 27-59).

Does the law apply to every employer in Connecticut?

No. As broad as the law is, there are several exemptions to its application.

  • Employers with fewer than 3 employees are not subject to the law (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(10)).
  • Certain religious employers are also exempt. See below on Religious Exemption to the Prohibitions on Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Discrimination.
  • Any employer, agency, or labor organization may defend against a discrimination claim by arguing that it is a “bona fide occupational qualification” of the particular job to have a non-LGBTQ+ employee fill it (Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-81c; 46a-60 generally). Luckily, although this defense is technically allowed by law, it is strictly applied and rarely successful (see, e.g. The Evening Sentinel et al. v. National Organization for Women, 168 Conn. 26, 36 (1975) (“A BFOQ exists only if no member of the class excluded is physically capable of performing the tasks required by the job”); Conn. Institute for the Blind v. CHRO, 176 Conn. 88 (1978) (“The standard for a BFOQ purposely imposes a heavy burden on an employer whose refusal to hire is prima facie discriminatory”)).
  • The ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program, which is established under federal law to provide officers to the U.S. military, may continue to discriminate in its “conduct and administration” at colleges and universities (Conn. Gen. Stat.  sec. 46a-81q.  It is worth noting that LGBTQ+ individuals are no longer excluded from the military and ROTC programs; and effective 2021 transgender individuals can serve in the military and will be allowed participation in ROTC.

Does Connecticut law forbid sexual harassment on the job?

Yes. Connecticut law defines sexual harassment as:

Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when (a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(8)).

Can I file a complaint of sexual harassment if I’m LGBTQ+?

Yes. It is just as unlawful to sexually harass an LGBTQ+ individual as it is to harass anyone else. Some harassment is specifically anti-LGBTQ+, and may be more fairly characterized as harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Other harassment is sexual in nature and more appropriately categorized as “sexual harassment.” Both types of harassment can happen to the same person, and both are forbidden.

Both the United States Supreme Court and several state courts have found same-sex sexual harassment to violate sexual harassment laws on various occasions:

  1.  (Compare Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998) (man can sue for sexual harassment by other men under federal sexual harassment laws);
  2.  Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co., 424 Mass. 285, 676 N.E.2d 45 (1997) (same-sex sexual harassment forbidden under state law)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you wish to file a complaint, you should contact an intake officer at one of the regional offices of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The intake officer will discuss your concerns, explain the complaint process, and advise you about what help CHRO may be able to provide to you. If CHRO has jurisdiction, you will be given an appointment to come to a regional office to file a complaint. The contact information for CHRO’s administrative headquarters and four regional offices is below:

  • ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS 25 Sigourney Street Hartford, CT 06106 PHONE: (860) 541-3400 OR (800) 477-5737 FAX: (860) 246-5068
  • CAPITOL REGION OFFICE 450 Columbus Boulevard Hartford, CT 06103-1835 PHONE: (860) 566-7710 FAX: (860) 566-1997
  • EASTERN REGION OFFICE 100 Broadway Norwich, CT 06360 PHONE: (860) 886-5703 FAX: (860) 886-2550
  • WEST CENTRAL REGION OFFICE Rowland State Government Center 55 West Main Street, Suite 210 Waterbury, CT 06702-2004 PHONE: (203) 805-6530 FAX: (203) 805-6559
  • SOUTHWEST REGION OFFICE 350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor Bridgeport, CT 06604 PHONE: (203) 579-6246 FAX: (203) 579-6950

The complaint must be in writing and under oath, and it must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint (the complainant) as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (the respondent). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82). There is no charge to file a complaint.

If you are a state employee, you may file your case directly in court. State employees can skip over the CHRO process entirely.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves.

However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHRO process, but employers and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. 

GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the CHRO within 300 days of the last discriminatory act or acts (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82(e)). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Note: Until 2019, complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the last discrimination act or acts.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was fired both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. Connecticut’s employment non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, and present or past history of mental, intellectual, learning, or physical disability (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60).

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHRO?

When you file a complaint with the CHRO, you will be given a packet of information explaining the CHRO procedures and deadlines. Please review these and follow the deadlines.
The complaint will be served on your respondent, who must answer the complaint under oath within 30 days. If you wish to respond or comment on your respondent’s answer, you have 15 days to do so.

Within 60 days of receiving the respondent’s answer, the CHRO will review the complaint and determine if any further investigation is necessary. This is called a merit assessment review (MAR). It is based solely on your original complaint, the answer, and any additional comments you make regarding the answer. Since many cases are dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, GLAD recommends that you reply to the respondent’s answer.

If the case is dismissed, you will be given 15 days to request the right to move your complaint from CHRO into the courts. If you do not request to remove your complaint, the CHRO will review your case and decide whether to uphold the dismissal or reinstate your complaint.

If the case is not dismissed, an investigator will be assigned and a mandatory mediation conference will be held within 60 days. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, either party or the CHRO can request early legal intervention. The CHRO has 90 days to decide whether to grant this request. If granted, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to decide the merits of the case in a trial-type hearing.

If there is no request for early legal intervention, then the investigator will continue to collect evidence and will make a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause.” If a finding of “reasonable cause” is made, you can request either to have the case heard at the CHRO or to move it to Superior Court. If a finding of “no reasonable cause” is made, you have 15 days to request reconsideration.

What are the legal remedies the CHRO may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

Hiring, reinstatement, or upgrading; back pay; restoration in a labor organization; cease and desist orders; and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices, etc.) (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-86 (a – c)).

Should I take my case away from the CHRO and file in court? How do I do so?

This is a decision you should make with your lawyer. Greater damages are available to you in state court than at the CHRO, including emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees.

Complainants are no longer required to have their cases heard by the Commission. The complainant and the respondent may jointly request a release of jurisdiction at any time after a complaint is filed with the Commission. 

After 180 days from the filing of the complaint, the complainant may request a release of jurisdiction if the complaint is still pending. Prior to 180 days, the complainant may request that the Commission conduct an expedited case assessment review and issue a release after case assessment is done. The Commission has 10 business days to issue the release. After issuing the release, the Commission will dismiss the complaint and close the case. 

You must file your court action within 2 years of the date of filing your complaint with the CHRO; and you must file your court action within 90 days after you receive a release from the CHRO to file your case in court.

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Federal employment non-discrimination law, called Title VII, applies to employers with at least 15 employees. 

Someone who brings a claim of discrimination may sometimes pursue protections under both state and federal law. This is true because there may be overlapping provisions of state and federal law. For example, Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, and disability (which includes HIV status), but does not expressly forbid discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

However, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020, see: 17-1618 Bostock v. Clayton County (06/15/2020)), the Supreme Court held that firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination. For more information on how the EEOC enforces discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees, see: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Discrimination | US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

GLAD recommends that, where there may be overlapping state and federal jurisdiction, you explore filing with CHRO first but keep in mind the possibility of pursuing a federal claim as well. If you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should check off “sex” as well as “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as the bases for your claim and request that CHRO cross-file your complaint with the EEOC.

Federal complaints must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, if you initially institute your complaint with CHRO and indicate that you wish to have the complaint cross-filed with the EEOC, then the time limit is extended to the earlier of 300 days or 30 days after CHRO has terminated the case (34 United States Code 42 sec. 2000e-5(e)(1)). (People who work for federal agencies are beyond the scope of this publication.)

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

  1. Union: If you are a member of a union, your contract (collective bargaining agreement) may provide additional rights to you in the event of discipline, discharge, or other job-related actions. If you obtain relief under your contract, you may even decide not to pursue other remedies. Get and read a copy of your contract and contact a union steward about filing a complaint. Deadlines in contracts are strict. Bear in mind that if your union refuses to assist you with a complaint, you may have a discrimination action against them for their failure to work with you, or for failure of duty of fair representation.
  2. State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHRO, EEOC, or both, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done as discussed above.

In addition, you may wish to bring a court case to address other claims which are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies. For example, if you are fired in violation of a contract, fired without the progressive discipline promised in a handbook, or fired for doing something your employer doesn’t like but which the law requires, these matters are beyond the scope of what the agencies can investigate and the matter should be pursued in court. Similarly, if your claim involves a violation of constitutional rights—for instance, if you are a teacher or governmental employee who believes his or her free speech or equal protection rights were violated—then those matters must also be heard in court.

What can I do if my employer fires me for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal for your employer to retaliate or punish you because you filed a complaint. If they do so, you can file an additional complaint against them for retaliation. “Retaliation” protections cover those who have filed complaints, testified or assisted in the complaint process, or opposed any discriminatory employment practice (Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-60 (4); 46a-64c(a)(9)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at https://www.glad.org/know-your-rights/glad-answers/ or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still working under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their job, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Even if you have been fired, you may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information to make an informed decision. 

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened on the job that you are complaining about, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). Try to have on hand copies of your employee handbooks or personnel manuals, as well as any contracts, job evaluations, memos, discharge letters and the like. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHRO complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For more information about filing an EEOC discrimination complaint see: https://www.eeoc.gov/how-file-charge-employment-discrimination.

 

Discrimination | Credit, Lending & Services | Connecticut

Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in credit, lending and services?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes. 

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in credit, lending and services?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What protections exist under Connecticut anti-discrimination law with regard to credit?

Any person who “regularly extends or arranges for the extension of credit” for which interest or finance charges are imposed—e.g. a bank, credit union, or other financial institution—may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81f) or gender identity or expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-66(a)) in any credit transaction.

Example: GLAD brought and settled a claim against a credit union which refused to allow an effeminate looking man from applying for a loan until he came back looking more masculine. A federal court ruled that this stated a claim of sex discrimination (Rosa v. Park West Bank, 214 F.3d 213 (1st Cir. 2000)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you wish to file a complaint, you should contact an intake officer at one of the regional offices of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The intake officer will discuss your concerns, explain the complaint process, and advise you about what help CHRO may be able to provide to you. If CHRO has jurisdiction, you will be given an appointment to come to a regional office to file a complaint. The contact information for CHRO’s administrative headquarters and four regional offices is below:

  • ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS 25 Sigourney Street Hartford, CT 06106 PHONE: (860) 541-3400 OR (800) 477-5737 FAX: (860) 246-5068
  • CAPITOL REGION OFFICE 450 Columbus Boulevard Hartford, CT 06103-1835 PHONE: (860) 566-7710 FAX: (860) 566-1997
  • EASTERN REGION OFFICE 100 Broadway Norwich, CT 06360 PHONE: (860) 886-5703 FAX: (860) 886-2550
  • WEST CENTRAL REGION OFFICE Rowland State Government Center 55 West Main Street, Suite 210 Waterbury, CT 06702-2004 PHONE: (203) 805-6530 FAX: (203) 805-6559
  • SOUTHWEST REGION OFFICE 350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor Bridgeport, CT 06604 PHONE: (203) 579-6246 FAX: (203) 579-6950

The complaint must be in writing and under oath, and it must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint (“the complainant”) as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (“the respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82). There is no charge to file a complaint.

If you are a state employee, you may file your case directly in court. State employees can skip over the CHRO process entirely.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHRO process, but banks and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the CHRO within 300 days of the last discriminatory act or acts (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82(e)). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Note: Until 2019, complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the last discrimination act or acts.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once?

Yes. Connecticut’s credit non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, and present or past history of mental, intellectual, learning, or physical disability or veteran status (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-66).

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHRO?

When you file a complaint with the CHRO, you will be given a packet of information explaining the CHRO procedures and deadlines. Please review these and follow the deadlines.

The complaint will be served on your respondent, who must answer the complaint under oath within 30 days. If you wish to respond or comment on your respondent’s answer, you have 15 days to do so.

Within 60 days of receiving the respondent’s answer, the CHRO will review the complaint and determine if any further investigation is necessary. This is called a merit assessment review (MAR). It is based solely on your original complaint, the answer, and any additional comments you make regarding the answer. Since many cases are dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, GLAD recommends that you reply to the respondent’s answer.

If the case is dismissed, you will be given 15 days to request the right to move your complaint from CHRO into the courts. If you do not request to remove your complaint, the CHRO will review your case and decide whether to uphold the dismissal or reinstate your complaint.

If the case is not dismissed, an investigator will be assigned and a mandatory mediation conference will be held within 60 days. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, either party or the CHRO can request early legal intervention. The CHRO has 90 days to decide whether to grant this request. If granted, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to decide the merits of the case in a trial-type hearing.

If there is no request for early legal intervention, then the investigator will continue to collect evidence and will make a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause.” If a finding of “reasonable cause” is made, you can request either to have the case heard at the CHRO or to move it to Superior Court. If a finding of “no reasonable cause” is made, you have 15 days to request reconsideration.

What are the legal remedies the CHRO may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

Cease and desist orders and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. allowing person to apply for credit on non-discriminatory terms) (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-86 (a); sec. 46a-98 (outlining additional damages available for cases filed in Superior Court within one year of discriminatory act)).

Note that when cases are filed in court, emotional distress damages and attorneys’ fees are also available to a successful complainant. These are not available from the CHRO (See Bridgeport Hospital v. CHRO, 232 Conn. 91 (1995); Delvecchio v. Griggs & Browne Co., Inc., 2000 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1149 (April 17, 2000)(“The CHRO is without authority to award the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees, punitive or compensatory damages or damages for emotional distress.”)).

Should I take my case away from the CHRO and file in court? How do I do so?

This is a decision you should make with your lawyer. Greater damages are available to you in state court than at the CHRO, including emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees.

Complainants are no longer required to have their cases heard by the Commission. The complainant and the respondent may jointly request a release of jurisdiction at any time after a complaint is filed with the Commission. 

After 180 days from the filing of the complaint, the complainant may request a release of jurisdiction if the complaint is still pending. Prior to 180 days, the complainant may request that the Commission conduct an expedited case assessment review and issue a release after case assessment is done. The Commission has 10 business days to issue the release. After issuing the release, the Commission will dismiss the complaint and close the case. 

You must file your court action within 2 years of the date of filing your complaint with the CHRO; and

You must file your court action within 90 days after you receive a release from the CHRO to file your case in court.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

  • State or Federal Court: You may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done as discussed above.
  • Connecticut Department of Banking: You can file a complaint with the Department of Banking. For more information see: Online eLicensing Instructions 

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 1-800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful if you bring to your attorney an outline or diary of what happened on the job that you are complaining about. It is best if the information is organized by date and explains who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them), as well as what happened, who said what, and who was present for any important conversations or incidents. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHRO complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For more information about filing a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Banking, see: Online eLicensing Instructions

 

Discrimination | Public Accommodations | Connecticut

What is a “place of public accommodation?”

A place of public accommodation is “any establishment which caters or offers its services or facilities or goods to the general public” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-63(1)). This definition is intentionally broad and includes hotels, restaurants, rest areas, hospitals, and Connecticut public schools. The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) views public schools and public colleges as public accommodations.

Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes. 

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in places of public accommodation?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Such places may not deny full and equal accommodations or discriminate in any way because of a person’s sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81d), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64(a) (1) & (2)).

A specific law also forbids discrimination at golf clubs on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity or expression, marital status or sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 52-571d (b) & (c)). If you are denied membership or access to a golf club on the basis of any of the above, you may file a complaint in Superior Court to restrain further violations and recover damages of at least $250, plus costs and attorney’s fees (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 52-571d (g)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

If you wish to file a complaint, you should contact an intake officer at one of the regional offices of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The intake officer will discuss your concerns, explain the complaint process, and advise you about what help CHRO may be able to provide to you. If CHRO has jurisdiction, you will be given an appointment to come to a regional office to file a complaint. The contact information for CHRO’s administrative headquarters and four regional offices is below:

  • ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS 25 Sigourney Street Hartford, CT 06106 PHONE: (860) 541-3400 OR (800) 477-5737 FAX: (860) 246-5068
  • CAPITOL REGION OFFICE 450 Columbus Boulevard Hartford, CT 06103-1835 PHONE: (860) 566-7710 FAX: (860) 566-1997
  • EASTERN REGION OFFICE 100 Broadway Norwich, CT 06360 PHONE: (860) 886-5703 FAX: (860) 886-2550
  • WEST CENTRAL REGION OFFICE Rowland State Government Center 55 West Main Street, Suite 210 Waterbury, CT 06702-2004 PHONE: (203) 805-6530 FAX: (203) 805-6559
  • SOUTHWEST REGION OFFICE 350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor Bridgeport, CT 06604 PHONE: (203) 579-6246 FAX: (203) 579-6950

The complaint must be in writing and under oath, and it must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint (“the complainant”) as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (“the respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82). There is no charge to file a complaint.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHRO process, but the defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the CHRO within 300 days of the last discriminatory act or acts (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-82(e)). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Note: Until 2019, complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the last discrimination act or acts.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once?

Yes. Connecticut’s public accommodations non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, disability, lawful source of income or veteran status (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-64).

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHRO?

When you file a complaint with the CHRO, you will be given a packet of information explaining the CHRO procedures and deadlines. Please review these and follow the deadlines.

The complaint will be served on your respondent, who must answer the complaint under oath within 30 days. If you wish to respond or comment on your respondent’s answer, you have 15 days to do so.

Within 60 days of receiving the respondent’s answer, the CHRO will review the complaint and determine if any further investigation is necessary. This is called a merit assessment review (MAR). It is based solely on your original complaint, the answer, and any additional comments you make regarding the answer. Since many cases are dismissed at this stage of the proceedings, GLAD recommends that you reply to the respondent’s answer.

If the case is dismissed, you will be given 15 days to request the right to move your complaint from CHRO into the courts. If you do not request to remove your complaint, the CHRO will review your case and decide whether to uphold the dismissal or reinstate your complaint.

If the case is not dismissed, an investigator will be assigned and a mandatory mediation conference will be held within 60 days. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, either party or the CHRO can request early legal intervention. The CHRO has 90 days to decide whether to grant this request. If granted, a Hearing Officer will be appointed to decide the merits of the case in a trial-type hearing.

If there is no request for early legal intervention, then the investigator will continue to collect evidence and will make a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause.” If a finding of “reasonable cause” is made, you can request either to have the case heard at the CHRO or to move it to Superior Court. If a finding of “no reasonable cause” is made, you have 15 days to request reconsideration.

What are the legal remedies the CHRO may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

Cease and desist orders and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws. The CHRO may also order civil fines to be paid to the state (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-86 (a); sec. 46a-64 (c)).

Should I take my case away from the CHRO and file in court? How do I do so?

This is a decision you should make with your lawyer. Greater damages are available to you in state court than at the CHRO, including emotional distress damages and attorney’s fees.

Complainants are no longer required to have their cases heard by the Commission. The complainant and the respondent may jointly request a release of jurisdiction at any time after a complaint is filed with the Commission. 

After 180 days from the filing of the complaint, the complainant may request a release of jurisdiction if the complaint is still pending.  Prior to 180 days, the complainant may request that the Commission conduct an expedited case assessment review and issue a release after case assessment is done. The Commission has 10 business days to issue the release.  After issuing the release, the Commission will dismiss the complaint and close the case. 

You must file your court action within 2 years of the date of filing your complaint with the CHRO; and

You must file your court action within 90 days after you receive a release from the CHRO to file your case in court.

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHRO complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Connecticut, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

News & Press Releases


To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Connecticut, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

Violence & Harassment | Hate Crimes & Harassment | Connecticut

Does Connecticut have a hate crimes law?

Yes. Connecticut has a number of hate crimes statutes that enhance criminal penalties for bias crimes and also allow an injured person to sue for monetary damages. Connecticut’s main hate crimes law sets out sentencing enhancements for hate crimes based on actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression depending on their severity (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-181i – 181l). In order to track hate crimes, the State Police maintains a reporting system so that incidents are centrally recorded (see Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 29-7m).

How does the law define what is a hate crime?

Connecticut’s sentencing enhancements for hate crimes apply when a perpetrator commits a crime with the specific intent to harass or intimidate an individual because of their actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-181j(a)). In other words, the perpetrator selects his victim out of bigotry.

If those prerequisites are shown, a sliding scale of sentencing enhancements applies:

  1. If the attacker “causes serious physical injury” to a person, the crime is a Class C Felony (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-181j(b)).
  2. If the attacker either: (1) causes any physical contact with their victim; (2) damages, destroys, or defaces their victim’s property or personal affects; or (3) credibly threatens to do either (1) or (2), the crime is a Class D Felony (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-181k).
  3. If the attacker is found to act without malice, but nonetheless either: (1) damages, destroys, or defaces their victim’s property or personal affects; (2) credibly threatens to damage, destroy, or deface their victim’s property or personal affects, or encourages another person to do so, the crime is a Class A Misdemeanor (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-181l).

Another provision of Connecticut law applies enhanced penalties to perpetrators who repeatedly commit hate crimes (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 53a-40a).

There are also specific laws concerning the desecration of religious sites and cross burning which are beyond the scope of this document (see e.g. Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-58).

How do I know if an attack was a hate crime?

Trust your gut and report to the police all the details of any possible hate crime. If you leave out the details about bias, the police will have no way of knowing that the crime may be a hate crime. Law enforcement officials tend to use the following as guideposts for determining whether or not a crime is a hate crime.

  • Did the attacker use anti-LGBT language or slurs?
  • Was the victim in an area associated with LGBT people (e.g. outside a gay bar, at a Pride parade location, at a cruising area)?
  • Have there been similar crimes in the area?
  • Was the victim identified and targeted because of appearance or behavior (e.g., holding hands with a same-sex partner, wearing a Pride flag)
  • Did the attack occur regardless of economic motive (i.e., was the victim attacked but not robbed)?

What other options do I have if I think I have been a victim of a hate crime?

If you have been injured or if your property has been damaged, you may file a civil action against your attacker in addition to pursuing your rights in the criminal justice system (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec 52-571c). This action must be filed within three years of the date of the crime. If you prevail in court, the judge will award you triple damages and may also decide to grant equitable relief (such as an injunction ordering the attacker to stay away from you) and attorney’s fees (Id).

In what ways might the federal hate crimes law help to investigate and prosecute hate crimes?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see H.R. 2647 at Text – S.909 – 111th Congress (2009-2010): Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act) was passed by Congress on October 22, 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009. It expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

First, and perhaps foremost, the Act allows local and state law enforcement agencies to apply for the following federal assistance from the U.S. Attorney General:

  • investigative, technical, forensic or prosecutorial support for criminal investigations and prosecutions,
  • grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and
  • grants to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

In providing assistance to local and state authorities, the priorities are hate crimes:

  • where the offender(s) has committed crimes in more than one state, or
  • that occur in rural areas which do not have the resources needed to prosecute such crimes.

Second, for hate crimes that in some way involve crossing state or national borders, or involve or affect interstate commerce, and where a state does not have jurisdiction or has requested federal assumption of jurisdiction, or where the federal government feels that justice has not been served or that U.S. prosecution is in the public interest, the Act authorizes the federal government to prosecute the case.

The Act also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups are already tracked) and on crimes committed by and against juveniles. This is the first federal law to explicitly extend legal protections to transgender persons.

Does Connecticut have a law to protect public school students from bullying?

Yes. See the topic area “Rights & Protections” in the Issue Area “Youth.”

Resources

U.S. Department of Justice information about Connecticut Hate Crimes: https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes/state-specific-information/connecticut

The Connecticut Attorney General’s powers have been extended to violations of civil rights, see: Attorney General Tong Applauds Signing of Bill to Strengthen Civil Rights Enforcement in Connecticut

Violence & Harassment | Intimate Partner Violence | Connecticut

What is domestic violence?

Connecticut law defines domestic abuse or “family violence” as: (1) an act that results in physical harm, bodily injury, or assault; or (2) a violent threat that causes fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-38a(1)). Verbal threats by themselves do not trigger the law’s protections unless there is “a present danger and the likelihood that physical violence will occur.”

Do domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?

Yes, depending on how serious you and your partner are or were. Connecticut’s family violence law applies to abuse between “family or household members,” a definition which includes spouses and ex- spouses, people are or were residing in the same household, people who have a child together, and people who are in or have recently been in a dating relationship (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-38a(2)).

How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?

You can get a court order from the Family Court, which will prohibit the abuser from coming near you or your home, or from harassing you any further (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15(b)). It may also include temporary custody or visitation rights, protections for your children, and protections for any animals you may own (Id). An order will only be issued if the court finds you have been subjected to “a continuous threat of present physical pain and injury” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15). Orders may be granted on an emergency basis.

The process is intended to be simple. You may go to court nearest where you live, or if you have fled your home, in the town where you used to live. You will need to fill out an application alleging “abuse” as defined above, along with an affidavit providing the details. The affidavit is signed under oath, so everything you say must be true. Try to demonstrate in as much detail as possible why you feel threatened.

The defendant/abuser must then be served with (given a copy of) the court order and notified of their right to contest the order in court. You may wish to have an attorney represent you during this part of the process, especially if you think custody or visitation issues may arise in court. You should bring with you any witnesses who can substantiate the abuse, as well as copies of threatening letters, medical records, or any other documents that can show how you have been harmed and why you are afraid. Expect to be asked questions by the judge and the attorney for the abuser/defendant. You have the same right to ask questions.

Once the order is issued, it is effective statewide. Violation of a court order is a criminal offense (see generally, Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15 (c)). The court may grant orders of protection for up to 6 months in duration, and those orders may later be extended (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46b-15(d)).

If for some reason you decide not to go through with the legal process, you should show up in court anyway and ask that the order be dismissed.  If you don’t show up, it is possible the court will think of you as unreliable if you need legal help in the future.

There is another type of order available called a “protective” order. It is issued automatically when an assailant is arrested and requires no contact to occur between the assailant and victim.

There are other laws that prohibit stalking, harassing and trespassing which may apply to you, but are beyond the scope of this document.

What is “Jennifer’s Law”?

A domestic violence bill coined “Jennifer’s Law” in honor of New Canaan mother, Jennifer Dulos, was signed into law in 2021.

The law expands the definition of domestic violence to include “coercive control.” This means that threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts that harm a person and deprive them of their freedom will now be considered domestic violence.

It will establish a new program to provide legal representation for domestic violence victims who file restraining orders. Those who file restraining orders will also be faced with a more efficient process, with the capability to email marshals the forms needed to serve them.

Victims of domestic violence will also now be allowed to testify remotely in court proceedings for matters such as restraining orders, protective orders, or standard criminal protective orders. The bill requires that a safe place be provided to victims of family violence in all court locations built after July 1, 2021.

For more information, see: Substitute Senate Bill No. 1091 – Public Act No. 21-78.

Where can I go to get help?

In addition to the local police, district attorney, and Superior Court you can contact:

Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV)

(860) 282-7899 or Toll-Free (888) 774-2900

www.ctcadv.org

Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence

(888) 999-5545 (English Toll-Free) (888) 568-8332 (Spanish Toll-Free)

There is also a Chat option on its website: Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence

Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF)

(860) 247-6090 or (860) 524-0601

www.cwealf.org 

Domestic Violence Crisis Center

(888) 774-2900 (Toll-Free)

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRISIS CENTER

Does domestic violence play a role in custody decisions?

It may, but there is no law saying that it should. It is a factor which affects the best interests of the child.

Resources

Information about Connecticut Domestic Violence Laws, see: https://www.ctcadv.org/information-about-domestic-violence/ct-domestic-violence-laws/.

Connecticut Judicial Branch Domestic Violence FAQ: https://www.jud.ct.gov/faq/Domviolence.htm

Cases & Advocacy

To see Violence & Harassment cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Connecticut, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Violence & Harassment in Connecticut, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Connecticut.”

Updated May 2022

MA Birth Certificate Tool Kit

Step by Step Directions for Changing Gender and Name on a Massachusetts Birth Certificate

map of mass

For more information, see the Fact Sheet at mass.gov or contact GLAD Answers at www.GLADAnswers.org or 800-455-GLAD if you have specific questions.

Gender Change

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has recently updated the process for changing gender on a Massachusetts birth certificate.

The Registry of Vital Records and Statistics will update the sex on a Massachusetts birth certificate following completion of medical intervention appropriate for that individual for the purpose of permanent sex reassignment and a completion of a judicial change of name, if applicable.

Affidavits are required from both you and a physician.

Here are the steps:

  1. Complete the applicant affidavit form, which can be found here.

    Alternatively, you may submit a similar affidavit that includes:

    a. Your full name, date of birth, place of birth and parents’ names on the existing birth certificate;

    b. A statement that you have completed medical intervention for the purpose of permanent sex reassignment  and are not of the sex designated on the current birth certificate;

    c. Your request for a permanent amendment to your birth certificate to reflect a different sex and, if you want your name changed, submit a certified copy of your court name change decree with your application);

    d. Contact information including your current name and address.

  2. Have a licensed physician complete the Physician’s Statement: Amendment of a Birth Certificate Following Completion of Sex Reassignment form​, which can be found here.

    Alternatively, you may submit a notarized affidavit from a physician on office letterhead that contains the following:

    a. The physician’s name, license number, state of jurisdiction, physician-patient relationship and a statement that either the physician is treating you or has reviewed your medical history and evaluated you concerning a change of sex;

    b. The physician needs to certify that you have completed medical intervention for the purpose of permanent sex reassignment that is appropriate for you and that you are not the sex recorded on the birth certificate.

    Note: To ensure rapid processing, the physician should use the exact phrase “has completed medical intervention, appropriate for that individual, for the purpose of permanent sex reassignment.” Information beyond this phrase, including details with regard to the nature of medical care or treatment received is not necessary and using alternative terms or adding other information may delay an application, as additional review may be necessary. 
  3. Submit a court-certified copy of your legal name change decree (see the instructions below on Name Change if you have not already done this).

Name Change

Everyone has the right to use a name of their choice as long as it is not done for fraudulent or illegal purposes.  However, if you want to change your name on your birth certificate, you must submit a court name change decree at the same time that you are applying for a gender change.

You can file for a court name change in Massachusetts if you are 18 years or older. Parents can file to change their minor child’s name.

The following link contains information about how you obtain a name change, and what it costs:  www.mass.gov/courts/selfhelp/name-changes.

When you submit your change of name form, GLAD suggests that you consider requesting the court to:

  1. Waive the requirement that you publish a notice in a newspaper about your change in order to protect your privacy.  You can do so by submitting an affidavit with your petition as to why you do not wish to have the notice published.  You may have to go before a judge to present your reasons.
  2. Seal your file to protect your privacy.  You can include this request in the same affidavit asking to waive the publication requirement.

It will be up to the court to decide whether to honor these requests.

Remember, you can only change the name on your birth certificate when you are also changing the gender, so if you do not submit a name change decree together with your request for a gender change, you will not have another opportunity to change the name on your birth certificate.

Submitting Your Application

An application for amendment may be submitted by mail or by making an appointment at the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

Required fees should be included:

1. $50.00 one-time amendment fee, and

2. $32.00 per certified copy of the amended birth record by mail ($20.00 if in-person)

By mail, please include all required documents and fees and send your request to:

Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
Attn: Amendments
150 Mt. Vernon Street, 1st Floor
Dorchester, MA 02125

For more information or to make an appointment, telephone: (617) 740-2600 or email: Vital.Regulation@state.ma.us .

Amendments also may be made at the Clerk’s Office in the city or town of birth. Fees for amendments and certified copies vary by community.

Questions?

Contact GLAD Answers by email or live chat at www.GLADAnswers.org or by phone at 800-455-GLAD (4523).

Know Your Rights: LGBTQ Rights in Vermont

Discrimination

Public Accommodations

Employment (jump to section)

Credit, Lending & Services (jump to section)

Housing (jump to section)

Violence & Harassment

Hate Crimes & Harassment (jump to section)

Intimate Partner Violence (jump to section)

Discrimination | Public Accommodations | Vermont

Vermont Public Accommodations Q&A

What is a “place of public accommodation”?

A “place of public accommodation” means “any school, restaurant, store, establishment or other facility at which services, facilities, goods, privileges, advantages, benefits, or accommodations are offered to the general public” (9 V.S.A. § 4501).

Does Vermont have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Yes. Vermont was among the first states to pass a comprehensive statewide law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in 1992 (See, e.g., 21 V.S.A. § 495 (employment)). “Sexual orientation” is defined as “female or male homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality (1 V.S.A. § 143).

In May 2007, Vermont became the third state in New England to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity (Public Act 41, An Act Relating to Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity, 2007-2008 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Vt. 2007)). The law defines gender identity as “an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics intrinsically related to an individual’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth” (1 V.S.A § 144).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in places of public accommodation?

As to sexual orientation, maybe.  

As to gender identity, and as noted above, gender identity is defined as either “actual or perceived gender identity.” This language includes discrimination based upon perception.

What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Such places may not, on account of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or other protected characteristic, “refuse, withhold from or deny to that person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of the place of public accommodation” (9 V.S.A. § 4502 (a)).

The protections based on marital status mean that a place of public accommodation may not discriminate against same-sex couples who are married or in a civil union (15 V.S.A. § 1204 (e)(7) (prohibitions against discrimination based on marital status apply equally to parties to a civil union). See also discussion of civil unions below). However, a religious organization or any nonprofit organization operated, supervised or controlled by a religious organization shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges relating to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage (9 V.S.A. § 4502(l)).

There is an exception to this rule, stating that this law does not prohibit an establishment that provides lodging to transient guests (i.e. hotels, inns) with five or fewer rooms from restricting its accommodations based on sex or marital status (9 V.S.A. § 4502 (d)).

Public, independent, and post-secondary schools in Vermont are considered public accommodations and so students are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

Where you file a complaint depends on the type of discrimination you have experienced (i.e. employment, housing, credit, etc.) and whether the party you are complaining against is a state agency. Sometimes you have more that one option about where to file.

For Public Accommodations (as well as State Employment or Housing):

  • If you believe you have been discriminated against in employment by a state agency, or if you believe you have been discriminated against in public accommodations (for example, denial of service in a retail establishment or other business), or in housing, you may file a complaint with:

The Vermont Human Rights Commission
14-16 Baldwin Street
Montpelier, VT 05633-6301
(800) 416-2010
(802) 828-1625
(802) 828-2481 (fax)
human.rights@vermont.gov

A complaint may be filed under oath in person, in writing, by fax or by e-mail stating the facts concerning the alleged discrimination.

  • You may also file your case directly in the Superior Court of the county where the alleged discrimination occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The processes at all of these agencies are designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout any of these proceedings, as well as if you choose to file a claim directly in the Superior Court. Not only are there many legal rules governing these processes, but employees and other defendants are likely to have legal representation.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

Complaints of discrimination with the Vermont Human Rights Commission must be filed within one year of the last discriminatory act or acts (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 2). The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit also has a policy of requiring complaints to be filed within one year. If you are going to bring a case directly in Superior Court, you should file within three years of the last discriminatory act, although under certain circumstances you may be able to file after that time. There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

What happens after a complaint is filed with the Commission or the Civil Rights Unit?

If you file with the Human Rights Commission, Commission staff will review your complaint to see if it meets the basic requirements for filing a discrimination claim. If they decide to investigate, a copy of your complaint is sent to the party against whom the complaint has been filed— the respondent— who has to respond to the allegations within fourteen (14) days (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 10). The Commission then assigns an investigator, who will look into your claims to see if there are reasonable grounds to believe that you have been discriminated against. In doing so, the investigator may examine and copy records and documents, and conduct interviews of all relevant parties and witnesses. The five Commissioners appointed by the governor then decide whether there are reasonable grounds to credit your allegations (9 V.S.A. §§ 4551(a) and 4554(d) – (e)).

The Human Rights Commission allows the parties to engage in voluntary settlement discussions to resolve the case at any point during the investigative process. If these efforts fail, at the end of the investigation the Human Rights Commission issues findings stating whether there was a violation of law.

If reasonable grounds are found, the Commission will send the case for “conciliation” or settlement proceedings, unless the Commission finds an emergency. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties within six months, the Commission will either file a claim against the respondent in the Superior Court or dismiss the proceedings, unless the parties agree to an extension in order to complete ongoing negotiations (9 V.S.A. § 4554(e); Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rules 31-32).

If reasonable grounds of unlawful discrimination are not found, the case will be dismissed at the Commission (9 V.S.A. § 4554(d

At this point, or at any point in the process at the Commission, you may decide to file a case in court. It is crucial to always keep in mind the deadlines for filing such a case, as discussed above. If you do so while an investigation is pending at the Commission, the Commission will administratively dismiss the investigation although the Commission may file its own complaint regarding the matter or intervene in your court action (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 27).

What are the legal remedies the court may award for discrimination if an individual wins his or her case there?

In public accommodations (and housing) cases, remedies may include injunctive relief, compensatory damages (expenses actually incurred because of unlawful action), and punitive damages (9 V.S.A. § 4506(a)). In addition, criminal penalties of fines up to $1000 may be imposed (9 V.S.A. § 4507).

In all of these cases, the court may grant attorney’s fees, cost (9 V.S.A. §4506(b)(public accommodations and housing); 21 V.S.A. §495b(2)(employment)) and other appropriate relief that is consistent with the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices, allowing person non-discriminatory access to and use of public accommodation).

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was discriminated against both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. The state anti-discrimination laws for employment forbid taking any action against someone because of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, place of birth, age, disability, HIV-related blood testing, family leave, and workers’ compensation. In public accommodations, the criteria are expanded to include marital status, but do not include age, ancestry and place of birth. In housing, the criteria are expanded to include intending to occupy a dwelling with one or more minor children and receipt of public assistance, but do not include ancestry and place of birth.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly, depending on the facts of your particular situation. This publication concerns only Vermont anti-discrimination law, and you may well have other rights.

State or Federal Court: After or instead of filing with the Commission, you may decide to file the case in court. You may file in state court at any point within the time limitations, as discussed above

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 1-800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the Human Rights Commission complaint process see: Filing a Complaint | Human Rights Commission

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Vermont, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Vermont, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

Discrimination | Employment | Vermont

Vermont Employment Q&A

Does Vermont have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in employment?

Yes. Vermont was among the first states to pass a comprehensive statewide law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in 1992 (See, e.g., 21 V.S.A. § 495 (employment)). “Sexual orientation” is defined as “female or male homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality (1 V.S.A. § 143).

In May 2007, Vermont became the third state in New England to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity (Public Act 41, An Act Relating to Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity, 2007-2008 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Vt. 2007)). The law defines gender identity as “an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics intrinsically related to an individual’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth” (1 V.S.A § 144).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD

Does it also protect people perceived to be LGBT in employment?

As to sexual orientation, maybe. Although the anti-discrimination laws themselves do not distinguish between actual and perceived sexual orientation, the questionnaire used by the Civil Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office allows people to complain of discrimination on account of both sexual orientation and perceived sexual orientation. However, the Human Rights Commission does not make this distinction in its employment complaint form. There is no case law on this.

As to gender identity, and as noted above, gender identity is defined as either “actual or perceived gender identity.” This language includes discrimination based upon perception.

To whom does the non-discrimination law apply and what does it forbid?

The non-discrimination law prohibits any employer, employment agency or labor organization from discriminating against any individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity (21 V.S.A. § 495 (a)(1)). This applies to both private and government employers and covers most significant job actions, such as hiring, firing, failure to promote, demotion, excessive discipline, harassment and different treatment of the employee and similarly situated co-workers (21 V.S.A. § 495 (a); § 495d(1) (definition of employer)).

In addition, employment agencies may not participate in discrimination by refusing to classify or refer their customers for employment or otherwise discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Unions may not deny union membership or otherwise discriminate against its members because of sexual orientation or gender identity (21 V.S.A. § 495 (a)(4)).

The law also forbids these entities from advertising in such a way as to restrict employment or membership because of sexual orientation or gender identity (21 V.S.A. § 495 (a)(2)).

Does the law apply to every employer in Vermont?

No. As broad as the law is, there are exceptions to its application.

  • An employer, agency or labor organization may defend against a discrimination claim by arguing that a “bona fide occupational qualification” of the particular job to have a non-LGBT employee fill it (21 V.S.A. § 495(a)). There are no general occupational exemptions from the reach of the non-discrimination law, however, and this defense is very rarely successful.
  • As to sexual orientation and gender identity, religious organizations – and charitable or educational organizations operated, supervised or controlled by a religious organization – are exempt from the law to the extent that they give a “preference to persons of the same religion or denomination” or take “any action with respect to matters of which is calculated by the organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained (21 V.S.A. § 495(e)). This exemption, however, is not a carte blanche for an employer to use his or her religious beliefs as a justification for discriminating against persons because of their sexual orientation or actual or perceived gender identity.

Does the Vermont law prohibit sexual harassment?

Yes. Sexual harassment is specifically prohibited under the law. Vermont law defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination that means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to that conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; or
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a component of the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual; or
  • the conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment (21 V.S.A. § 495d (13)).

Because sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, a claim of harassment can be pursued in the same ways as other discrimination claims, as discussed below.

In addition to prohibiting sexual harassment, Vermont law requires all employers, employment agencies and labor organizations to ensure a workplace free of sexual harassment by adopting a policy against sexual harassment, posting a notice outlining that policy, and providing all employees an individual written copy of the policy (21 V.S.A. § 495h).

It is as unlawful to sexually harass a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person as it is to harass anyone else. Some harassment is specifically anti-gay and may be more fairly characterized as harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. Other harassment is because of the person’s actual or perceived gender identity and may be characterized as harassment on the basis of gender identity. Still other harassment is sexual in nature and more appropriately categorized as sexual harassment. All these types of harassment can happen to the same person, and all are forbidden under Vermont state law.

Both the United States Supreme Court and several state courts have found same-sex sexual harassment to violate sexual harassment laws (compare Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998) (man can sue for sexual harassment by other men under federal sexual harassment laws)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

Where you file a complaint depends on the type of discrimination you have experienced (i.e. employment, housing, credit, etc.) and whether the party you are complaining against is a state agency. Sometimes you have more than one option about where to file.

State Employment (as well as Public Accommodations or Housing):

  • If you believe you have been discriminated against in employment by a state agency, or if you believe you have been discriminated against in public accommodations (for example, denial of service in a retail establishment or other business), or in housing, you may file a complaint with:

The Vermont Human Rights Commission
14-16 Baldwin Street
Montpelier, VT 05633-6301
(800) 416-2010
(802) 828-1625
(802) 828-2481 (fax)
human.rights@vermont.gov

A complaint may be filed under oath in person, in writing, by fax or by e-mail stating the facts concerning the alleged discrimination.

  • You may also file your case directly in the Superior Court of the county where the alleged discrimination occurred.

General Employment:

If you believe you have been discriminated against by a party other than the state (for example, a private business or a town), you may file a complaint under oath with the:

Civil Rights Unit
Vermont Attorney General’s Office
109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-1001
(888) 745-9195 (Toll Free in Vermont Only)
(802) 828-3657
(802) 828-3665 (TTY)
(802) 828-2154 (fax)
ago.civilrights@vermont.gov

Complaining parties must complete a questionnaire, which the Civil Rights Unit will send to you or you can find at STATE OF VERMONT OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION QUESTIONNAIRE CIVIL RIGHTS UNIT 

  • You may also file your case directly in the Superior Court of the county where the alleged discrimination occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The processes at all of these agencies are designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout any of these proceedings, as well as if you choose to file a claim directly in the Superior Court. Not only are there many legal riles governing these processes, but employees and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

Complaints of discrimination with the Vermont Human Rights Commission (HRC) must be filed within one year of the last discriminatory act or acts (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 2). The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit (CRU) also has a policy of requiring complaints to be filed within one year. If you are going to bring a case directly in Superior Court, you should file within three years of the last discriminatory act, although under certain circumstances you may be able to file after that time. There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was fired both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. The state anti-discrimination laws for employment forbid taking any action against someone because of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, place of birth, age, disability, HIV-related blood testing, family leave, and workers’ compensation. In public accommodations, the criteria are expanded to include marital status, but do not include age, ancestry and place of birth. In housing, the criteria are expanded to include intending to occupy a dwelling with one or more minor children and receipt of public assistance, but do not include ancestry and place of birth.

What happens after a complaint is filed with the Commission or the Civil Rights Unit?

If you file with the Human Rights Commission, Commission staff will review your complaint to see if it meets the basic requirements for filing a discrimination claim. If they decide to investigate, a copy of your complaint is sent to the party against whom the complaint has been filed — the respondent — who has to respond to the allegations within fourteen (14) days (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 10). The Commission then assigns an investigator, who will look into your claims to see if there are reasonable grounds to believe that you have been discriminated against.  In doing so, the investigator may examine and copy records and documents, and conduct interviews of all relevant parties and witnesses.  The five Commissioners appointed by the governor then decide whether there are reasonable grounds to credit your allegations (9 V.S.A. §§ 4551(a) and 4554(d) – (e)).

If you file a complaint with the Civil Rights Unit (CRU), the process is very similar., and is described in detail on the CRU’s website: Civil Rights Unit Process – Office of the Vermont Attorney General

The Human Rights Commission and the CRU both allow the parties to engage in voluntary settlement discussions to resolve the case at any point during the investigative process. If these efforts fail, at the end of the investigation the Human Rights Commission or the CRU issues findings stating whether there was a violation of law.

If reasonable grounds are found, the Commission will send the case for “conciliation” or settlement proceedings, unless the Commission finds an emergency.  If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties within six months, the Commission will either file a claim against the respondent in the Superior Court or dismiss the proceedings, unless the parties agree to an extension in order to complete ongoing negotiations (9 V.S.A. § 4554(e); Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rules 31-32).

Similarly, if the CRU finds a violation of law, the respondent will be asked to engage in settlement negotiations to try to resolve the case. If these negotiations fail, the CRU may file a complaint against the respondent in Superior Court. 

If reasonable grounds of unlawful discrimination are not found, the case will be dismissed at the Commission (9 V.S.A. § 4554(d)). If the CRU finds no violation of law, the file will be closed.

At this point, or at any point in the process at the Commission or the CRU, you may decide to file a case in court. It is crucial to always keep in mind the deadlines for filing such a case, as discussed above. If you do so while an investigation is pending at the Commission, the Commission will administratively dismiss the investigation although the Commission may file its own complaint regarding the matter or intervene in your court action (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 27).

What are the legal remedies the court may award for discrimination if an individual wins his or her case there?

The remedies for a successful complainant may include, for employment cases, hiring, reinstatement or upgrading, back pay, front pay, restitution of wages or other benefits, damages, including those for emotional distress, civil penalties (where applicable), and punitive damages (21 V.S.A. § 495b).

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Federal employment non-discrimination law, called Title VII, applies to employers with at least 15 employees. 

Someone who brings a claim of discrimination may sometimes pursue protections under both state and federal law. This is true because there may be overlapping provisions of state and federal law. For example, Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, and disability (which includes HIV status), but does not expressly forbid discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

However, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020, see: 17-1618 Bostock v. Clayton County (06/15/2020), the Supreme Court held that firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex. For more information on how the EEOC enforces discrimination against LGBT employees, see: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Discrimination | US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

GLAD recommends that, where there may be overlapping state and federal jurisdiction, you explore filing with the HRC or CRU first but keep in mind the possibility of pursuing a federal claim as well. If you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should check off “sex” as well as “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as the bases for your claim and request that the HRC or CRU cross-file your complaint with the EEOC.

Federal complaints must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, if you initially institute your complaint with HRC or CRU and indicate that you wish to have the complaint cross-filed with the EEOC, then the time limit is extended to the earlier of 300 days or 30 days after HRC or CRU has terminated the case (34 United States Code 42 sec. 2000e-5(e)(1)). If you want to cross-file with the EEOC, you submit your complaint to the HRC or CRU within 300 days and not the usual 1 year. (People who work for federal agencies are beyond the scope of this publication.)

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly, depending on the facts of your particular situation.  This publication concerns only Vermont anti-discrimination law, and you may well have other rights.

  1. Union: If you are a member of a union, your contract (collective bargaining agreement) may provide additional rights to you in the event of discipline, discharge or other job-related actions. In fact, if you obtain relief under your contract, you may decide not to pursue other remedies. Get and read a copy of your contract and contact a union representative about filing a complaint. Deadlines in contracts are strict. Bear in mind that if your union refuses to assist you with a complaint, you may have a discrimination action against them for their failure to work with you, or for failure of duty of fair representation.
  2. State or Federal Court: After or instead of filing with the Commission, the CRU or the EEOC, you may decide to file the case in court. You may file in state court at any point within the time limitations, as discussed above. In order to file in federal court, however, you must remove your case from the EEOC, and there are rules about when and how you must do this that the EEOC can explain.

In addition, you may file a court case to address other claims that are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies, such as when you are fired in violation of a contract, fired without the progressive discipline promised in an employee handbook, or fired for doing something the employer doesn’t like but that the law requires. Similarly, if you have a claim for a violation of constitutional rights – for instance, if you are a teacher or a governmental employee who believes his or her free speech or equal protection rights were violated – then those matters must also be heard in court.

What can I do if my employer fires me because I filed a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal to retaliate against someone for filing a discrimination claim, and you could file an additional complaint against the employer or landlord for retaliation.  “Retaliation” protections cover those who participate in proceedings, or otherwise oppose unlawful conduct. If the employer or landlord takes action against an employee or tenant because of that conduct, then the employee or tenant can state a claim of retaliation (9 V.S.A. § 4506(e)(retaliation prohibited in public accommodations and housing); 21 V.S.A. § 495(a)(8) (retaliation prohibited in employment). See also Provencher v. CVS Pharmacy, 145 F.3d 5 (1st Cir. 1998) (upholding federal retaliation claim by a gay man who had brought a sexual harassment claim under Federal Title VII)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 1-800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still working under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their job, and if they will be able to handle those possible consequences. Of course, even if a person has been fired, they may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice, which should be made after gathering enough information and advice to make an informed decision.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). Try to have on hand copies of your employee handbooks or personnel manuals, as well as any contracts, job evaluations, memos, discharge letters and the like. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service. 

Resources

For more information about the employment complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For more information about filing an EEOC discrimination complaint see: How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination.

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Vermont, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Vermont, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

Discrimination | Credit, Lending & Services | Vermont

Vermont Credit, Lending & Services Q&A

Does Vermont have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in credit, lending and services?

Yes.  Vermont was among the first states to pass a comprehensive statewide law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in 1992 (See, e.g., 21 V.S.A. § 495 (employment)). “Sexual orientation” is defined as “female or male homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality (1 V.S.A. § 143).

In May 2007, Vermont became the third state in New England to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity (Public Act 41, An Act Relating to Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity, 2007-2008 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Vt. 2007)). The law defines gender identity as “an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics intrinsically related to an individual’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth” (1 V.S.A § 144).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived LGBTQ+ in credit, lending and services?

As to sexual orientation, maybe.

As to gender identity, and as noted above, gender identity is defined as either “actual or perceived gender identity.” This language includes discrimination based upon perception.

How does Vermont anti-discrimination law protect people with regard to credit and loans?

Vermont 8 V.S.A. § 10403 prohibits discrimination by financial service providers based on sex, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. 

The law applies to financial institutions regulated by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation that deny, revoke or terminate “credit services” for a discriminatory reason. “Credit services” include credit cards, personal loans, mortgage loans and commercial loans.

To implement this law, the Department of Financial Regulation promulgated a rule (B-2015-01) that focuses on the notice that is required when adverse action is taken by a financial institution against an applicant. When adverse action is taken, the financial institution is required to provide the applicant with a written statement of reasons for the action. 

For commercial credit transactions, the statement of reasons must contain the specific reasons for the adverse action and must cite documentation or business judgment that supports the adverse action.

In addition, Vermont law provides specific non-discrimination provisions with regard to the issuance of motor vehicle retail installment contracts (9 V.S.A. § 2410), and agricultural finance leases (9 V.S.A. § 2362).

Example: GLAD brought and won a claim against a credit union that refused to allow a feminine appearing man to apply for a loan until he came back looking more masculine. A federal court ruled that this constituted a claim of sex discrimination in violation of the credit non-discrimination laws (9 V.S.A. § 2488).

How does Vermont anti-discrimination law protect people concerning insurance purchases?

Vermont law prohibits discrimination against an applicant for insurance or an insured person based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or sex with regard to underwriting standards and practices, eligibility requirements, and rates (8 V.S.A. § 4724(7)(B)(i) and (ii)).

Insurers are also prohibited from directly or indirectly investigating or inquiring as to an applicant’s, insured’s or beneficiary’s sexual orientation or gender identity in an application for insurance coverage or in connection with an application, as well as from using information about gender, marital status, medical history, occupation, living arrangements, beneficiaries, zip codes or other territorial designations to determine sexual orientation or gender identity (8 V.S.A. § 4724(7)(C)(i)).

Insurers may not use sexual orientation, gender identity, or beneficiary designation in the underwriting process or in determining eligibility for insurance (8 V.S.A. § 4724(7)(C)(ii)).

In addition, state-regulated insurers may not discriminate between married couples and parties to a civil union with regard to offering insurance benefits to a couple, a spouse, a party to a civil union, or their families (8 V.S.A. § 4724(7)(E)).

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once?

Yes, if you are discriminated against based on more than one of the protected characteristics, you can file a complaint based on all of those characteristics. For example, if you are discriminated against because you are transgender and a Latina, you can file a complaint based on both of those characteristics.

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

Where you file a complaint depends on the type of discrimination you have experienced (i.e. employment, housing, credit, etc.) and whether the party you are complaining against is a state agency. Sometimes you have more than one option about where to file

If you believe you have been discriminated against in the provision of credit services or retail installment contracts by a bank, credit union, mortgage broker, sales finance company, debt adjuster or money service, OR

If you believe you have been discriminated against by an insurance company or agent, including auto, homeowners, life, annuity, major medical, dental, long-term care or Medicare supplement. 

You may file a complaint with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation. There are links for filing a complaint at: File a Complaint or Ask for Help | Department of Financial Regulation or you can contact the Department at: 

Department of Financial Regulation

Consumer Services

89 Main Street

Montpelier, VT 05620-3101

802-828-3301

833-DFR-Hotline (toll free)

If you believe you have been discriminated against with regard to an agricultural finance lease, you may file a complaint at: Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at UVM OR contact:

Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Assistance Program
109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-1001
(802) 656-3183
(800) 649-2424 (toll free)
ago.civilrights@vermont.gov

OR you can file a lawsuit with the Superior Court of the county where the alleged discrimination occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The processes at all of these agencies are designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout any of these proceedings, as well as if you choose to file a claim directly in the Superior Court. Not only are there many legal rules governing these processes, but banks and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-GLAD (4523) to talk about options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

Discrimination in Banking & Insurance: 10403. Prohibition on discrimination based on sex, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability

Non-Discrimination in Financial Services: Non-Discrimination in Financial Services

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Vermont, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Vermont, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

Discrimination | Housing | Vermont

Vermont Housing Q&A

Does Vermont have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in housing?

Yes.  Vermont was among the first states to pass a comprehensive statewide law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in 1992 (See, e.g., 21 V.S.A. § 495 (employment)). “Sexual orientation” is defined as “female or male homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality (1 V.S.A. § 143).

In May 2007, Vermont became the third state in New England to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity (Public Act 41, An Act Relating to Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity, 2007-2008 Leg., Reg. Sess. (Vt. 2007)). The law defines gender identity as “an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics intrinsically related to an individual’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth” (1 V.S.A § 144).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in housing?

As to sexual orientation, maybe.  

As to gender identity, and as noted above, gender identity is defined as either “actual or perceived gender identity.” This language includes discrimination based upon perception.

What is prohibited by the housing anti-discrimination law in Vermont?

The housing laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in transactions relating to residential housing— including buying, selling, renting, negotiating, listing, advertising, inspecting, or financing— and in the terms, conditions, privileges, services or facilities connected to those transactions (9 V.S.A. § 4501(5)(definition of “dwelling”) and § 4503(a)(setting forth unlawful practices). Also, mobile home park owners are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (10 V.S.A. § 6236 (e)(3)).

The housing law also prohibits discrimination based on marital status, and therefore applies to discrimination against same-sex couples who are married or in a civil union (15 V.S.A. § 1204 (e)(7)).

In addition, it is unlawful to coerce, intimidate, or threaten a person regarding a housing matter, or interfere with a person’s ability to exercise their rights to be free from discrimination in housing (9 V.S.A. § 4506(e)).

Are any landlords exempt from the housing anti-discrimination law?

There are two main exemptions from the law. One allows owners to disregard the law when the owner or a member of the owner’s immediate family resides in the building and the building has three units or less (9 V.S.A. § 4504 (2)).

The other exemption applies to religious institutions and the nonprofit institutes they operate, supervise or control. When such religious entities own or operate a dwelling for non-commercial purposes, they may give preference to persons of the same religion. These kinds of religious restrictions or preferences must be stated in the written policies and procedures of the religious entity (9 V.S.A. § 4504 (5)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

Where you file a complaint depends on the type of discrimination you have experienced (i.e. employment, housing, credit, etc.) and whether the party you are complaining against is a state agency. Sometimes you have more than one option about where to file.

For Housing (as well as State Employment or Public Accommodations):

  • If you believe you have been discriminated against in employment by a state agency, or if you believe you have been discriminated against in public accommodations (for example, denial of service in a retail establishment or other business), or in housing, you may file a complaint with:

The Vermont Human Rights Commission
14-16 Baldwin Street
Montpelier, VT 05633-6301
(800) 416-2010
(802) 828-1625
(802) 828-2481 (fax)
human.rights@vermont.gov

A complaint may be filed under oath in person, in writing, by fax or by e-mail stating the facts concerning the alleged discrimination.

  • You may also file your case directly in the Superior Court of the county where the alleged discrimination occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The processes at all of these agencies are designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout any of these proceedings, as well as if you choose to file a claim directly in the Superior Court. Not only are there many legal rules governing these processes, but landlords and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

Complaints of discrimination with the Vermont Human Rights Commission must be filed within one year of the last discriminatory act or acts (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 2). If you are going to bring a case directly in Superior Court, you should file within three years of the last discriminatory act, although under certain circumstances you may be able to file after that time. There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

What happens after a complaint is filed with the Commission?

If you file with the Human Rights Commission, Commission staff will review your complaint to see if it meets the basic requirements for filing a discrimination claim. If they decide to investigate, a copy of your complaint is sent to the party against whom the complaint has been filed— the respondent— who has to respond to the allegations within fourteen (14) days (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 10). The Commission then assigns an investigator, who will look into your claims to see if there are reasonable grounds to believe that you have been discriminated against. In doing so, the investigator may examine and copy records and documents, and conduct interviews of all relevant parties and witnesses. The five Commissioners appointed by the governor then decide whether there are reasonable grounds to credit your allegations (9 V.S.A. §§ 4551(a) and 4554(d) – (e)).

The Human Rights Commission allows the parties to engage in voluntary settlement discussions to resolve the case at any point during the investigative process. If these efforts fail, at the end of the investigation the Human Rights Commission issues findings stating whether there was a violation of law.

If reasonable grounds are found, the Commission will send the case for “conciliation” or settlement proceedings, unless the Commission finds an emergency. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties within six months, the Commission will either file a claim against the respondent in the Superior Court or dismiss the proceedings, unless the parties agree to an extension in order to complete ongoing negotiations (9 V.S.A. § 4554(e); Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rules 31-32).

If reasonable grounds of unlawful discrimination are not found, the case will be dismissed at the Commission (9 V.S.A. § 4554(d)).

At this point, or at any point in the process at the Commission, you may decide to file a case in court. It is crucial to always keep in mind the deadlines for filing such a case, as discussed above. If you do so while an investigation is pending at the Commission, the Commission will administratively dismiss the investigation although the Commission may file its own complaint regarding the matter or intervene in your court action (Code of Vermont Rules 80-250-001, Rule 27).

What are the legal remedies the court may award for discrimination if an individual wins his or her case there?

In housing (and public accommodations) cases, remedies may include injunctive relief, compensatory damages (expenses actually incurred because of unlawful action), and punitive damages (9 V.S.A. § 4506(a)). In addition, criminal penalties of fines up to $1000 may be imposed (9 V.S.A. § 4507).

In all of these cases, the court may grant attorney’s fees, cost (9 V.S.A. §4506(b)(public accommodations and housing); 21 V.S.A. §495b(2)(employment)) and other appropriate relief that is consistent with the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices, allowing person non-discriminatory access to and use of public accommodation).

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was discriminated against both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. The state anti-discrimination laws for employment forbid taking any action against someone because of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, place of birth, age, disability, HIV-related blood testing, family leave, and workers’ compensation. In public accommodations, the criteria are expanded to include marital status, but do not include age, ancestry and place of birth. In housing, the criteria are expanded to include intending to occupy a dwelling with one or more minor children and receipt of public assistance, but do not include ancestry and place of birth.

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Persons who identify as LGBTQ+ and believe they have experienced housing discrimination because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity can assert their rights under the Fair Housing Act by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can find more detailed information about the protections HUD provides to LGBTQ+ people here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/housing_discrimination_and_persons_identifying_LGBTQ+

There is information about filing a housing discrimination complaint with HUD here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint.

The form for submitting a complaint can be found here: https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_12150.PDF

HUD views LGBTQ+ discrimination as a form of “sex” discrimination, so if you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should indicate “sex” as the discrimination factor.

A HUD complaint must be filed within one year of the last act of discrimination. The statute of limitations for bringing fair housing complaints in federal courts is not later than two years after the occurrence or the termination of an alleged discriminatory housing practice. However, if an administrative case is filed with HUD, the statute of limitations is tolled during the period of time in which HUD is evaluating the complaint.  In English, what that means is that the time HUD has the case does not count when calculating the two year statute of limitations.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly, depending on the facts of your particular situation.  This publication concerns only Vermont anti-discrimination law, and you may well have other rights.

State or Federal Court: After or instead of filing with the Commission or HUD, you may decide to file the case in court. You may file in state court at any point within the time limitations, as discussed above.  

In addition, you may wish to bring a court case to address other claims which are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies, e.g., if you landlord is not meeting his obligation to provide a safe living space. 

What can I do if my landlord evicts me because I filed a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal to retaliate against someone for filing a discrimination claim, and you could file an additional complaint against the employer or landlord for retaliation.  “Retaliation” protections cover those who participate in proceedings, or otherwise oppose unlawful conduct. If the employer or landlord takes action against an employee or tenant because of that conduct, then the employee or tenant can state a claim of retaliation (9 V.S.A. § 4506(e)(retaliation prohibited in public accommodations and housing); 21 V.S.A. § 495(a)(8) (retaliation prohibited in employment).  See also Provencher v. CVS Pharmacy, 145 F.3d 5 (1st Cir. 1998) (upholding federal retaliation claim by a gay man who had brought a sexual harassment claim under Federal Title VII)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 1-800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still residing under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their housing, and if they will be able to handle those possible consequences. Of course, even if a person has been evicted, they may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice, which should be made after gathering enough information and advice to make an informed decision.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). Bring a copy of your lease, along with any notices and letters you have received from your landlord. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the Human Rights Commission complaint process see: Filing a Complaint | Human Rights Commission

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For information about the HUD complaint process see:

Learn About the FHEO Complaint and Investigation Process | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Vermont, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Vermont, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

Violence & Harassment | Hate Crimes & Harassment | Vermont

Vermont Hate Crimes Q&A

Does Vermont have a hate crimes law?

Yes. Vermont law imposes increased penalties for crimes committed because of hatred or animus toward the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, service in the U.S. armed forces, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity (13 V.S.A. § 1455).

In addition to being subject to criminal prosecution, the Attorney General’s office may seek civil penalties from a perpetrator of up to $5000 (payable to the state) plus costs and attorney’s fees for every violation of the criminal hate crimes statute and for violations of any injunctions imposed (see discussion below) (13 V.S.A. § 1466).

How does the law define what is a hate crime?

The hate crimes law applies to “[a] person who commits, causes to be committed or attempts to commit any crime and whose conduct is maliciously motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, service in the U.S. armed forces, disability…, sexual orientation or gender identity” (13 V.S.A. § 1455).

According to the Attorney General’s office, assaults, unlawful mischief (damage or destruction of property), telephone harassment and disorderly conduct (by public yelling of threats and abuse) are the most common hate crimes in Vermont (www.ago.vermont.gov/divisions/civil-rights/hate-crimes.php).

Besides the police, who can I call if I think I’ve been a victim of a hate crime?

In addition to contacting the local police, you may contact the Civil Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office toll-free (in Vermont) at (888) 745-9195 or at (802) 828-3657 or AGO.CivilRights@vermont.gov.

What other options do I have if I think I have been the victim of a hate crime?

Victims of hate crimes can also file a civil claim in the Superior Court of the county where they live or where the crime occurred (13 V.S.A. § 1457). These claims can seek:

  • an order to stop the hate-motivated behavior and restrict the perpetrator’s ability to contact you in any way;
  • money damages to compensate for the injury caused by the crime;
  • money damages to punish the perpetrator;
  • costs and attorney’s fees; and
  • any other relief the court thinks is appropriate.

Through this process, you have the right to obtain very similar protections to those available to domestic violence victims.  (See discussion above).  If you have been the victim of a hate crime or of a stalker, you can go to Superior Court and quickly obtain a preliminary order providing protection from the perpetrator of the hate crimes.  This order may:

  • prohibit the perpetrator from committing any crime against you or other people;
  • prohibit the perpetrator from contacting you; and
  • prohibit the perpetrator from coming near you, your home, or other places where you are likely to be (i.e. workplace, homes of family members, etc.).

This preliminary order will remain in effect for a period of time set by the court up to 120 days, or until there is a final decision in the case (13 V.S.A. § 1461).

A final order can be issued for up to two years, but the court can extend the order for any amount of time if it finds it is necessary to protect the victim.  Violating these kinds of orders is a crime, subject to immediate arrest, imprisonment and fines (13 V.S.A. § 1461(c), 1465(a-b)).

In what ways might the federal hate crimes law help to investigate and prosecute hate crimes?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see 18 U.S.C. § 249) was passed by Congress on October 22, 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009.  It expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

First, and perhaps foremost, the Act allows local and state law enforcement agencies to apply for the following federal assistance from the U.S. Attorney General:

  • investigative, technical, forensic or prosecutorial support for criminal investigations and prosecutions,
  • grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and
  • grants to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

In providing assistance to local and state authorities, the priorities are hate crimes:

  • where the offender(s) has committed crimes in more than one state, or
  • that occur in rural areas which do not have the resources needed to prosecute such crimes.

Second, for hate crimes that in some way involve crossing state or national borders, or involve or affect interstate commerce, and where a state does not have jurisdiction or has requested federal assumption of jurisdiction, or where the federal government feels that justice has not been served or that U.S. prosecution is in the public interest,  the Act authorizes the federal government to prosecute the case.

The Act also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups are already tracked) and on crimes committed by and against juveniles. This is the first federal law to explicitly extend legal protections to transgender persons.

Does Vermont have an anti-bullying law that protects public, independent and postsecondary students?

Yes. See the topic area “Rights & Protections” in the Issue Area “Youth.”

Resources

U.S. Department of Justice information about Vermont Hate Crimes: 2020 Hate Crime Statistics for Vermont.

Information from the Vermont Attorney General: Hate Crimes – Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Vermont’s hate crime law was amended in 2021 to make it easier to prosecute hate crimes, see: 1455. Hate-motivated crimes 

Cases & Advocacy

To see Violence & Harassment cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Vermont, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Violence & Harassment in Vermont, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

Violence & Harassment | Intimate Partner Violence | Vermont

Vermont Intimate Partner Violence Q&A

What is domestic violence?

Under the laws of domestic relations, “abuse” includes causing or trying to cause physical harm; causing fear of imminent serious physical harm; or abuse to children, which includes physical injury, neglect, emotional maltreatment or sexual abuse; stalking; and sexual assault (see 15 V.S.A. § 1101(1)).

Do the domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?

In most situations, yes. These laws apply to abuse between family members, which includes civil union spouses, as well as between “household members,” which includes people who are living or have lived together, but also those who have or had a sexual relationship, or who are dating or have dated. To determine whether a dating relationship exists or existed, the court looks to whether the relationship is/was of a romantic nature, how long it has been/was going on, how often the parties interact/ed, and, if the parties have broken up, how long ago the relationship ended (15 V.S.A. § 1101(2)).

How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?

You can file a complaint seeking relief from abuse in the family division of the superior court in the county in which you live, or, if you have just fled your home, in either your new or old county. There is no fee (15 V.S.A. § 1103(f)).

If you are in immediate danger from harm, you can file an application for a temporary order (15 V.S.A. § 1104). That application can be filed in the criminal, civil or family division of the superior court (15 V.S.A. § 1102(b)). All of the courts are required to have procedures for people to file these applications after regular court hours, or on weekends and holidays (15 V.S.A. § 1106(b)). Temporary orders are generally issued upon request, based on the existence of a relationship between victim and offender that is covered by the law and a credible allegation of abuse or threats of abuse.

The order, a copy of which must be given to the abuser, will state a time within ten days of its being issued for the defendant to contest it (15 V.S.A. § 1104(b)). At the hearing, if the victim proves the abuse, the court will keep the order in effect and make other orders it deems necessary to keep the victim safe (15 V.S.A. § 1104(b)). Once an order is issued, it is filed with the Department of Public Safety’s abuse database. Police and sheriff’s departments, as well as state police district offices are also required to maintain procedures to make personnel aware of the existence and contents of abuse prevention orders (15 V.S.A. § 1107).

The order will stay in effect for a fixed period of time, at the end of which the court may extend it for as long as it deems necessary to protect the victim. The court does not have to find that abuse took place during the time covered by the order to extend it (15 V.S.A. § 1103(e)).

You don’t need a lawyer to get the temporary order, but it may be helpful to have one for later hearings if you think the abuser will contest the order. The court administrators may be able to connect you with agencies that help victims seek relief and gain access to the courts (15 V.S.A. § 1106(b)).

If for some reason you decide not to go through with the legal process, you should show up in court anyway and ask that the order be dismissed. Failure to show up might make the court think you are unreliable if you need legal help in the future.

Violation of an abuse order is a criminal offense and can result in the immediate arrest of the abuser, as well as imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of up to $1000 (15 V.S.A. § 1108(e)). It is worth noting that restraining orders do not restrict the abuse victim’s activities or contacts.

A victim may participate in an address confidentiality program, through which the Secretary of State gives the victim another address to use in order to keep the actual address confidential from the public (15 V.S.A. § 1152).

There are other laws that prohibit stalking, harassing and trespassing that may also apply to your situation, but are beyond the scope of this document. For more information, you may wish to consult the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services at 1-800-750-1213 (Toll Free in Vermont Only) or (803) 241-1250 or Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.

If I go to court, will I “out” myself for all purposes?

Not necessarily. The courts try to be sensitive to the fact that some people seeking orders may be closeted or may be in a same-sex relationship that they do not want revealed. A relief-from-abuse order is a public record, however.

Where can I go to get help?

In addition to the local police and district attorney, you can contact the Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at Vermont Network, at vtnetwork@vtnetwork.org (email) or 1-800-228-7395. They can provide you with information and assistance and connect you to resources in your area.

Does domestic violence play a role in custody decisions?

Yes. Evidence that a parent has in the past, or is presently, abusing the other parent or the child is a factor showing that that parent is not acting in the best interests of the child (15 V.S.A. § 665(b)(9)).

Resources

Information from Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence: Vermont Network.

Domestic Violence Resources: Domestic Violence Resources | Department for Children and Families.

Prevent Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence: Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence | Vermont Department of Health

Cases & Advocacy

To see Violence & Harassment cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Vermont, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Violence & Harassment in Vermont, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Vermont.”

Know your Rights: Discrimination in New Hampshire

Discrimination

Housing

Employment (jump to section)

Credit Lending (jump to section)

Violence and Harassment

Hate Crimes (jump to section)

Intimate Partner Violence (jump to section)

Discrimination | Housing | New Hampshire

Does New Hampshire have an anti-discrimination law protecting gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals from discrimination in housing?

Yes. New Hampshire’s law banning sexual orientation discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing has been in effect since January 1, 1998 

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does the law protect transgender people in housing?

Yes, on June 8, 2018 Governor Chris Sununu signed into law House Bill 1319, AN ACT prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which banned discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing based on gender identity. The law went into effect on July 8, 2018. The law amends NH RSA 354-A by adding “gender identity” to the list of protected characteristics. With the passage of this law, New Hampshire joins the other five New England states in banning transgender discrimination.

In the law, gender identity “means a person’s gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity, or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.”

Does the law protect people perceived as being gay, lesbian, and bisexual in housing?

Yes. New Hampshire non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality” (NH RSA 354-A:2, XIV-c). While the courts have not ruled on the meaning of the “perceived” language, it should mean that if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

What is prohibited by the housing anti-discrimination law in New Hampshire?

The housing laws are intended to prohibit discrimination by those engaged in most aspects of the housing business, including listing, buying, selling, renting, or financing housing or commercial structures, whether for profit or not (NH RSA 354-A:10). Most often, these claims involve a refusal by an owner, landlord, or real estate broker to sell, lease, or even negotiate with a person about the housing they desire to obtain. But other practices are forbidden, too, such as:

  1. misrepresenting the unavailability of a dwelling or commercial structure (A:10, IV);
  2. discriminating against a person in the terms, conditions, or privilege of a sale or rental because of their sexual orientation (A:10, II);
  3. printing or circulating discriminatory notices or advertisements (A:10, III);
  4. evicting a tenant solely on the ground that they have AIDS or are regarded as having AIDS (A:10, VI); and
  5. making mortgage and real estate loans on a discriminatory basis (A:10, VII), e. a form of credit protection.

There are several exemptions to the housing laws:

  1. A homeowner who owns only one single family home may discriminate in selling or renting the home so long as they do not use the services of any broker (or like person), and do not circulate any discriminatory ads or notices (NH RSA 354-A:13, I-a);
  2. An owner who lives in a 3-family, 2-family, or 1-family unit may discriminate when renting out the other units (NH RSA 354-A:13, I-b);
  3. An owner who lives in a building with 5 rooms or less may discriminate in renting out the other rooms (NH RSA 354-A:13, I-c);
  4. Religious organizations and organizations supervised by religious organizations which do not rent or sell for profit may give preference to persons of their same religion (with some exceptions) (NH RSA 354-A:13, II);
  5. Private clubs which provide non-for-profit lodging for their members may give preference to members, or limit occupancy to members-only (NH RSA 354-A:13, III).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

You may contact the Commission either by telephone, or in writing by using an Intake Questionnaire form. Neither being interviewed nor filling out the questionnaire automatically creates a formal charge of discrimination. You will be contacted by the Commission regarding the filing of a formal charge if your situation comes under our jurisdiction.

If your issue involves a claim of housing or commercial property, you may either,

Fill out the Housing & Commercial Property Intake Questionnaire at https://www.nh.gov/hrc/documents/housing.pdf, You may then email the form directly to humanrights@hrc.nh.gov or print it and mail to the Commission at the address below,

or

call the Commission @ 603.271.2767 (or TDD ACCESS: Relay NH 1.800.735.2964) to speak with an intake investigator.

Intake Questionnaire Mailing Address:

Intake Department
NH Commission for Human Rights
2 Industrial Park Drive
Concord, NH 03301

Once the Intake Questionnaire is filed, a CHR investigator will decide whether you have the basis to file a formal charge.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHR process, but landlords and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must be filed with the CHR within 180 days of the discriminatory act or acts (NH RSA 354-A:21, III). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHR?

The CHR assigns an investigator to conduct an impartial investigation of the charges. The investigator may send out written questions (interrogatories) to be answered under oath, or request documents from either party. If the case is not dismissed for technical reasons, an assigned Commissioner will consult the investigator’s final report and decide if there is probable cause to credit your allegations.

If probable cause is found, the case will be sent for “conciliation”, or settlement proceedings. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, the CHR will schedule a public hearing before three Commissioners. You can choose to be represented at this hearing by a private attorney or a lawyer for the CHR (See generally NH RSA 354-A:21). After the hearing, the Commission will issue a decision either finding in your favor and ordering appropriate relief, or finding in favor of the responding party and dismissing the charge. Either one of you can appeal the Commission’s decision to the Superior Court.

If the CHR does not find probable cause, you may also appeal to the Superior Court. In order to be successful, your appeal must show that the CHR’s decision is either unlawful or unreasonable by a clear preponderance of the evidence (NH RSA 354-A:21, II-a).

What legal remedies can the CHR order if I win my case?

In all types of cases, the Commission may order the respondent to cease and desist the unlawful conduct. The CHR may impose an administrative fine, payable to the State, of up to $50,000, depending on how many past offenses the respondent has committed (NH RSA 354-A:21, II-d).

Note that if your complaint is dismissed and deemed frivolous, the defendant may seek to collect reasonable costs and attorney’s fees from you (NH RSA 354-A:21 II-f).

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was evicted both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. New Hampshire’s housing non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity as well as age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, religious creed, or national origin and familial status” (NH RSA 354-A:10).

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency? 

Yes. Persons who identify as LGBTQ and believe they have experienced housing discrimination because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity can assert their rights under the Fair Housing Act by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can find more detailed information about the protections HUD provides to LGBTQ people here: Housing Discrimination and Persons Identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ)

There is information about filing a housing discrimination complaint with HUD here: File a Complaint – Main Page | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The form for submitting a complaint can be found here: https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_12150.PDF

HUD views LGBTQ discrimination as a form of “sex” discrimination, so if you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should indicate “sex” as the discrimination factor.

A HUD complaint must be filed within one year of the last act of discrimination.  The statute of limitations for bringing fair housing complaints in federal courts is not later than two years after the occurrence or the termination of an alleged discriminatory housing practice.   However, if an administrative case is filed with HUD, the statute of limitations is tolled during the period of time in which HUD is evaluating the complaint.  In English, what that means is that the time HUD has the case does not count when calculating the two year statute of limitations.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHR, EEOC, or both, a person may decide to remove their discrimination case from those agencies and file the case in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done. When claims of discrimination based on state law are removed from the CHR and filed in state superior court, either party may request a jury trial and the court may order the same relief as would the CHR.42 Similarly, once the CHR process is complete, either party may ask a court to review the Commission’s decision (NH RSA 354-A:22, I).

In addition, you may wish to file a court case to address other claims which cannot be appropriately handled by discrimination agencies. For example, if you are fired in violation of a contract, fired without the progressive discipline promised in a handbook, or fired for doing something the employer doesn’t like but which the law requires, these matters are beyond the scope of what the agencies can investigate and instead the matter should be pursued in court. Similarly, if your claim involves a violation of constitutional rights—for instance, if you are a teacher or governmental employee who believes your free speech or equal protection rights were violated—then those matters must also be heard in court.

What can I do if my landlord evicts me for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is a civil rights violation to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any person who files a housing discrimination complaint. (NH RSA 354-A:14)

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still residing under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their housing, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Of course, even if a person has been evicted, they may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information and advice to make an informed decision.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). Bring a copy of your lease, along with any notices and letters you have received from your landlord. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHR complaint process see: New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For information about the HUD complaint process see:

Learn About the FHEO Complaint and Investigation Process | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Discrimination | Employment | New Hampshire

Does New Hampshire have an anti-discrimination law protecting gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals from discrimination in employment?

Yes. New Hampshire’s law banning sexual orientation discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing has been in effect since January 1, 1998. 

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD

Does the law protect transgender people in employment?

Yes, on June 8, 2018 Governor Chris Sununu signed into law House Bill 1319, AN ACT prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which banned discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing based on gender identity. The law went into effect on July 8, 2018. The law amends NH RSA 354-A by adding “gender identity” to the list of protected characteristics. With the passage of this law, New Hampshire joins the other five New England states in banning transgender discrimination.

In the law, gender identity “means a person’s gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity, or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.”

Does the law protect people perceived as being gay, lesbian, and bisexual in employment?

Yes. New Hampshire non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality” (NH RSA 354-A:2, XIV-c). While the courts have not ruled on the meaning of the “perceived” language, it should mean that if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

What does employment anti-discrimination law forbid? To whom does the law apply?

New Hampshire’s employment anti-discrimination law applies to public or private employers who have at least 6 employees. It forbids employers from refusing to hire a person, or discharging them, or discriminating against them “in compensation, or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment” because of sexual orientation (NH RSA 354-A:7, I). This covers most significant job actions, such as hiring, firing, failure to promote, demotion, excessive discipline, harassment, and different treatment of the employee and similarly situated co-workers. The law also applies to labor organizations (e.g. unions) and employment agencies (NH RSA 354-A:7, II, III).

New Hampshire State Division of Personnel also has an equal employment opportunity program which ensures that the state employs qualified people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation (NH RSA 21-I:42, XVI). Moreover, the State is forbidden from discriminating in the classified service with respect to gender identity or sexual orientation (NH RSA 21-I:52, I).

As broad as the law is, there are several exemptions:

  • The law does not apply to employers with fewer than 6 employees. An employer’s spouse, parent, or child do not count as employees (NH RSA 354-A:2, VI, VII).
  • The law does not apply to a non-profit exclusively social club or a non-profit fraternal or religious association or corporations (NH RSA 354-A:2, VII).
  • Any employer, agency, or labor organization may defend against a discrimination claim by arguing that it is a “bona fide occupational qualification” of the job in question to have a non-LGBTQ+ employee fill it (NH RSA 354-A:7, I, II, III). Luckily, although this defense is allowed by law, it is strictly applied and very rarely successful (See, e.g., Sarni Original Dry Cleaners, Inc. v. Cooke, 388 Mass. 611, 447 N.E.2d 1228 (1983)).

Does New Hampshire law forbid sexual harassment?

Yes, New Hampshire law expressly forbids sexual harassment. The law defines sexual harassment as:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment (NH RSA 354-A:7, V).

Does this law protect LGBTQ+ individuals?

Yes. It is just as unlawful to sexually harass an LGBTQ+ individual as it is to harass anyone else. Some harassment is specifically anti-gay and may be more fairly characterized as harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. Other harassment is sexual in nature and more appropriately categorized as “sexual harassment.” Both types of harassment can happen to the same person, and both are forbidden.

The United States Supreme Court and other federal courts have found same-sex sexual harassment to violate sexual harassment laws (Compare Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998) (man can sue for sexual harassment by other men under federal sexual harassment laws); Drew v. First Sav. of N.H., 968 F. Supp. 762 (D.N.H. 1997) (acknowledging claim under federal law which failed on the facts presented); King v. Town of Hanover, 959 F.Supp. 62 (D.N.H. 1996) (acknowledging claim under federal law)). Several state courts have reached the same result under their state non-discrimination laws (Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co., 424 Mass. 285, 676 N.E.2d 45 (1997)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

You may contact the Commission either by telephone, or in writing by using an Intake Questionnaire form. Neither being interviewed nor filling out the questionnaire automatically creates a formal charge of discrimination. You will be contacted by the Commission regarding the filing of a formal charge if your situation comes under our jurisdiction.

If your issue involves a claim of employment discrimination or discrimination in hiring, you may either,

Fill out the Employment Discrimination Intake Questionnaire form at CONFIDENTIAL SENDING THIS QUESTIONNAIRE IS NOT SUBMITTING A CHARGE, You may then email the form directly to humanrights@hrc.nh.gov or print it and mail to the Commission at the address below;

or

call the Commission @ 603.271.2767 (or TDD ACCESS: Relay NH 1.800.735.2964) to speak with an intake investigator.

Intake Questionnaire Mailing Address:

Intake Department
NH Commission for Human Rights
2 Industrial Park Drive
Concord, NH 03301

Once the Intake Questionnaire is filed, a CHR investigator will decide whether you have the basis to file a formal charge.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHR process, but employers and other defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must be filed with the CHR within 180 days of the discriminatory act or acts (NH RSA 354-A:21, III). Under certain circumstances, a charge may be filed within 300 days of the discrimination, but the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights must be contacted immediately. If you are beyond 180 days, contact the Commission immediately to find out if you have the basis to file a timely charge. GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHR?

The CHR assigns an investigator to conduct an impartial investigation of the charges. The investigator may send out written questions (interrogatories) to be answered under oath, or request documents from either party. If the case is not dismissed for technical reasons, an assigned Commissioner will consult the investigator’s final report and decide if there is probable cause to credit your allegations.

If probable cause is found, the case will be sent for “conciliation,” or settlement proceedings. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, the CHR will schedule a public hearing before three Commissioners. You can choose to be represented at this hearing by a private attorney or a lawyer for the CHR (See generally NH RSA 354-A:21). After the hearing, the Commission will issue a decision either finding in your favor and ordering appropriate relief or finding in favor of the responding party and dismissing the charge. Either one of you can appeal the Commission’s decision to the Superior Court.

If the CHR does not find probable cause, you may also appeal to the Superior Court. In order to be successful, your appeal must show that the CHR’s decision is either unlawful or unreasonable by a clear preponderance of the evidence (NH RSA 354-A:21, II-a).

What legal remedies can the CHR order if I win my case?

In all types of cases, the Commission may order the respondent to cease and desist the unlawful conduct. The CHR may also order a respondent to do something affirmatively, such as hire, reinstate, or upgrade an employee or restore a person to a labor organization. Employees may also receive back pay, and all victims of discrimination are eligible for compensatory damages, including emotional distress damages. Finally, the CHR may impose an administrative fine, payable to the State, of up to $50,000, depending on how many past offenses the respondent has committed (NH RSA 354-A:21, II-d).

Note that if your complaint is dismissed and deemed frivolous, the defendant may seek to collect reasonable costs and attorney’s fees from you (NH RSA 354-A:21 II-f).

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was fired both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. New Hampshire’s employment non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of gender identity or sexual orientation as well as age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, religious creed, or national origin (NH RSA 354-A:7).

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Federal employment non-discrimination law, called Title VII, applies to employers with at least 15 employees. 

Someone who brings a claim of discrimination may sometimes pursue protections under both state and federal law. This is true because there may be overlapping provisions of state and federal law. For example, Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, and disability (which includes HIV status), but does not expressly forbid discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

However, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020, see: 17-1618 Bostock v. Clayton County (06/15/2020), the Supreme Court held that firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex. For more information on how the EEOC enforces discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees, see: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Discrimination | US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

GLAD recommends that, where there may be overlapping state and federal jurisdiction, you explore filing with CHR first but keep in mind the possibility of pursuing a federal claim as well. If you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should check off “sex” as well as “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as the bases for your claim and request that CHR cross-file your complaint with the EEOC.

Federal complaints must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, if you initially institute your complaint with CHR and indicate that you wish to have the complaint cross-filed with the EEOC, then the time limit is extended to the earlier of 300 days or 30 days after CHR has terminated the case (34 United States Code 42 sec. 2000e-5(e)(1)). Because CHR has a statute of limitations of 180 days, even if you are cross-filing with the EEOC, you should file your complaint within the 180-day time period. (People who work for federal agencies are beyond the scope of this publication.)

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

Union: If you are a member of a union, your contract (collective bargaining agreement) may provide additional rights to you in the event of discipline, discharge, or other job-related actions. In fact, if you obtain relief under your contract, you may decide not to pursue other remedies. Get and read a copy of your contract and contact a union steward about filing a complaint. Deadlines in contracts are strict. Bear in mind that if your union refuses to assist you with a complaint, you may have a discrimination action against them for their failure to work with you, or for failure of duty of fair representation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHR, EEOC, or both, a person may decide to remove their discrimination case from those agencies and file the case in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done. When claims of discrimination based on state law are removed from the CHR and filed in state superior court, either party may request a jury trial and the court may order the same relief as would the CHR (NH RSA 354-A:21-a). Similarly, once the CHR process is complete, either party may ask a court to review the Commission’s decision (NH RSA 354-A:22, I).

In addition, you may wish to file a court case to address other claims which cannot be appropriately handled by discrimination agencies. For example, if you are fired in violation of a contract, fired without the progressive discipline promised in a handbook, or fired for doing something the employer doesn’t like but which the law requires, these matters are beyond the scope of what the agencies can investigate and instead the matter should be pursued in court. Similarly, if your claim involves a violation of constitutional rights—for instance, if you are a teacher or governmental employee who believes your free speech or equal protection rights were violated—then those matters must also be heard in court.

What can I do if my employer fires for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal for your employer to retaliate or punish you because you filed a complaint. If they do so, you can file an additional complaint against them for retaliation. “Retaliation” protections cover those who oppose unlawful conduct, who have filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding (NH RSA 354-A:19. See also Provencher v. CVS Pharmacy, 145 F.3d 5 (1st Cir. 1998) (upholding federal retaliation claim of gay man)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 1-800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still working under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their job, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Of course, even if a person has been fired, they may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information and advice to make an informed decision.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). It is also helpful to have a list of witnesses and other possible victims of discrimination. Try to have on hand copies of your employee handbooks or personnel manuals, as well as any contracts, job evaluations, memos, discharge letters and the like. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHR complaint process see: New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For more information about filing an EEOC discrimination complaint see: How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination.

Discrimination | Credit, Lending & Services | New Hampshire

Does New Hampshire have an anti-discrimination law protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination in credit, lending and services?

No. New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination laws only prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing (see: New Hampshire Statutes – Table of Contents). 

Does New Hampshire have a process to file a complaint concerning credit, lending and services?

Yes, depending on the nature of the complaint, there are several New Hampshire state agencies where you can file a complaint.

Discrimination | Public Accommodations | New Hampshire

What is a “place of public accommodation”?

A place of public accommodation is a place that caters or offers its services, facilities, or goods to the general public (NH RSA 354-A:2, XIV). This definition is intentionally broad and includes motels, restaurants, rest areas, highways and hospitals.

Does New Hampshire have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Yes. New Hampshire’s law banning sexual orientation discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing has been in effect since January 1, 1998 (see Norma Love, “Senate Passes Gay Civil Rights; Shaheen to Sign it,” Foster’s Daily Democrat, May 7, 1997).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does the law protect transgender people in places of public accommodation?

Yes, on June 8, 2018 Governor Chris Sununu signed into law House Bill 1319, An ACT prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, which banned discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing based on gender identity. The law went into effect on July 8, 2018. The law amends NH RSA 354-A by adding “gender identity” to the list of protected characteristics. With the passage of this law, New Hampshire joins the other five New England states in banning transgender discrimination.

In the law, gender identity “means a person’s gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity, or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.”

Does the law protect people perceived as being gay, lesbian, and bisexual in places of public accommodation?

Yes. New Hampshire non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality” (NH RSA 354-A:2, XIV-c). While the courts have not ruled on the meaning of the “perceived” language, it should mean that if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Such places may not refuse, withhold, or deny use of accommodations, goods, or facilities because of a person’s sexual orientation (NH RSA 354-A:17). Unfortunately, New Hampshire has no anti-discrimination laws to protect transgender people.

How do I file a complaint of discrimination?

You may contact the Commission either by telephone, or in writing by using an Intake Questionnaire form. Neither being interviewed nor filling out the questionnaire automatically creates a formal charge of discrimination. You will be contacted by the Commission regarding the filing of a formal charge if your situation comes under our jurisdiction.

If your issue involves a claim of public accommodations, you may either:

Fill out the Public Accommodations Intake Questionnaire at https://www.nh.gov/hrc/documents/public.pdf, You may then email the form directly to humanrights@hrc.nh.gov or print it and mail to the Commission at the address below,

or

call the Commission @ 603.271.2767 (or TDD ACCESS: Relay NH 1.800.735.2964) to speak with an intake investigator.

Intake Questionnaire Mailing Address:

Intake Department
NH Commission for Human Rights
2 Industrial Park Drive
Concord, NH 03301

Once the Intake Questionnaire is filed, a CHR investigator will decide whether you have the basis to file a formal charge.

Do I need a lawyer?

No. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the CHR process, but defendants are likely to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must be filed with the CHR within 180 days of the discriminatory act or acts (NH RSA 354-A:21, III). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

What happens after a complaint is filed with the CHR?

The CHR assigns an investigator to conduct an impartial investigation of the charges. The investigator may send out written questions (interrogatories) to be answered under oath, or request documents from either party. If the case is not dismissed for technical reasons, an assigned Commissioner will consult the investigator’s final report and decide if there is probable cause to credit your allegations.

If probable cause is found, the case will be sent for “conciliation”, or settlement proceedings. If negotiations fail to produce a settlement agreeable to all parties, the CHR will schedule a public hearing before three Commissioners. You can choose to be represented at this hearing by a private attorney or a lawyer for the CHR (See generally NH RSA 354-A:21). After the hearing, the Commission will issue a decision either finding in your favor and ordering appropriate relief, or finding in favor of the responding party and dismissing the charge. Either one of you can appeal the Commission’s decision to the Superior Court.

If the CHR does not find probable cause, you may also appeal to the Superior Court. In order to be successful, your appeal must show that the CHR’s decision is either unlawful or unreasonable by a clear preponderance of the evidence (NH RSA 354-A:21, II-a).

What legal remedies can the CHR order if I win my case?

In all types of cases, the Commission may order the respondent to cease and desist the unlawful conduct. The CHR may also order a respondent to extend to a person the full advantages of a place of public accommodation. Finally, the CHR may impose an administrative fine, payable to the State, of up to $50,000, depending on how many past offenses the respondent has committed (NH RSA 354-A:21, II-d).

Note that if your complaint is dismissed and deemed frivolous, the defendant may seek to collect reasonable costs and attorney’s fees from you (NH RSA 354-A:21 II-f).

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was discriminated against because I am both a lesbian and Latina?

Yes. New Hampshire’s public accommodations non-discrimination laws forbid discriminating against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity as well as age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, religious creed, or national origin” (NH RSA 354-A:17).

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHR, a person may decide to remove their discrimination case from those agencies and file the case in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done. When claims of discrimination based on state law are removed from the CHR and filed in state superior court, either party may request a jury trial and the court may order the same relief as would the CHR (NH RSA 354-A:21-a). Similarly, once the CHR process is complete, either party may ask a court to review the Commission’s decision (NH RSA 354-A:22, I).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them). It is also helpful to have a list of witnesses and other possible victims of discrimination. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the CHR complaint process see: https://www.nh.gov/hrc/howto.html

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in New Hampshire, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in New Hampshire, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”

Violence & Harassment | Hate Crimes & Harassment | New Hampshire

Does New Hampshire have a hate crimes law?

Yes. New Hampshire has a law providing for increased criminal penalties for hate-motivated violence (NH RSA 651:6 I(f)). If a defendant was “substantially motivated to commit the crime because of hostility towards the victim’s religion, race, creed, sexual orientation… national origin, or sex,” penalties may be increased. The defendant must be notified of the possibility of an enhanced penalty prior to the trial.

Do other laws provide protection against hate-motivated violence?

Yes. New Hampshire law permits the Attorney General to bring a civil action against a hate-motivated perpetrator who subjects a victim to actual or threatened violence, actual or threatened trespass to property, or actual or threatened property damage (NH RSA 354-B:1). Any of the following civil penalties can be imposed: a fine of up to $5,000, paid to the state; (NH RSA 354-B:3) restitution to the victim for out-of-pocket expenses; (NH RSA 354-B:4) an injunction or temporary restraining against the perpetrator to prevent future hate crimes (NH RSA 354-B: 3, II).

Where can I call if I think I’ve been a victim of a hate crime?

In addition to contacting the local police, you may contact the 24-hour hotline operated by the Attorney General’s Office at (603) 271-1241. You may also call the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s office at (603) 271-3658. Be sure to explain all of the factors that make you think this was a hate crime.

For support and advocacy, contact:

New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office 

Office of Victim/Witness Assistance

33 Capitol St., 

Concord, NH 03301-6397

(603) 271-3671.

In what ways might the federal hate crimes law help to investigate and prosecute hate crimes?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see H.R. 2647 at Text – S.909 – 111th Congress (2009-2010): Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act) was passed by Congress on October 22, 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009.  It expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

First, and perhaps foremost, the Act allows local and state law enforcement agencies to apply for the following federal assistance from the U.S. Attorney General:

  • investigative, technical, forensic or prosecutorial support for criminal investigations and prosecutions,
  • grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and
  • grants to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

In providing assistance to local and state authorities, the priorities are hate crimes:

  • where the offender(s) has committed crimes in more than one state, or
  • that occur in rural areas which do not have the resources needed to prosecute such crimes.

Second, for hate crimes that in some way involve crossing state or national borders, or involve or affect interstate commerce, and where a state does not have jurisdiction or has requested federal assumption of jurisdiction, or where the federal government feels that justice has not been served or that U.S. prosecution is in the public interest, the Act authorizes the federal government to prosecute the case.

The Act also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups are already tracked) and on crimes committed by and against juveniles. This is the first federal law to explicitly extend legal protections to transgender persons.

Does New Hampshire have an anti-bullying law that protects public school students?

Yes. See the topic area “Rights & Protections” in the Issue Area “Youth.”

Resources

U.S. Department of Justice information about New Hampshire Hate Crimes: 2020 Hate Crime Statistics for New Hampshire 

New Hampshire Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Unit: Civil Rights Unit | NH Department of Justice 

New Hampshire DOJ Protocols for Hate Crimes: Hate Crime and Civil Rights Violation Protocol

Concord Monitor article on hate crimes: How are hate crimes investigated and prosecuted in New Hampshire?

Violence & Harassment | Intimate Partner Violence | New Hampshire

What is domestic violence?

New Hampshire defines domestic violence as the commission or attempted commission of one or more of the following:

  1. assault or reckless conduct;
  2. placing another in fear of imminent bodily injury by physical menace or threats;
  3. sexual assault;
  4. kidnapping, criminal restraint, or false imprisonment;
  5. destruction of property;
  6. unauthorized entry onto a person’s property;
  7. repeated communication with the purpose to annoy or alarm;
  8. cruelty to animals (NH RSA 173-B:1, I).

Do domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?

Yes. New Hampshire domestic violence law applies to abuse between spouses and ex-spouses, people who are or were residing in the same household, and people who have or have had a sexual or romantic relationship (NH RSA 173-B:1, II).

How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?

If a partner or member of your family or household has been abusive, you can file for a protective order in court. New Hampshire issues three kinds of protective orders:

Temporary (emergency) ex parte protective orders issued via telephone. If you are in immediate danger of abuse and no court is open, you may get an emergency protective order by contacting the nearest police department. A police officer can help you fill out the forms and will contact a judge by telephone. If the judge believes you are in imminent danger, they will grant you an order that will last until the close of the next business day when the court is open. For the protective order to remain in effect, you must go to the nearest District, Family or Superior Court to ask for a new protective order.

Temporary ex parte protective orders issued in court. If the courts are open, you can file for a protective order from the District Court or Superior Court where you or the abuser lives, or, if you have fled your home, the court closest to where you fled. If you live in Rockingham County or Grafton County, you must go to the Family Division Court. If the judge believes there is an immediate danger of abuse, they will order a temporary ex parte order until you can have a full hearing on the order. A copy of the protective order will be sent to the Department of Safety, and the State Police must make information regarding the protective order available to your local police and Sheriff. The local police will promptly serve your abuser with a copy of the temporary protective order. There is no charge for this service, and the orders are in effect state-wide in New Hampshire.

A full hearing will be held within 30 days of when you filed your petition, or within 10 days of when your petition is served on your abuser, whichever is later (NH RSA 173-B:3, VII(a)). The abuser may also ask for a hearing within 3 to 5 days, which you must attend (NH RSA 173-B:4, I).

Final protective orders. A final protective order can only be issued after a court hearing. You have the right to bring a lawyer to represent you at the hearing. It is a good idea to seek out a lawyer if you think custody or child support will be disputed, or if you have been severely injured or expect an injury to last a long time. A final order can last for up to one year, and can be extended (NH RSA 173-B:5, VI).

What does a protective order do?

Depending on the circumstances, a protective order may compel your abuser to do any number of the following:

  • refrain from abusing you further;
  • refrain from contacting you;
  • refrain from destroying or damaging property belong to you;
  • move out of your home, if they live with you;
  • stay away from your residence, workplace, or school, or any other place regularly visited by you or your family;
  • stay away from any animal you own;
  • relinquish custody of any minor children;
  • provide you temporary financial support;
  • surrender firearms.

Where can I go to get help?

If you cannot afford a lawyer, a domestic violence program in your area may be able to refer you to a lawyer who will do the case for free.  The DOVE (Domestic Violence Emergency) Project of the New Hampshire Bar Association can provide referrals. Contact them at 1-866-644-3574, or https://www.nhbar.org/for-the-public/free-legal-services.asp.

You might also contact the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, 1-866-644-374 (domestic violence) or 1-800-277-5570 (sexual assault).

Does domestic violence play a role in custody decisions?

Yes. Evidence that a parent has abused or is currently abusing their child or partner is evidence that said parent is not acting in the best interests of the child. Furthermore, a court will not allow parents to develop their own parenting plan when there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse (NH RSA 461-A:2, I(c)).

Resources

New Hampshire Legal Aid Information about Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Information | New Hampshire Legal Aid.

New Hampshire Law Library Information about Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence Protective Orders

Cases & Advocacy

To see Violence & Harassment cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in New Hampshire, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Violence & Harassment in New Hampshire, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”

Know Your LGBTQ+ Rights, RI!

Discrimination

Housing

Employment (jump to section)

Credit, Lending & Services (jump to section)

Public Accommodations (jump to section)

Violence & Harassment

Hate Crimes & Harassment (jump to section)

Intimate Partner Violence (jump to section)

 

Discrimination | Housing | Rhode Island

Does Rhode Island have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in housing?

Yes.  Since 1995, Rhode Island has had a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations and has included sexual orientation under its equal opportunity and affirmative action law.  In 2001, Rhode Island added gender identity or expression to each of these statutory protections (R.I. Gen. Laws, ch. 11-24 (public accommodations); ch. 28-5 (employment); ch. 28-5.1 (equal opportunity and affirmative action); and ch. 34-37 (housing and credit)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in housing?

Yes.  The anti-discrimination laws define “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality and define “gender identity or expression” as including a “person’s actual or perceived gender” (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-6(11)(gender identity or expression) and (16)(sexual orientation) (employment); 34-37-3(9)(gender identity or expression) and (15)(sexual orientation) (housing and credit); and 11-24-2.1(h)(sexual orientation) and (i)(gender identity or expression) (public accommodations)). Thus, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay (whether they are or not), they may still invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law to challenge the firing.

What is prohibited by the housing anti-discrimination law in Rhode Island?

The housing laws are intended to prohibit discrimination by owners and their agents from refusing to sell, rent, lease, let or otherwise withhold “housing accommodations” based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, or familial status (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-3(10)(defining “housing accommodation”) and § 34-37-4 (a)). In addition, neither owners nor those who accept applications for loans or financial assistance to acquire, build, repair or maintain housing accommodations— i.e., those involved in financing— may either inquire about sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, or familial status, or discriminate on those bases (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 34-37-4(a) and (b)).

Are any landlords exempt from the housing anti-discrimination law?

Owner-occupied housing accommodations of 3 units or less are not subject to the sexual orientation or gender identity or expression portions of the law (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-4.4 (sexual orientation exemption) and § 34-37-4.5 (gender identity or expression exemption)). In addition, a religious organization or non-profit institution run by a religious organization can limit the sale, rental or occupancy of a property it owns or operates for non-commercial purposes to persons of the same religion (or give preference to such persons) unless membership in the religion is restricted on account of one of the protected categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-4.2(a)).

How do I file a claim of discrimination?

You may file a charge of discrimination in person or in writing at the Rhode Island Commission For Human Rights (RICHR), 180 Westminster Street, 3rd floor, Providence, RI 02903. If you plan to go in person, you can call in advance to set up an appointment and find out what you need to bring. Their phone number is (401) 222-2661 (voice) and 401-222-2664 (TTY). The fax number is (401) 222-2616.

The charge must be under oath and must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the name and address of the entity against which they are complaining (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

No, but GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Although the process is designed to allow people to represent themselves, there are many legal rules governing the RICHR process, and landlords and other defendants are almost certain to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the RICHR within one year of the discriminatory act or acts (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-17(a); 34-37-5 (b); see Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 4.05). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was fired both because I am transgender and Latina?

Yes, you can file several claims if you have suffered discriminatory treatment based on more than one personal characteristic. The state antidiscrimination laws for housing forbid taking an action against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), disability, age, country of ancestral origin, marital status, familial status, military status and associating with members of a protected class, status as a victim of domestic violence and housing status (R.I. Gen. Laws, § 34-37-4 (a)).

What happens after a charge is filed with the RICHR?

The RICHR may initiate a preliminary investigation in an employment, credit, housing, or public accommodations case. If the RICHR determines it is probable that a defendant is or was engaged in unlawful practices, then the RICHR shall attempt to eliminate the unlawful practices by “informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion” (See, e.g., R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-17(a) and § 34-37-5(b); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 5.02).

If conciliation is unsuccessful, or at any time when the circumstances warrant (including before investigation in egregious cases), the RICHR may serve a complaint and notice of hearing on the respondent. This process involves a trial type hearing but is not as formal as an actual trial in court. This process must be commenced within 2 years of when the complainant first filed his or her charge with the RICHR (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-18; 34-37-5).

After the RICHR rules (either because it has found no probable cause to proceed, or because it has ruled on the merits after a hearing), any complainant, intervener, or respondent claiming to be aggrieved by a final order of the commission may obtain judicial review in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-28; 34-37-6).

There are a few times when the case can be taken from the RICHR and filed in court. For example:

  • Once the complaint has been pending at the RICHR for at least 120 days, (but less than 2 years and before any conciliation agreement has been made), the complainant may request permission to remove the case from the RICHR. That request should be granted, and the complainant then has 90 days from when he or she receives a “right to sue” letter to file the case in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24.1(a) and § 34-37-5(l); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 17.01).
  • After the RICHR finds probable cause to credit the allegations in a complaint, either party may elect to terminate the proceedings at the RICHR and file in court as long as they do so within the strict timelines set by the RICHR rules (See R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-24.1(c) and § 34-37-5(n)).
  • In addition, in housing cases, the RICHR may go to court to seek an order forbidding the respondent from selling, renting or otherwise disposing of the property at issue while the case is pending (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-5(m)).

If probable cause is found lacking, the case is over unless you seek judicial review of the “lack of probable cause” finding. There are special rules and time constraints on this process which must be observed strictly (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-28 and § 34-37-6).

What are the legal remedies the RICHR may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

In all cases alleging different treatment discrimination, the remedies for a successful complainant in an intentional discrimination case may include compensatory damages (including for emotional distress), attorney’s fees (including expert fees and other litigation expenses), cease and desist orders, and any other action which will effectuate the purpose of the anti-discrimination laws (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24 (b)(employment); § 34-37-5(h) (housing cases); § 11-24-4 (public accommodations cases); Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 12.02).

In housing cases, the RICHR is also empowered to impose civil fines, with increasing severity depending on whether the offender has committed other discriminatory acts in the past (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-5(h)(2)).

When complainants prevail in court, the remedies named above may be awarded, as well as punitive damages when the challenged conduct is shown to be motivated by malice or ill will, or when the action involves reckless or callous indifference to the statutorily protected rights of others (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-29.1 (employment); § 11-24-4 (public accommodations); § 34-37-5 (o) (3) (housing)). The only exception is that punitive damages may not be awarded against the State.

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Persons who identify as LGBTQ+ and believe they have experienced housing discrimination because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity can assert their rights under the Fair Housing Act by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can find more detailed information about the protections HUD provides to LGBTQ+ people here: Housing Discrimination and Persons Identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and/or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ+)

There is information about filing a housing discrimination complaint with HUD here: File a Complaint – Main Page | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The form for submitting a complaint can be found here: https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_12150.PDF

HUD views LGBTQ+ discrimination as a form of “sex” discrimination, so if you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should indicate “sex” as the discrimination factor.

A HUD complaint must be filed within one year of the last act of discrimination.  The statute of limitations for bringing fair housing complaints in federal courts is not later than two years after the occurrence or the termination of an alleged discriminatory housing practice.   However, if an administrative case is filed with HUD, the statute of limitations is tolled during the period of time in which HUD is evaluating the complaint.  In English, what that means is that the time HUD has the case does not count when calculating the two year statute of limitations.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHRO, HUD, or both, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done. In addition, you may wish to bring a court case to address other claims which are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies, e.g. if you landlord is not meeting his obligation to provide a safe living space. 

What can I do if my landlord evicts me for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal to retaliate in these circumstances, and the tenant could file an additional complaint for retaliation. 

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still residing under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their housing, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Even if you have been evicted, you may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information to make an informed choice.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them); what happened; who said what; and who else was present. Bring a copy of your lease, along with any notices and letters you have received from your landlord. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the RICHR complaint process see: http://www.richr.ri.gov/filecharge/index.php

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

For information about the HUD complaint process see:

Learn About the FHEO Complaint and Investigation Process | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Passage of important LGBTQ+ equality bills: Rhode Island Celebrates Passage of Important LGBTQ Equality Bills – GLAD 

Discrimination | Employment | Rhode Island

Does Rhode Island have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in employment?

Yes. Since 1995, Rhode Island has had a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations and has included sexual orientation under its equal opportunity and affirmative action law. In 2001, Rhode Island added gender identity or expression to each of these statutory protections (R.I. Gen. Laws, ch. 11-24 (public accommodations); ch. 28-5 (employment); ch. 28-5.1 (equal opportunity and affirmative action); and ch. 34-37 (housing and credit)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD

Does it also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in employment?

Yes. The anti-discrimination laws define “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality and define “gender identity or expression” as including a “person’s actual or perceived gender” (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-6(11) (gender identity or expression) and (16)(sexual orientation) (employment); 34-37-3(9)(gender identity or expression) and (15)(sexual orientation) (housing and credit); and 11-24-2.1(h)(sexual orientation) and (i)(gender identity or expression) (public accommodations)). Thus, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay (whether they are or not), they may still invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law to challenge the firing.

What does the law forbid? To whom does the law apply?

The anti-discrimination law applies to all public employers and private employers who employ 4 or more individuals (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-6 (8)(i)).

It forbids employers from refusing to hire a person, or discharging them, or discriminating against them in compensation, in terms, conditions or privileges of employment or in any other matter directly or indirectly related to employment because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7 (1)). Beyond hiring and firing, this covers most significant job actions, such as failure to promote, demotion, excessive discipline, harassment and different treatment of the employee and similarly situated co-workers. It also prohibits an employer from inquiring about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression either in a job application or during a job interview or maintaining such information unless based on a certified bona fide occupational qualification or where necessary to comply with a federal affirmative action plan (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7(4)).

The law also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations (e.g. unions) (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-7 (2) and (3)).

It should be noted that all educational programs and activities of state agencies as well as all state employment services are required to be open to all without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5.1(8) and (9)).

As broad as the law is, there are several exemptions.

  • Employers with fewer than 4 employees are exempt (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-6(8)(i)).
  • An employer, employment agency or labor organization may seek a certification from the R.I. Commission for Human Rights that it is a “bona fide occupational qualification” of a particular position that it not be filled by someone otherwise protected by the law such as an LGBTQ+ person (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7 (4)). While this immunity is allowed in the law, it is strictly applied and very rarely successful.
  • The employment discrimination statute does not apply “to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of its religion to perform work connected with the carrying on of its activities” (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-6(8)(ii)). This exemption, however, is not a carte blanche for an employer to use his or her religious beliefs as a justification for discrimination.
  • By the law’s definition of “sexual orientation,” it does not “impose any duty on a religious organization” (See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-6 (16); 34-37-3(15) and 11-24-2.1(h)). That restriction on the reach of the non-discrimination law does not apply to the law’s protections on the basis of gender identity or expression.

It is important to note that unlawful employment practices in Rhode Island also include practices which have a “disparate impact” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (or other characteristics) when the employer is unable to show that the practice or group of practices in question is required by “business necessity” (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7.2). This can be important to combat discrimination based on policies or practices that are not LGBTQ-specific but harm LGBTQ+ people more than others.

Does the Rhode Island law prohibit sexual harassment on the job?

Yes, by case law, sexual harassment is forbidden as sex discrimination (See, e.g., Iacampo v. Hasbro, Inc., 929 F. Supp. 562 (D.R.I. 1996)).

In addition, employers with at least 50 employees and employment agencies must develop and disseminate to their workers anti-sexual harassment policies in their workplaces (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-51-1(a); and 28-51-2 (a), (b)). The law also strongly encourages employers to train employees on the scope of the policy (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-51-2 (c)).

For purposes of this statute, “sexual harassment” is defined as:

Any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to such conduct or advances or requests is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment; or
  • Submission to such conduct or advances or requests by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  • Such conduct or advances or requests have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-51-1(b)).

Can a gay or transgender person be sexually harassed?

It is just as unlawful to sexually harass an LGBTQ+ individual as it is to harass anyone else. Some harassment is specifically anti-gay and may be more fairly characterized as harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. Similarly, some harassment may be specifically anti-transgender and may be pursued more appropriately as discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Other harassment is sexual in nature and more appropriately categorized as “sexual harassment.” Each type of harassment can happen to the same person, and all are forbidden (See R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7(1)(v) (recognizing need for response to complaints of harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in addition to that based on sex)).

Moreover, that the sex of the harasser and the victim is the same does not defeat a claim of sexual harassment. Same-sex sexual harassment has been held to violate both state and federal anti-discrimination laws (See Mann v. Lima, 290 F. Supp. 2d 190, 194 (D.R.I. 2003)(applying Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 79-81 (198);  see also R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-44-17 (sexual harassment against members of either sex may constitute “good cause” for quitting job under unemployment laws)).

How do I file a claim of discrimination?

You may file a charge of discrimination in person or in writing at the Rhode Island Commission For Human Rights (RICHR), 180 Westminster Street, 3rd floor, Providence, RI 02903. If you plan to go in person, you can call in advance to set up an appointment and find out what you need to bring. Their phone number is (401) 222-2661 (voice) and 401-222-2664 (TTY). The fax number is (401) 222-2616.

The charge must be under oath and must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the name and address of the entity against which he or she is complaining (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

No, but GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Although the process is designed to allow people to represent themselves, there are many legal rules governing the RICHR process, and employers and other defendants are almost certain to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the RICHR within one year of the discriminatory act or acts (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-17(a); 34-37-5 (b); see Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 4.05). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was fired both because I am a lesbian and Latina?

Yes, you can file several claims if you have suffered discriminatory treatment based on more than one personal characteristic. The state antidiscrimination laws for employment and public accommodations forbid taking an action against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), disability, age, or country of ancestral origin (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-24-2 and § 28-5-7 (1)(i)).

What happens after a charge is filed with the RICHR?

The RICHR may initiate a preliminary investigation in an employment, credit, housing, or public accommodations case. If the RICHR determines it is probable that a defendant is or was engaged in unlawful practices, then the RICHR shall attempt to eliminate the unlawful practices by “informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion” (See, e.g., R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-17(a) and § 34-37-5(b); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 5.02).

If conciliation is unsuccessful, or at any time when the circumstances so warrant (including before investigation in egregious cases), the RICHR may serve a complaint and notice of hearing on the respondent. This process involves a trial type hearing but is not as formal as an actual trial in court. This process must be commenced within 2 years of when the complainant first filed his or her charge with the RICHR (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-18; 34-37-5).

After the RICHR rules (either because it has found no probable cause to proceed, or because it has ruled on the merits after a hearing), any complainant, intervener, or respondent claiming to be aggrieved by a final order of the commission may obtain judicial review in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-28; 34-37-6).

There are a few times when the case can be taken from the RICHR and filed in court. For example:

  • Once the complaint has been pending at the RICHR for at least 120 days, (but less than 2 years and before any conciliation agreement has been made), the complainant may request permission to remove the case from the RICHR. That request should be granted, and the complainant then has 90 days from when he or she receives a “right to sue” letter to file the case in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24.1(a) and § 34-37-5(l); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 17.01).
  • After the RICHR finds probable cause to credit the allegations in a complaint, either party may elect to terminate the proceedings at the RICHR and file in court as long as they do so within the strict timelines set by the RICHR rules (See R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-24.1(c) and § 34-37-5(n)).
  • In addition, in housing cases, the RICHR may go to court to seek an order forbidding the respondent from selling, renting or otherwise disposing of the property at issue while the case is pending (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-5(m)).

If probable cause is found lacking, the case is over unless you seek judicial review of the “lack of probable cause” finding. There are special rules and time constraints on this process which must be observed strictly (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-28 and § 34-37-6).

What are the legal remedies the RICHR may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

In all cases alleging different treatment discrimination, the remedies for a successful complainant in an intentional discrimination case may include compensatory damages (including for emotional distress), attorney’s fees (including expert fees and other litigation expenses), cease and desist orders, and any other action which will effectuate the purpose of the anti-discrimination laws (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24 (b)(employment); § 34-37-5(h) (housing cases); § 11-24-4 (public accommodations cases); Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 12.02).

In addition, in employment cases, a successful complaint may be entitled to a remedy involving hiring, reinstatement or upgrading of employment, back pay, and admission or restoration to union membership (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24 (a)(1)). If the adverse job action was taken against the individual for a variety of reasons, and sexual orientation or gender identity or expression was not the sole motivating factor, the RICHR may limit the damages awarded.

When complainants prevail in court, the remedies named above may be awarded, as well as punitive damages when the challenged conduct is shown to be motivated by malice or ill will, or when the action involves reckless or callous indifference to the statutorily protected rights of others (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-29.1 (employment); § 11-24-4 (public accommodations); § 34-37-5 (o) (3) (housing)). The only exception is that punitive damages may not be awarded against the State.

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Federal employment non-discrimination law, called Title VII, applies to employers with at least 15 employees. 

Someone who brings a claim of discrimination may sometimes pursue protections under both state and federal law. This is true because there may be overlapping provisions of state and federal law. For example, Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, and disability (which includes HIV status), but does not expressly forbid discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

However, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020, see: 17-1618 Bostock v. Clayton County (06/15/2020), the Supreme Court held that firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex. For more information on how the EEOC enforces discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees, see: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Discrimination | US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

GLAD recommends that, where there may be overlapping state and federal jurisdiction, you explore filing with RICHR first but keep in mind the possibility of pursuing a federal claim as well. If you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should check off “sex” as well as “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as the bases for your claim and request that RICHR cross-file your complaint with the EEOC.

Federal complaints must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, if you initially institute your complaint with RICHR and indicate that you wish to have the complaint cross-filed with the EEOC, then the time limit is extended to the earlier of 300 days or 30 days after MCAD has terminated the case (34 United States Code 42 sec. 2000e-5(e)(1)). NOTE: If you intend to file with both RICHR and cross-file with the EEOC, you must do so within 300 days, not the usual 1 year. (People who work for federal agencies are beyond the scope of this publication.)

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

Union: If you are a member of a union, your contract (collective bargaining agreement) may provide additional rights to you in the event of discipline, discharge or other job-related actions. In fact, if you obtain relief under your contract, you may decide not to pursue other remedies. Obtain and read a copy of your contract and contact a union steward about filing a complaint. Deadlines in contracts are strict. Bear in mind that if your union refuses to assist you with a complaint, you may have a discrimination action against them for their failure to work with you, or for failure of duty of fair representation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the RICHR, the EEOC, or both, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file the case in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done, as discussed above. 

In addition, you may file a court case to address other claims which are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies. For example, if you are fired in violation of a contract; fired without the progressive discipline promised in a handbook; or fired for doing something the employer doesn’t like but which the law requires, then these matters are beyond the scope of what the agencies can investigate and the matter should be pursued in court. Similarly, if your claim involves a violation of constitutional rights, such as a teacher or governmental employee who believes his or her free speech or equal protection rights were violated, then those matters must be heard in court.

What can I do if my employer fires me for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal to retaliate in these circumstances, and the employee could file an additional complaint for retaliation. If an employer, employment agency or labor organization discriminates against you in any manner because you have opposed a forbidden practice or have made a charge, testified or assisted in a complaint filed under the antidiscrimination laws, then you can state a claim of retaliation ( R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7 (5) and § 34-37-4(m). See also R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-51-2(b)(1)(ii) (“Every employer shall adopt a policy against sexual harassment which shall include a statement that it is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint of sexual harassment of for cooperating in an investigation of sexual harassment”); Provencher v. CVS Pharmacy, 76 F.E.P. Cases (BNA) 1569 (1st Cir. 1998)(upholding federal retaliation claim of gay man). The U.S. Supreme Court has broadly interpreted the anti-retaliation provisions in federal anti-discrimination laws. See Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-GLAD (4523) to talk about options.

As a general matter, people who are still working under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their job, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Even if you have been fired, you may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information to make an informed choice.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened on the job that you are complaining about, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them); what happened; who said what; and who else was present. Try to have on hand copies of your employee handbooks or personnel manuals, as well as any contracts, job evaluations, memos, discharge letters and the like. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the RICHR complaint process see: http://www.richr.ri.gov/filecharge/index.php

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD

For more information about filing an EEOC discrimination complaint see: How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination.

Passage of important LGBTQ+ equality bills: https://www.glad.org/post/rhode-island-celebrates-passage-of-important-LGBTQ+-equality-bills/ 

 

Discrimination | Credit, Lending & Services | Rhode Island

Does Rhode Island have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in credit, lending and services?

Yes. Since 1995, Rhode Island has had a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations and has included sexual orientation under its equal opportunity and affirmative action law. In 2001, Rhode Island added gender identity or expression to each of these statutory protections (R.I. Gen. Laws, ch. 11-24 (public accommodations); ch. 28-5 (employment); ch. 28-5.1 (equal opportunity and affirmative action); and ch. 34-37 (housing and credit)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in credit, lending and services?

Yes. The anti-discrimination laws define “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality and define “gender identity or expression” as including a “person’s actual or perceived gender” (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-6(11)(gender identity or expression) and (16)(sexual orientation) (employment); 34-37-3(9)(gender identity or expression) and (15)(sexual orientation) (housing and credit); and 11-24-2.1(h)(sexual orientation) and (i)(gender identity or expression) (public accommodations)). Thus, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay (whether they are or not), they may still invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law to challenge the firing.

What protections exist under Rhode Island anti-discrimination law with regard to credit?

Financial organizations such as banks, trust companies, savings banks, loan and investment banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions and any other commercial credit institution (this non-discrimination provision applies to any “financial organization governed by the provision of title 19 or any other credit granting commercial institution.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-4.3). may not discriminate in granting or extending any form of loan or credit because of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or marital or familial status (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-4.3).

How do I file a claim of discrimination?

You may file a charge of discrimination in person or in writing at the Rhode Island Commission For Human Rights (RICHR), 180 Westminster Street, 3rd floor, Providence, RI 02903. If you plan to go in person, you can call in advance to set up an appointment and find out what you need to bring. Their phone number is (401) 222-2661 (voice) and 401-222-2664 (TTY). The fax number is (401) 222-2616.

The charge must be under oath and must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the name and address of the entity against which he or she is complaining (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

No, but GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Although the process is designed to allow people to represent themselves, there are many legal rules governing the RICHR process, and banks and other defendants are almost certain to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the RICHR within one year of the discriminatory act or acts (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-17(a); 34-37-5 (b); see Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 4.05). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was discriminated against both because I am transgender and Latina?

Yes, you can file several claims if you have suffered discriminatory treatment based on more than one personal characteristic. The state antidiscrimination laws credit forbid taking an action against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), disability, age, or country of ancestral origin or marital status, familial status, military status and associating with members of a protected class (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-4(b)).

What happens after a charge is filed with the RICHR?

The RICHR may initiate a preliminary investigation in an employment, credit, housing, or public accommodations case. If the RICHR determines it is probable that a defendant is or was engaged in unlawful practices, then the RICHR shall attempt to eliminate the unlawful practices by “informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion” (See, e.g., R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-17(a) and § 34-37-5(b); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 5.02).

If conciliation is unsuccessful, or at any time when the circumstances warrant (including before investigation in egregious cases), the RICHR may serve a complaint and notice of hearing on the respondent. This process involves a trial type hearing but is not as formal as an actual trial in court. This process must be commenced within 2 years of when the complainant first filed his or her charge with the RICHR (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-18; 34-37-5).

After the RICHR rules (either because it has found no probable cause to proceed, or because it has ruled on the merits after a hearing), any complainant, intervener, or respondent claiming to be aggrieved by a final order of the commission may obtain judicial review in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-28; 34-37-6).

There are a few times when the case can be taken from the RICHR and filed in court. For example:

  • Once the complaint has been pending at the RICHR for at least 120 days, (but less than 2 years and before any conciliation agreement has been made), the complainant may request permission to remove the case from the RICHR. That request should be granted, and the complainant then has 90 days from when he or she receives a “right to sue” letter to file the case in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24.1(a) and § 34-37-5(l); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 17.01).
  • After the RICHR finds probable cause to credit the allegations in a complaint, either party may elect to terminate the proceedings at the RICHR and file in court as long as they do so within the strict timelines set by the RICHR rules (See R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-24.1(c) and § 34-37-5(n)).
  • In addition, in housing cases, the RICHR may go to court to seek an order forbidding the respondent from selling, renting or otherwise disposing of the property at issue while the case is pending (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-5(m)).

If probable cause is found lacking, the case is over unless you seek judicial review of the “lack of probable cause” finding. There are special rules and time constraints on this process which must be observed strictly (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-28 and § 34-37-6).

What are the legal remedies the RICHR may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

In all cases alleging different treatment discrimination, the remedies for a successful complainant in an intentional discrimination case may include compensatory damages (including for emotional distress), attorney’s fees (including expert fees and other litigation expenses), cease and desist orders, and any other action which will effectuate the purpose of the anti-discrimination laws.

When complainants prevail in court, the remedies named above may be awarded, as well as punitive damages when the challenged conduct is shown to be motivated by malice or ill will, or when the action involves reckless or callous indifference to the statutorily protected rights of others (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-29.1 (employment); § 11-24-4 (public accommodations); § 34-37-5 (o) (3) (housing)). The only exception is that punitive damages may not be awarded against the State.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the RICHR, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from RICHR and file the case in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done, as discussed above. 

Rhode Island Division of Banking: You may be able to file a consumer complaint with this agency. For more information, see: Consumers – File a Complaint | Dept. of Business Regulation 

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-GLAD (4523) to talk about options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened on the job that you are complaining about, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them); what happened; who said what; and who else was present. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the RICHR complaint process see: How to File a Charge 

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Rhode Island Division of Banking: You may be able to file a consumer complaint with this agency. For more information, see: Consumers – File a Complaint | Dept. of Business Regulation

Discrimination | Public Accommodations | Rhode Island

What is a “place of public accommodation”?

Places of public accommodation are places that are open to the public and include, but are not limited to, stores, restaurants, bars, public transportation, garages, hotels, hospitals, clinics, rest rooms, barber shops, salons, amusement parks, gyms, golf courses, swimming pools, theaters, fairs, libraries, public housing projects, and so on (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-24-3).

Does Rhode Island have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Yes. Since 1995, Rhode Island has had a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations and has included sexual orientation under its equal opportunity and affirmative action law. In 2001, Rhode Island added gender identity or expression to each of these statutory protections (R.I. Gen. Laws, ch. 11-24 (public accommodations); ch. 28-5 (employment); ch. 28-5.1 (equal opportunity and affirmative action); and ch. 34-37 (housing and credit)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived to be LGBT in places of public accommodation?

Yes. The anti-discrimination laws define “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality and define “gender identity or expression” as including a “person’s actual or perceived gender” (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-6(11)(gender identity or expression) and (16)(sexual orientation) (employment); 34-37-3(9)(gender identity or expression) and (15)(sexual orientation) (housing and credit); and 11-24-2.1(h)(sexual orientation) and (i)(gender identity or expression) (public accommodations)). 

What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Such places shall not “directly or indirectly refuse, withhold from, or deny to any … person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of that public place,” and shall not advertise or state that their accommodations are so limited, because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (or other protected characteristics) (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-24-2).

How do I file a claim of discrimination?

You may file a charge of discrimination in person or in writing at the Rhode Island Commission For Human Rights (RICHR), 180 Westminster Street, 3rd floor, Providence, RI 02903. If you plan to go in person, you can call in advance to set up an appointment and find out what you need to bring. Their phone number is (401) 222-2661 (voice) and 401-222-2664 (TTY). The fax number is (401) 222-2616.

The charge must be under oath and must state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the name and address of the entity against which he or she is complaining (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and (preferably) the times they occurred.

Do I need a lawyer?

No, but GLAD strongly encourages people to find lawyers to represent them throughout the process. Although the process is designed to allow people to represent themselves, there are many legal rules governing the RICHR process, and defendants are almost certain to have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must generally be filed with the RICHR within one year of the discriminatory act or acts (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-17(a); 34-37-5 (b); see Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 4.05). There are very few exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims.

Can I file more than one type of discrimination complaint at once, for example, if I believe I was discriminated against because I am both a lesbian and Latina?

Yes, you can file several claims if you have suffered discriminatory treatment based on more than one personal characteristic. The state antidiscrimination laws for public accommodations forbid taking an action against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), disability, age, or country of ancestral origin (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-24-2).

What happens after a charge is filed with the RICHR?

The RICHR may initiate a preliminary investigation in an employment, credit, housing, or public accommodations case. If the RICHR determines it is probable that a defendant is or was engaged in unlawful practices, then the RICHR shall attempt to eliminate the unlawful practices by “informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion” (See, e.g., R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-17(a) and § 34-37-5(b); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 5.02).

If conciliation is unsuccessful, or at any time when the circumstances warrant (including before investigation in egregious cases), the RICHR may serve a complaint and notice of hearing on the respondent. This process involves a trial type hearing but is not as formal as an actual trial in court. This process must be commenced within 2 years of when the complainant first filed his or her charge with the RICHR (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-18; 34-37-5).

After the RICHR rules (either because it has found no probable cause to proceed, or because it has ruled on the merits after a hearing), any complainant, intervener, or respondent claiming to be aggrieved by a final order of the commission may obtain judicial review in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-28; 34-37-6).

There are a few times when the case can be taken from the RICHR and filed in court. For example:

  • Once the complaint has been pending at the RICHR for at least 120 days, (but less than 2 years and before any conciliation agreement has been made), the complainant may request permission to remove the case from the RICHR. That request should be granted, and the complainant then has 90 days from when he or she receives a “right to sue” letter to file the case in Superior Court (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24.1(a) and § 34-37-5(l); see also Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 17.01).
  • After the RICHR finds probable cause to credit the allegations in a complaint, either party may elect to terminate the proceedings at the RICHR and file in court as long as they do so within the strict timelines set by the RICHR rules (See R.I. Gen. Laws, § 28-5-24.1(c) and § 34-37-5(n)).
  • In addition, in housing cases, the RICHR may go to court to seek an order forbidding the respondent from selling, renting or otherwise disposing of the property at issue while the case is pending (R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-5(m)).

If probable cause is found lacking, the case is over unless you seek judicial review of the “lack of probable cause” finding. There are special rules and time constraints on this process which must be observed strictly (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-28 and § 34-37-6).

What are the legal remedies the RICHR may award for discrimination if an individual wins their case there?

In all cases alleging different treatment discrimination, the remedies for a successful complainant in an intentional discrimination case may include compensatory damages (including for emotional distress), attorney’s fees (including expert fees and other litigation expenses), cease and desist orders, and any other action which will effectuate the purpose of the anti-discrimination laws (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-24 (b)(employment); § 34-37-5(h) (housing cases); § 11-24-4 (public accommodations cases); Rules and Regulations of the RICHR Rule 12.02).

When complainants prevail in court, the remedies named above may be awarded, as well as punitive damages when the challenged conduct is shown to be motivated by malice or ill will, or when the action involves reckless or callous indifference to the statutorily protected rights of others (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-29.1 (employment); § 11-24-4 (public accommodations); § 34-37-5 (o) (3) (housing)). The only exception is that punitive damages may not be awarded against the State.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the RICHR, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file the case in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done, as discussed above. 

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful to bring the attorney an outline of what happened on the job that you are complaining about, organized by date and with an explanation of who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them); what happened; who said what; and who else was present.

 Resources

For more information about the RICHR complaint process see: http://www.richr.ri.gov/filecharge/index.php

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Passage of important LGBTQ equality bills: Rhode Island Celebrates Passage of Important LGBTQ Equality Bills – GLAD 

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Rhode Island, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Rhode Island, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”

Violence & Harassment | Hate Crimes & Harassment | Rhode Island

How does Rhode Island define a “hate crime”?

In Rhode Island, a hate crime is “any crime motivated by bigotry and bias, including, but not limited to threatened, attempted, or completed acts that appear after  investigation to have been motivated by racial, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or disability prejudice or motivated by prejudice against a person who is homeless or is perceived to be homeless” (R.I. Gen. Laws, § 42-28-46 (a)(2)). “Gender identity or expression” was added in 2012.

In order to track hate crimes, the State has set up a reporting system so that incidents alleged are centrally recorded (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-28-46 (b)). All police departments within the state are required to have training on identifying, responding to and reporting hate crimes (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-28.2-8.1), and must report monthly the occurrence of such crimes to the state police, who must maintain a permanent record of the offenses, categorized by community of occurrence, type of offense, and target (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-28-46 (b)).

Does Rhode Island have increased sentencing for hate crimes?

Yes, Rhode Island law establishes additional penalties for crimes motivated by hatred or animus toward the victim’s actual or perceived, religion, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or gender (R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-38(a)). Although “gender identity or expression” was added in 2012 to the definition of a “hate crime” as noted above, it has not been added to the hate crimes sentencing statute.

If it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was motivated by hatred or animus toward a person’s protected characteristic, then the person shall, for a misdemeanor, be sentenced to no less than 30 days mandatory imprisonment and, for a felony, be sentenced to an additional, consecutive term of imprisonment for not less than 1 year and no more than 5 years (R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-38(c) and (d)).

Where can I call if I think I’ve been a victim of a hate crime?

Begin by contacting the local police. Police officers do not actually charge people with hate crimes, but will need to provide the prosecutor with evidence that the crime was motivated by bias, so be sure to explain all of the factors that make you think this was a hate crime.  

You may also contact the criminal division of the Attorney General’s office at (401) 274-4400.

For support and advocacy, contact:  Day One, Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource of Rhode Island, (401) 421-4100 or (800) 494-8100. Day One RI

What other options do I have if I think I have been a victim of a hate crime?

In addition to pursuing your rights in the criminal justice system, you can contact the Office of the Civil Rights Advocate of the Attorney General’s Office at (401) 274-4400.  The Civil Rights Advocate is authorized to receive complaints, to conduct investigations, education and training, and to bring civil actions for injunctions or other equitable relief to address physical threats, trespassing, property destruction, or harassment that interfere “with the exercise or enjoyment by any other person of rights secured by the United States Constitution or the laws of the United States or of rights secured by the Constitution of Rhode Island or laws of the state.”  In addition, a fine of up to $5,000 may be imposed (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-9.3).

An injunction under this provision does not prevent you, depending on the circumstances, from seeking monetary damages for harms you experienced from the crime committed against you.

In what ways might the recently passed federal hate crimes law help to investigate and prosecute hate crimes?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed by Congress on October 22, 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009. It expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

First, and perhaps foremost, the Act allows local and state law enforcement agencies to apply for the following federal assistance from the U.S. Attorney General:

  • investigative, technical, forensic or prosecutorial support for criminal investigations and prosecutions,
  • grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and
  • grants to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

In providing assistance to local and state authorities, the priorities are hate crimes:

  • where the offender(s) has committed crimes in more than one state, or
  • that occur in rural areas which do not have the resources needed to prosecute such crimes.

Second, for hate crimes that in some way involve crossing state or national borders, or involve or affect interstate commerce, and where a state does not have jurisdiction or has requested federal assumption of jurisdiction, or where the federal government feels that justice has not been served or that U.S. prosecution is in the public interest, the Act authorizes the federal government to prosecute the case.

The Act also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups are already tracked) and on crimes committed by and against juveniles. This is the first federal law to explicitly extend legal protections to transgender persons.

Does Rhode Island have an anti-bullying law that protects public and private school students?

Yes. See the topic area “Rights & Protections” in the Issue Area “Youth.”

Resources

U.S. Department of Justice information about Rhode Island Hate Crimes: 2020 Hate Crime Statistics for Rhode Island.

Information from Rhode Island Attorney General: Hate Crimes | Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.

Rhode Island hate crime laws: STATE OF RHODE ISLAND, State Police ,Department of Public Safety.

Rhode Island Hate Crime Helpline: Hate Crime | helpline-ri

Violence & Harassment | Intimate Partner Violence | Rhode Island

What is domestic violence?

Under the laws for the Family Court and the District Court, “domestic abuse” means the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between people who are family members, parents, or persons who are or have been in a substantive dating relationship within the past year, or against the minor child of one of the parties:

  • attempting to cause or causing physical harm;
  • placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm;
  • causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress; and
  • stalking or cyberstalking (see R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-15-1 (2) (family court); § 8-8.1-1(5) (district court)).

Note that the District Court provisions prohibit abuse between “cohabitants” and apply to substantive dating relationships regardless of the age of the parties, and are thus broader than the Family Court provisions.

Do the domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?

Yes, if you are married or in a civil union. Even if you are not, some same-sex relationships are covered under the definition of “substantive dating relationship.” This includes relationships which are “significant and personal/intimate” based on the length of time of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the parties (R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-5-1 (5) and § 8-8.1-1(5)). Other relationships may be covered if partners or former partners share legal parentage of a child (R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-5-1 (3)). As well, in the District Court, partners who live together or have lived together within the past three years may be considered “cohabitants” (R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8.1-1 (1)).

How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?

The process is intended to be simple. You may go to the appropriate court (District Court or Family Court) where you live, or if you have just fled your home, you can also file in the town where you used to live. You will need to fill out a complaint alleging “abuse” as defined above. The complaint is under oath, so everything you say must be true. Try to put in as much detail as possible demonstrating why you feel threatened.

If you are in danger of harm, the Court can grant you a temporary protective order for not more than 21 days, which can include an order restraining your abuser from hurting you, barring him or her from entering your home, assigning child custody and requiring payment of child support. If the courts are closed (nights, holidays, weekends), you can contact the local or state police, who will be able to contact a judge on call to handle these matters.

The defendant/abuser must be served with (given a copy of) the court order and notified of his or her right to contest the order in court. Once the order is issued, it is filed with the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and is effective state-wide. Violation of a court order of which an abuser has notice is a criminal offense (R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-15-3 and § 8-8.1-3).

The Court will also assign a date for another hearing at which the temporary order will either be extended or dismissed. At that time, both parties often have attorneys. You should bring with you any witnesses who can substantiate the abuse, as well as copies of threatening letters, medical records, or any other documents which can show how you have been harmed and why you are afraid. Expect to be asked questions by both the judge and the attorney(s) for the abuser/defendant. You have the same right to ask questions.

If for some reason you decide not to go through with the legal process, you should show up in court anyway and ask that the order be dismissed. If you don’t show up, it is possible that the court will think you are unreliable and may hold that against you should you need legal help in the future.

There are other laws which prohibit stalking, harassing and trespassing which may apply to you, but are beyond the scope of this document.

If I go to court, will I out myself for all purposes?

Not necessarily. Some courts try to be sensitive to the fact that some people seeking orders may be closeted, or may be in a same-sex relationship which they do not want revealed. If you proceed in the District Court rather than the Family Court, you do not have to claim that you are in a “substantive dating relationship,” but only that you are cohabitants to get a protective order, and thus you may be able to conceal your sexual orientation if you choose (R.I. Gen. Laws, § 8-8.1-1).

Where can I go to get help?

In addition to the local police and district attorney, you can call:

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence at (401) 467-9940, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Helpline 24 hours every day at (800) 494-8100

Day One, the Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource Center, at (401) 421-4100 or (800) 494-8100, Day One RI.

Does domestic violence play a role in custody decisions?

Yes. Evidence that a parent has in the past, or is presently, abusing the other parent or the child is a factor showing that that parent is not acting in the best interests of the child (R.I. Gen. Laws, § 15-5-16(g)).

Resources

Information from Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Domestic Violence Helpline: Domestic Violence | helpline-ri

Cases & Advocacy

To see Violence & Harassment cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Rhode Island, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Violence & Harassment in Rhode Island, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”

Blog

As students in public schools, they have a first amendment right to peacefully express their views about the LGBT community, and GLAD has the tools to help students in those hard situations.

At my high school, the Day of Silence was seen as an excuse for the football team to wear t-shirts with cruel slogans written on them and not get in trouble; things like “Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve” and worse, “Exit, not Entrance” on their backs with arrows pointing down. Needless to say, our school was not the most welcoming to LGBTQ kids. Despite the threats and the public shaming (even from teachers, who docked participation grades for those choosing to be silent) there were still some who proudly let their silence speak volumes for their community and for themselves. My senior year, I finally decided to join them. Though I was not out to myself yet, on that day I was silent for my brother. dos-wordcloud-11 As the Day of Silence is in its 19th year, originating at the University of Virginia in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests with over 150 participants, I am reminded that my experience is not unique. There have been countless studies on these issues to date confirming what students see every day in their classrooms, that LGBTQ students are not only silenced, but are disproportionately punished for being themselves when they enter their schools. It’s Not Your Imagination: LGBTQ Youth Are Disproportionately Punished in School from GLAD’s Youth Initiative Director Vickie Henry and GLAD Legal Assistant Michelle Wiener, outlines a number of these statistics and sources showing the unsettling truth about how hard it is to be an LGBTQ student in the modern climate of education. itsnotyourimagination-infographic-rightspacing Since the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) became the official organizational sponsor of the Day of Silence in 2001 it has reached students from around the world. In 2014 GLSEN reported that there were participants from schools in America, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, and many more in between. The Day of Silence is now one of the largest student-led actions in the United States.
We are silent for each other, we are silent for our classmates, we are silent for our students…
Beyond organizing the Day of Silence, GLSEN continues to report on the climate of schools in America and works to further educate people on the issues that are so actively oppressing LGBTQ students. The 2013 National School Climate Survey they produced reports on a number of issues including hearing biased language, experiences of harassment and assault, anti-LGBT discrimination at school, availability and impact of supportive school resources, and many more important statistics that schools across the nation should be aware of. Below is a short introduction on what the climate survey has found.
YouTube video
An important start to altering the climate of schools lies in the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and other LGBTQ clubs. GLAD is committed to helping youth achieve just that, with our ongoing initiative to get students the support and the information they need. Below is our video outlining a few of the basic steps in starting a GSA, and we can always be reached through our GLAD Answers information service, staffed by volunteers dedicated to educating LGBTQ people in the New England States on their rights.
YouTube video
If a student you know is having trouble getting support from their school to participate in the Day of Silence, please have them contact GLAD Answers! As students in public schools, they have a first amendment right to peacefully express their views about the LGBT community, and GLAD has the tools to help students in those hard situations. On the Day of Silence in 2010, I was silent for my brother six years my senior, who was braver than I had ever been to be gay, proud, and not let the world he was subjected to shake him. Today we are silent for our brothers, sisters, gender non-conforming, and transgender siblings in this movement; for our chosen family; for our elders, and their courage to be who they are unapologetically. We are silent for each other, we are silent for our classmates, we are silent for our students, and optimistic that we are getting closer to ending the violence and punishment they endure as LGBTQ youth, one day at a time.

Know Your Rights: LGBTQ Rights in Maine

Discrimination

Public Accommodations

Employment (jump to section)

Credit, Lending & Services (jump to section)

Housing (jump to section)

Violence & Harassment

Hate Crimes & Harassment (jump to section)

Intimate Partner Violence (jump to section)

Discrimination | Public Accommodations | Maine

Maine Public Accommodations Q&A

What is a place of public accommodation?

A place of public accommodation means a facility operated by a private or public entity whose operations fall into categories such as lodging, restaurants, entertainment, public gathering, retail stores, service establishments, transportation, museums, libraries, recreation facilities, exercise or health facilities, schools and educational institutions, social service establishments, or government buildings. Generally, any establishment that caters to, or offers its goods, facilities or services to, or solicits or accepts patronage from the general public is a place of public accommodation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (8) (definition of “public accommodation”)).

Does Maine have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Yes. On November 8, 2005, Maine voters agreed to keep in place a law, LD 1196, “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation”, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in the spring of 2005. The law went into effect on December 28, 2005.

The law provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation which is defined as “… a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (9-C)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived as LGBTQ+ in places of public accommodation?

Yes. The non-discrimination law specifically covers people who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?

The law makes it illegal for places of public accommodation to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or “… in any manner withhold from or deny the full and equal enjoyment … of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, services or privileges of public accommodation.”  The law also makes it illegal to advertise that any place of public accommodation is restricted to people of a particular sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4592 (1)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination? What happens after I file?

You should contact the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) at (207) 624-6050, or at State House Station #51, Augusta, ME 04333-0051, or on the web at http://www.state.me.us/mhrc/index.shtml. The Commission prefers for people to file complaints in writing. For an FAQ about this process, see: https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/about/faq.

The complaint must be under oath, state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and the times they occurred (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611).

Once a complaint is timely filed, a Commissioner or investigator will seek to resolve the matter. If he or she cannot do so, the Commission will proceed with an investigation to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination has occurred. The Commission has extensive powers during the course of the investigation. Among other things, it can examine persons, places and documents, and require attendance at a fact finding hearing, and issue subpoenas for persons or documents.

If the Commissioner or investigator concludes:

  • there are no reasonable grounds, then it will dismiss the case, and the complainant may file a new case in the Superior Court (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612);
  • there are reasonable grounds, then it will try to resolve the matter through settlement (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Once the Commission process is complete, and if settlement has failed, a person can file an action for relief in court. A person may also request a “right to sue” letter from the MHRC if there has been no court action filed and no conciliation agreement in place within 180 days of filing the complaint (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612 (6)). The person may then file an action in the Superior Court (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4621). In some situations, the Commission may file an action in court on your behalf (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find a lawyer to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the MHRC process, but the respondents will almost certainly have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must be filed with the MHRC within 300 days of the discriminatory act or acts (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611). There are virtually no exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Actions filed in Superior Court must generally be filed “not more than 2 years after the act of unlawful discrimination complained of” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4613(2)(C)).

What are the legal remedies for discrimination?

This is a complicated area and depends on a variety of factors, including the type of discrimination and its intersection with federal laws.

As a general matter, the MHRC tries to resolve cases in which reasonable cause is found. It is not empowered to award emotional distress damages or attorney’s fees, but the parties may agree to whatever terms are mutually satisfactory for resolving the issue (94-348 Rules of Maine Human Rights Com’n secs. 2.07, 2.08. 2.09. Available at http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).

As a general matter, if a person has filed with the MHRC, completed the process there, and later files his or her case in court, then a full range of compensatory and injunctive relief is available (5 Me. Rev. Stat. secs. 4613, 4614). If a discrimination complainant takes his or her case to court without first filing at the MHRC, then only injunctive relief is available in court, such as a cease and desist order, or an order to do training or post notices (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4622).

The relief ordered by a court may include: (a) hiring, reinstatement and back pay in employment cases; (b) an order to rent or sell a specified housing accommodation (or one that is substantially identical), along with damages of up to three times any excessive price demanded, and civil penal damages, to the victim in housing cases; and (c) in all cases, where the individual has exhausted the MHRC process, an order for attorney’s fees, civil penal damages, cease and desist orders, and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices).

Can I claim discrimination on a basis other than sexual orientation?

Yes, but only if you are treated differently because of a personal characteristic protected by Maine law.

In public accommodations, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin, as well as sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (8) (definition), 4592 (prohibition)).

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the MHRC, a person may decide to remove his or her discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done.

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful if you bring to your attorney an outline or diary of what happened. It is best if the information is organized by date and explains who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them), as well as what happened, who said what, and who was present for any important conversations or incidents. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the MHRC complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Maine, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Maine, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

Employment | Discrimination | Maine

Maine Discrimination Q&A

Does Maine have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in employment?

Yes. On November 8, 2005, Maine voters agreed to keep in place a law, LD 1196, “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation”, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in the spring of 2005. The law went into effect December 28, 2005.

The law provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation which is defined as “… a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (9-C)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived as LGBT in employment?

Yes. The non-discrimination law specifically covers people who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

To whom does the non-discrimination law apply and what does it forbid?

The non-discrimination law applies to governmental employers (local and state) and private employers with any number of employees (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (4) (definition of employer)). It forbids employers from refusing to hire, or discharging, or discriminating against the employee with respect to any employment matter, including hiring, tenure, promotion, transfer, compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Nor may an employer use any employment agency that discriminates (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4572 (1)(A)). Harassment based on sexual orientation is included within “terms and conditions” of employment.

Employment agencies may not refuse to: classify properly; refer their customers for employment; or otherwise discriminate because of sexual orientation. Labor organizations (e.g. unions) may not deny apprenticeship, membership or any membership rights or otherwise penalize or discriminate against their members because of sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4572 (1)(B) & (C)).

The law also forbids any employer, employment agency, or labor organization, prior to employment or membership, from eliciting or recording information about a person’s sexual orientation, printing any advertisement indicating any preference or limitation based on sexual orientation, or having a system of denying or limiting employment or membership opportunities based on sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4572 (1)(D)).

Does the law apply to every employer?

No, there is a religious exemption that provides:

“Employer” does not include a religious or fraternal corporation or association, not organized for private profit and in fact not conducted for private profit, with respect to employment of its members of the same religion, sect or fraternity, except for purposes of disability-related discrimination, in which case the corporation or association is considered to be an employer (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (4) (definition of “employer”)).

This appears to mean that certain non-profit religious entities (not individuals) are exempt from the law, and a religious organization may require all applicants and employees to conform to the religious tenets of that organization (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4573-A (2)). The full scope of this exemption may be sorted out in specific court cases.

Does Maine law forbid sexual harassment?

Yes, sexual harassment is expressly prohibited by state law.

“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment” (94-348 Rules of Maine Human Rights Com’n, 3.06 I (1). Available at: http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).

Both the United States Supreme Court and several state courts have found same-sex sexual harassment to violate sexual harassment laws. Compare Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services (9523 U.S. 75 (1998), man can sue for sexual harassment by other men under federal sexual harassment laws)) to Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co. (424 Mass. 285, 676 N.E.2d 45 (1997), (same-sex sexual harassment forbidden under Massachusetts state law)).

Are there any protections from sexual orientation harassment?

Yes. In September 2007, the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) adopted amendments to its employment and housing rules that expressly acknowledged the existence of sexual orientation harassment (see generally 94-348 Me. Hum Rights Comm’n Reg. Ch. 3, § 3.12. Available at: http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html). Under these rules, unwelcome comments, jokes, acts, and other verbal or physical conduct on the basis of sexual orientation constitute harassment when:

  1. submission to this conduct is a condition of employment or a term of membership in a union;
  2. submission to or rejection of this conduct is used as a basis for a decision made by unions or employers that affect the individual;
  3. such conduct interferes or attempts to interfere with the individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or union environment (94-348 Me. Hum Rights Comm’n Reg. Ch. 3, § 3.12 (1) (a) – (c). Available at: http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).

Employers or labor organizations are responsible for their actions and for those of their employees with respect to sexual orientation harassment (94-348 Me. Hum Rights Comm’n Reg. Ch. 3, § 3.12 (2). Available at: http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination? What happens after I file?

You should contact the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) at (207) 624-6050, or at State House Station #51, Augusta, ME 04333-0051, or on the web at http://www.state.me.us/mhrc/index.shtml. The Commission prefers for people to file complaints in writing. For an FAQ about this process, see: https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/about/faq.

The complaint must be under oath, state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and the times they occurred (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611).

Once a complaint is timely filed, a Commissioner or investigator will seek to resolve the matter. If he or she cannot do so, the Commission will proceed with an investigation to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination has occurred. The Commission has extensive powers during the course of the investigation. Among other things, it can examine persons, places and documents, and require attendance at a fact finding hearing, and issue subpoenas for persons or documents.

If the Commissioner or investigator concludes:

  • there are  no reasonable grounds, it will dismiss the case, and the complainant may file a new case in the Superior Court (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612);
  • there are reasonable grounds, it will try to resolve the matter through settlement (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Once the Commission process is complete, and if settlement has failed, a person can file an action for relief in court. A person may also request a “right to sue” letter from the MHRC if there has been no court action filed and no conciliation agreement in place within 180 days of filing the complaint (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612 (6)). The person may then file an action in the Superior Court (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4621). In some situations, the Commission may file an action in court on your behalf (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find a lawyer to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the MHRC process, but employers and other respondents will almost certainly have legal representation. 

GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must be filed with the MHRC within 300 days of the discriminatory act or acts (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611). There are virtually no exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Actions filed in Superior Court must generally be filed “not more than 2 years after the act of unlawful discrimination complained of” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4613(2)(C)).

What are the legal remedies for discrimination?

This is a complicated area and depends on a variety of factors, including the type of discrimination and its intersection with federal laws.

As a general matter, the MHRC tries to resolve cases in which reasonable cause is found. It is not empowered to award emotional distress damages or attorney’s fees, but the parties may agree to whatever terms are mutually satisfactory for resolving the issue (94-348 Rules of Maine Human Rights Com’n secs. 2.07, 2.08. 2.09. Available at http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).

As a general matter, if a person has filed with the MHRC, completed the process there, and later files his or her case in court, then a full range of compensatory and injunctive relief is available (5 Me. Rev. Stat. secs. 4613, 4614). If a discrimination complainant takes his or her case to court without first filing at the MHRC, then only injunctive relief is available in court, such as a cease and desist order, or an order to do training or post notices (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4622).

The relief ordered by a court may include: 

(a) hiring, reinstatement and back pay in employment cases; 

(b) an order to rent or sell a specified housing accommodation (or one that is substantially identical), along with damages of up to three times any excessive price demanded, and civil penal damages, to the victim in housing cases; and 

(c) in all cases, where the individual has exhausted the MHRC process, an order for attorney’s fees, civil penal damages, cease and desist orders, and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices).

Can I claim discrimination on a basis other than sexual orientation?

Yes, but only if you are treated differently because of a personal characteristic protected by Maine law.

The present non-discrimination laws for employment forbid taking action against someone because of race, color, sex, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, or because a person previously filed a worker’s compensation claim, as well as sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4572. 44).

Can I also file a complaint a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Federal employment non-discrimination law, called Title VII, applies to employers with at least 15 employees. 

Someone who brings a claim of discrimination may sometimes pursue protections under both state and federal law. This is true because there may be overlapping provisions of state and federal law. For example, Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, and disability (which includes HIV status), but does not expressly forbid discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

However, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020, see: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/17-1618_hfci.pdf), the Supreme Court held that firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination. For more information on how the EEOC enforces discrimination against LGBT employees, see: https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-sogi-discrimination.

GLAD recommends that, where there may be overlapping state and federal jurisdiction, you explore filing with MCAD first but keep in mind the possibility of pursuing a federal claim as well. If you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should check off “sex” as well as “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” as the bases for your claim and request that MCAD cross-file your complaint with the EEOC.

Federal complaints must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, if you initially institute your complaint with MCAD and indicate that you wish to have the complaint cross-filed with the EEOC, then the time limit is extended to the earlier of 300 days or 30 days after MCAD has terminated the case (34 United States Code 42 sec. 2000e-5(e)(1)). (People who work for federal agencies are beyond the scope of this publication).

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

  1. Union: If you are a member of a union, your contract (collective bargaining agreement) may provide additional rights to you in the event of discipline, discharge or other job-related actions. In fact, if you obtain relief under your contract, you may decide not to pursue other remedies. Get and read a copy of your contract and contact a union steward about filing a grievance. Deadlines in contracts are strict. Bear in mind that if your union refuses to assist you with a complaint, you may have a discrimination action against it for its failure to work with you, or for failure of duty of fair representation.
  2. State or Federal Court: After filing with the MHRC or EEOC, a person may decide to remove his or her discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done.
  3. If you want to file a civil action directly in Superior Court, and not have the Maine Human Rights Commission investigate your complaint, and if your complaint has been filed with the Commission for 180 days or more, you may ask for a Right-to-Sue letter. The Commission will issue you the letter, and immediately stop investigation of your complaint of discrimination. The deadline for filing a court action is the greater of either 2 years after the act of alleged discrimination or 90 days from a dismissal, right-to-sue letter, or failed conciliation.

In addition, a person may file a court case to address other claims that are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies. For example:

  • If a person is fired in violation of a contract or fired without the progressive discipline promised in a handbook, or fired for doing something the employer doesn’t like but which the law requires, then these matters are beyond the scope of what the agencies can investigate and the matter can be pursued in court.
  • If a person has a claim for a violation of constitutional rights, such as a teacher or other governmental employee who believes his or her free speech or equal protection rights were violated, then those matters must be heard in court.

What can I do if my employer fires me for filing a complaint of discrimination?

It is illegal to retaliate in these circumstances, and the employee could file an additional complaint against the employer for retaliation. “Retaliation” protections cover those who participate in MHRC proceedings or otherwise oppose unlawful conduct, whether as a complainant or as a witness. If the employer takes action against an employee because of that conduct, then the employee can state a claim of retaliation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4572 (1)(E). See also Provencher v. CVS Pharmacy, 76 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1569 (1st Cir.(N.H.) 1998) (upholding federal retaliation claim of gay man)).

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at https://www.glad.org/know-your-rights/glad-answers/ or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

In evaluating your potential claims, you have the right to request a complete copy of your personnel file at any time (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 7071 (Employee right to request personnel file)). Personnel files are the official record of your employment and are an invaluable source of information (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 7070 (Definition of personnel record)).

Whether you leave a job voluntarily or not, be cautious about signing any documents admitting to wrongdoing, or that waive your legal rights, or that are a supposed summary of what you said in an exit interview. Sometimes employees are upset or scared at the time they are terminating employment, but the documents will likely be enforceable against you later. Please be cautious.

As a general matter, people who are still working under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their job, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Of course, even if a person has been fired, he or she may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information and advice to make an informed decision.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful if you bring to your attorney an outline or diary of what happened on the job that you are complaining about. It is best if the information is organized by date and explains who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them), as well as what happened, who said what, and who was present for any important conversations or incidents. Try to obtain and bring copies of your employee handbooks or personnel manuals, any contracts, job evaluations, memos, discharge letters and the like.

GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the MHRC complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: https://www.glad.org/issues/hivaids/.

For more https://www.eeoc.gov/how-file-charge-employment-discrimination

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Maine, go to: https://www.glad.org/our-impact/cases/ and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Maine, go to: https://www.glad.org/news/news-press/ and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

Discrimination | Credit, Lending & Services | Maine

Maine Credit, Lending & Services Q&A

Does Maine have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in credit, lending and services?

Yes. On November 8, 2005, Maine voters agreed to keep in place a law, LD 1196, “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation”, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in the spring of 2005. The law went into effect on December 28, 2005.

The law provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation which is defined as “… a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (9-C)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived as LGBTQ+ in credit, lending and services?

Yes.The non-discrimination law specifically covers people who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

How does the Maine anti-discrimination law protect people with regard to credit?

It is unlawful credit discrimination for any creditor to refuse the extension of credit to any person solely on the basis of sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4596). The law requires that the Superintendent of Financial Institutions and the Superintendent of Consumer Credit Protection cooperate with the Maine Human Rights Commission in enforcing the credit anti-discrimination law (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4598).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination? What happens after I file?

You should contact the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) at (207) 624-6050, or at State House Station #51, Augusta, ME 04333-0051, or on the web at http://www.state.me.us/mhrc/index.shtml. The Commission prefers for people to file complaints in writing. For an FAQ about this process see: https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/about/faq.

The complaint must be under oath, state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and the times they occurred (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611).

Once a complaint is timely filed, a Commissioner or investigator will seek to resolve the matter. If he or she cannot do so, the Commission will proceed with an investigation to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination has occurred. The Commission has extensive powers during the course of the investigation. Among other things, it can examine persons, places and documents, and require attendance at a fact finding hearing, and issue subpoenas for persons or documents.

If the Commissioner or investigator concludes:

  • there are no reasonable grounds, then it will dismiss the case, and the complainant may file a new case in the Superior Court (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612);
  • there are reasonable grounds, then it will try to resolve the matter through settlement (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Once the Commission process is complete, and if settlement has failed, a person can file an action for relief in court. A person may also request a “right to sue” letter from the MHRC if there has been no court action filed and no conciliation agreement in place within 180 days of filing the complaint (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612 (6)). The person may then file an action in the Superior Court (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4621). In some situations, the Commission may file an action in court on your behalf (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find a lawyer to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the MHRC process, but banks and other respondents will almost certainly have legal representation. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must be filed with the MHRC within 300 days of the discriminatory act or acts (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611). There are virtually no exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Actions filed in Superior Court must generally be filed “not more than 2 years after the act of unlawful discrimination complained of” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4613(2)(C)).

What are the legal remedies for discrimination?

This is a complicated area and depends on a variety of factors, including the type of discrimination and its intersection with federal laws.

As a general matter, the MHRC tries to resolve cases in which reasonable cause is found. It is not empowered to award emotional distress damages or attorney’s fees, but the parties may agree to whatever terms are mutually satisfactory for resolving the issue (94-348 Rules of Maine Human Rights Com’n secs. 2.07, 2.08. 2.09. Available at http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).

As a general matter, if a person has filed with the MHRC, completed the process there, and later files his or her case in court, then a full range of compensatory and injunctive relief is available (5 Me. Rev. Stat. secs. 4613, 4614). If a discrimination complainant takes his or her case to court without first filing at the MHRC, then only injunctive relief is available in court, such as a cease and desist order, or an order to do training or post notices (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4622).

The relief ordered by a court may include an order for attorney’s fees, civil penal damages, cease and desist orders, and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices).

Can I claim discrimination on a basis other than sexual orientation?

Yes, but only if you are treated differently because of a personal characteristic protected by Maine law.

In credit, in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, the protected characteristics are age, race, color, sex, ancestry, religion, national origin and marital status.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the MHRC a person may decide to remove his or her discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done.

Consumer Complaint Division: File a complaint with the Maine Consumer Complaint Division. For more information see: Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection.

Bureau of Financial Institutions: File a complaint with the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions. For more information see: Complaints : Bureau of Financial Institutions 

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at  GLAD Answers or by phone at 1-800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful if you bring to your attorney an outline or diary of what happened on the job that you are complaining about. It is best if the information is organized by date and explains who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them), as well as what happened, who said what, and who was present for any important conversations or incidents. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the MHRC complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Maine, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Maine, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

Discrimination | Housing | Maine

Maine Housing Q&A

Does Maine have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in housing?

Yes. On November 8, 2005, Maine voters agreed to keep in place a law, LD 1196, “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation”, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in the spring of 2005. The law went into effect December 28, 2005.

The law provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation which is defined as “a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (9-C)).

These laws also prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV based on disability. For more information, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

Does it also protect people perceived as LGBTQ+ in housing?

Yes. The non-discrimination law specifically covers people who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

What is prohibited by the housing anti-discrimination law in Maine?

The fair housing laws apply to any person with the right to sell, rent, lease or manage residential housing. It covers any transaction related to housing—including advertising, inquiring, showing, selling, renting, leasing, pricing, evicting, misrepresenting availability or asking price, or failing to communicate an offer (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4582. See also “Panel backs 2 men in housing complaint,” Bangor Daily News, Sept. 18, 2007 (discusses first case where the Maine Human Rights Commission “found reasonable grounds to a housing discrimination claim based on sexual orientation”))

The law declares that every individual has a basic civil right to secure decent housing in accordance with the individual’s right to pay and without discrimination because of sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4581).

Those who finance housing— whether financing for the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, repair or maintenance of residential housing— are barred from discriminating.

Are any landlords exempt from the housing anti-discrimination law?

The following landlords are exempt from the law:

  • an owner-occupied 2-family dwelling;
  • an owner-occupied single family dwelling that rents not more than 4 rooms; and
  • a dwelling owned, controlled, or operated for other than a commercial purpose by a religious corporation that rents to its membership (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (6)).

How do I file a complaint of discrimination? What happens after I file?

You should contact the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) at (207) 624-6050, or at State House Station #51, Augusta, ME 04333-0051, or on the web at http://www.state.me.us/mhrc/index.shtml. The Commission prefers for people to file complaints in writing. For an FAQ about this process, see: https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/about/faq.

The complaint must be under oath, state the name and address of the individual making the complaint as well as the entity he or she is complaining against (called the “respondent”). The complaint must set out the particulars of the alleged unlawful acts and the times they occurred (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611).

Once a complaint is timely filed, a Commissioner or investigator will seek to resolve the matter. If he or she cannot do so, the Commission will proceed with an investigation to determine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination has occurred. The Commission has extensive powers during the course of the investigation. Among other things, it can examine persons, places and documents, and require attendance at a fact finding hearing, and issue subpoenas for persons or documents.

If the Commissioner or investigator concludes:

  • there are no reasonable grounds, it will dismiss the case, and the complainant may file a new case in the Superior Court (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612);
  • there are reasonable grounds, it will try to resolve the matter through settlement (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Once the Commission process is complete, and if settlement has failed, a person can file an action for relief in court. A person may also request a “right to sue” letter from the MHRC if there has been no court action filed and no conciliation agreement in place within 180 days of filing the complaint (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612 (6)). The person may then file an action in the Superior Court (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4621). In some situations, the Commission may file an action in court on your behalf (See generally 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4612).

Do I need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. The process is designed to allow people to represent themselves. However, GLAD strongly encourages people to find a lawyer to represent them throughout the process. Not only are there many legal rules governing the MHRC process, but landlords and other respondents will almost certainly have legal representation. Please call the GLAD Answers for help or for an attorney referral. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

What are the deadlines for filing a complaint of discrimination?

A complaint must be filed with the MHRC within 300 days of the discriminatory act or acts (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611). There are virtually no exceptions for lateness, and GLAD encourages people to move promptly in filing claims. Actions filed in Superior Court must generally be filed “not more than 2 years after the act of unlawful discrimination complained of” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4613(2)(C)).

What are the legal remedies for discrimination?

This is a complicated area and depends on a variety of factors, including the type of discrimination and its intersection with federal laws.

As a general matter, the MHRC tries to resolve cases in which reasonable cause is found. It is not empowered to award emotional distress damages or attorney’s fees, but the parties may agree to whatever terms are mutually satisfactory for resolving the issue (94-348 Rules of Maine Human Rights Com’n secs. 2.07, 2.08. 2.09. Available at http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html.

As a general matter, if a person has filed with the MHRC, completed the process there, and later files his or her case in court, then a full range of compensatory and injunctive relief is available (5 Me. Rev. Stat. secs. 4613, 4614). If a discrimination complainant takes his or her case to court without first filing at the MHRC, then only injunctive relief is available in court, such as a cease and desist order, or an order to do training or post notices (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4622).

The relief ordered by a court may include: (a) hiring, reinstatement and back pay in employment cases; (b) an order to rent or sell a specified housing accommodation (or one that is substantially identical), along with damages of up to three times any excessive price demanded, and civil penal damages, to the victim in housing cases; and (c) in all cases, where the individual has exhausted the MHRC process, an order for attorney’s fees, civil penal damages, cease and desist orders, and other relief that would fulfill the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws (e.g. training programs, posting of notices).

Can I claim discrimination on a basis other than sexual orientation?

Yes, but only if you are treated differently because of a personal characteristic protected by Maine law.

In housing, the protected characteristics are race, color, sex, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry, national origin or familial status, as well as sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4582).

Can I also file a discrimination complaint with a federal agency?

Yes. Persons who identify as LGBTQ+ and believe they have experienced housing discrimination because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity can assert their rights under the Fair Housing Act by filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). You can find more detailed information about the protections HUD provides to LGBTQ+ people here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/housing_discrimination_and_persons_identifying_LGBTQ+

There is information about filing a housing discrimination complaint with HUD here: File a Complaint – Main Page | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The form for submitting a complaint can be found here: https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/DOC_12150.PDF

HUD views LGBTQ+ discrimination as a form of “sex” discrimination, so if you have a sexual orientation or gender identity complaint, you should indicate “sex” as the discrimination factor.

A HUD complaint must be filed within one year of the last act of discrimination. The statute of limitations for bringing fair housing complaints in federal courts is not later than two years after the occurrence or the termination of an alleged discriminatory housing practice. However, if an administrative case is filed with HUD, the statute of limitations is tolled during the period of time in which HUD is evaluating the complaint. In English, what that means is that the time HUD has the case does not count when calculating the two year statute of limitations.

Are there other options for filing a complaint for discrimination?

Possibly yes, depending on the facts of your particular situation.

State or Federal Court: After filing with the CHRO, HUD, or both, you may decide to remove your discrimination case from those agencies and file in court. There are rules about when and how this must be done. In addition, you may wish to bring a court case to address other claims which are not appropriately handled by discrimination agencies, e.g. if you landlord is not meeting his obligation to provide a safe living space.

What can I do to prepare myself before filing a complaint of discrimination?

Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.

As a general matter, people who are still living under discriminatory conditions have to evaluate how filing a case will affect their housing, and if they are willing to assume those possible consequences. Of course, even if a person has been evicted, he or she may decide it is not worth it to pursue a discrimination claim. This is an individual choice which should be made after gathering enough information and advice to make an informed decision.

Some people prefer to meet with an attorney to evaluate the strength of their claims before filing a case. It is always helpful if you bring to your attorney an outline or diary of what happened. It is best if the information is organized by date and explains who the various players are (and how to get in touch with them), as well as what happened, who said what, and who was present for any important conversations or incidents. Bring a copy of your lease, along with any notices and letters you have received from your landlord. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Resources

For more information about the MHRC complaint process see:

For information about discrimination protections for people living with HIV, see: HIV/AIDS – Know Your Rights – GLAD.

For information about the HUD complaint process see:

Learn About the FHEO Complaint and Investigation Process | HUD.gov / US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Cases & Advocacy

To see Discrimination cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Maine, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Discrimination in Maine, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Discrimination” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

Violence & Harassment | Hate Crimes & Harassment | Maine

Maine Hate Crimes Q&A

Does Maine have a hate crimes law?

Maine has a hate crimes law that permits consideration of the nature of the crime during the sentencing phase (17-A Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 1151 (8)(B)). If the defendant selected a person or his or her property for criminal activity because of, among other things, sexual orientation, then that fact can be taken into account. The law, however, does not include gender identity or expression among the factors to be taken into consideration upon sentencing.

Where can I call if I think I’ve been a victim of a hate crime?

In addition to the local police, you may contact the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Unit at (207) 626-8800, or online at Office of the Maine AG: Civil Rights.

What additional protections against hate crimes and harassment exist in Maine law?

  1. General Criminal Laws: Hate crimes are prosecuted under existing criminal laws, such as assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, murder, and so on. These generic laws do nothing to address the fact that an assault was hate-motivated, but they provide for criminal accountability, and the selection of a person (or his or her property) because of sexual orientation can then be considered in the sentencing phase.
  2. “Civil Rights Law”: On the civil side, Maine law provides for civil remedies when a person violates another person’s state or federal rights in certain circumstances (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4682). This provision, known as the “Maine Civil Rights Act” specifically states that a “person has the right to engage in lawful activities” without being subject to the infliction or threat of physical force or violence or the damage, destruction or trespass of property, motivated by reason of sexual orientation (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4684-A). Contact local law enforcement or the Attorney General’s office if you have been a victim under this law as the State is the primary enforcer of this statute. More specifically, the law allows a person to bring a private action against someone who uses or threatens physical force or violence, damages, destroys or trespasses on property, or threatens to damage, destroy or trespass on property in a manner that intentionally interferes or attempts to interfere with another person’s exercise or enjoyment of their rights under state or federal law (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4681). If those elements are met, then a person may bring an action for legal and equitable relief. Aside from the possibility of recovering money damages, equitable relief means that the person suing can obtain an order forbidding the attacker from coming near him or her, whether at home, at work, in school, or even from telephoning him or her. Actions must be brought within 6 years, although moving promptly is always an advantage (14 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 752). In addition to whatever relief a restraining order may provide, it is also important that violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense that can be prosecuted. You should report any violations of a restraining order to local police, and keep careful records of any and all violations. The Attorney General’s Office also has the power to bring civil rights actions on behalf of people who are harassed or threatened (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4681). The contact information is listed above.
  3. Harassment Law: Maine law permits people to petition the District or Superior Court for an order preventing harassment (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4652). You need to be able to document at least three serious incidents of harassment. “Harassment” is defined as “any repeated act of intimidation, harassment, physical force or threat of physical force directed against any person, family, or their property or advocate with the intention of causing fear or intimidation or to deter free exercise or enjoyment of any rights or privileges secured by” the Constitution or laws of Maine or the United States. Under this law, a person may seek emergency orders, and later seek temporary orders, and ultimately seek final orders of protection. In addition, with final orders, a successful plaintiff may be awarded damages for direct losses caused by the harassment (e.g., lost earnings, property repair or replacement), reasonable moving expenses and court costs and attorney’s fees (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4655). Violation of a court restraining order is a criminal offense (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4659).

In what ways might the federal hate crimes law help to investigate and prosecute hate crimes?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see H.R. 2647 at Text – S.909 – 111th Congress (2009-2010): Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act) was passed by Congress on October 22, 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009. It expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

First, and perhaps foremost, the Act allows local and state law enforcement agencies to apply for the following federal assistance from the U.S. Attorney General:

  • investigative, technical, forensic or prosecutorial support for criminal investigations and prosecutions,
  • grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and
  • grants to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

In providing assistance to local and state authorities, the priorities are hate crimes:

  • where the offender(s) has committed crimes in more than one state, or
  • that occur in rural areas which do not have the resources needed to prosecute such crimes.

Second, for hate crimes that in some way involve crossing state or national borders, or involve or affect interstate commerce, and where a state does not have jurisdiction or has requested federal assumption of jurisdiction, or where the federal government feels that justice has not been served or that U.S. prosecution is in the public interest, the Act authorizes the federal government to prosecute the case.

The Act also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups are already tracked) and on crimes committed by and against juveniles. This is the first federal law to explicitly extend legal protections to transgender persons.

Does Maine have an anti-bullying law that protects public school students?

Yes. See the topic area “Rights & Protections” in the Issue Area “Youth.”

Resources

U.S. Department of Justice information about Maine Hate Crimes: Maine | HATECRIMES | Department of Justice.

For more information about the enforcement of civil rights in Maine, see this FAQ from the Office of the Attorney General: Office of the Maine AG: Civil Rights FAQ.

Cases & Advocacy

To see Violence & Harassment cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Maine, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Violence & Harassment in Maine, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

Violence & Harassment | Intimate Partner Violence | Maine

Maine Intimate Partner Violence Q&A

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence may take many forms. Generally, domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior in which one person attempts to control another through threats or actual use of tactics, which may include any or all of the following: physical, sexual, verbal and psychological abuse.

Under the law, “abuse” means that any of the following have occurred between people who are “family, household members or dating partners”:

  • Attempting to cause or causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact;
  • Attempting to place or placing another in fear of bodily injury through any course of conduct, including, but not limited to, threatening, harassing or tormenting behavior;
  • Compelling, by force, threat of force, or intimidation, a person to engage in conduct, such as causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, or to abstain from conduct in which they have a right to engage;
  • Restricting another person’s movement, by knowingly removing them from home, work or school, or moving them a substantial distance from where they were found, or confining the person;
  • Placing a person in reasonable fear that a crime will be committed by threatening them or another person that they will be committing a crime of violence against the person; or
  • Repeatedly and without reasonable cause following a person or being in the vicinity of their work, school or home (19-A Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4002(1)).

Do the domestic violence laws apply to people in same-sex relationships?

Generally, yes. The definition of “family, household members and dating partners” includes married couples, domestic partners or former domestic partners, people who are or have “liv[ed] together as spouses”, people who are sexual partners or are living together (or did so previously), as well as individuals currently or formerly dating each other, whether or not the individuals are or were sexual partners (19-A Me. Rev. Stat. sec 4002). The law applies equally to all people, but the application depends upon the nature of the relationship of the people involved.

How do I get a court order protecting me from an abusive partner?

To get protection, go to the District Court in the community where you live or where the abuser lives. The court clerk will have a packet of information for you to complete. There is no fee, and there is a means of keeping your address confidential from the public. You will have to allege abuse as defined above, and indicate where you think the abuser/defendant can be found so that he or she can be served with (given a copy of) the court papers. If the courts are closed, contact your local police who will locate a judge to help. On this basis, you may receive a temporary order of protection good for up to 21 days. In order for those orders to be enforceable, the police must serve a copy on the defendant/abuser, and a defendant cannot be arrested for violating orders if he or she has not been given a copy of them. The orders can restrain the defendant from coming near you or your children, keep the defendant away from your home, and/or place of employment or contacting you at all, and determine child custody issues on a short-term basis.

Violation of a protection order is a criminal offense (see generally 19-A Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4001 et seq).

The temporary orders will indicate the date set for the court hearing at which you can try to extend your court orders. At this point, the defendant will tell his or her side of the story as well, and you can be called upon to answer questions. At this stage, both parties often have attorneys. If the Court determines the defendant has made a credible threat to the physical safety of you or a child in your household, the relief may be extended for up to two years.

If for some reason you decide not to go through with the order, it is important to show up in court on your assigned date and ask that the case be dismissed.

In addition, Maine’s harassment law described below may be useful for people who are experiencing harassment from a partner of the same sex.  An order preventing harassment can be taken out against anyone (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4651.  See also http://www.courts.state.me.us/publications-other/pa_ph-1207.pdf)

Where can I go to get help?

In Maine, local domestic violence projects across the state provide direct services to victims of domestic violence. The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV) is a coalition of the nine domestic violence projects in the state. There is a statewide domestic violence helpline at 866-834-HELP (4357). This number will direct victims to support centers in their county. These support centers also provide court advocacy. MCEDV maintains information for same-sex partners on their website at Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. 

In addition to the local police, there are several other hotlines and on-line resources:

Does domestic violence play a role in parental rights and responsibilities decisions?

Yes. It is a factor the court must consider in allocating parental rights and responsibilities, and courts may provide conditions upon an abuser seeing his or her children (see generally 19-A Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 1653 (6)).

Resources

MCEDV Publications and Reports: Publications & Reports | MCEDV | Augusta, Maine

Sexual Assault in the LGBTQ+ Community: Sexual Assault in the LGBTQ+ Community in Maine: You can get help | Pine Tree Legal Assistance

Elder Domestic and Sexual Abuse: Sexual & Domestic Abuse

NCADV Fact Sheet: Domestic Violence in MAINE

Cases & Advocacy

To see Violence & Harassment cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Maine, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Violence & Harassment in Maine, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Violence & Harassment” and under “By Location” click on “Maine.”

Know Your Rights: Criminal Justice in Massachusetts

Police Harassment

Criminal Sex (jump to section)

Gender-Affirming Facilities (jump to section)

Criminal Justice | Police Harassment | Massachusetts

I am often told by police to “move along” from public areas. Is that legal?

Not necessarily. If the area is public and not posted as having particular hours, you generally have a right to be there as long as you are engaged in lawful activity. Public places belong to everyone and are also often places of public accommodation to which non-discrimination rules apply. Even if a police officer wants to deter crime, or suspects some kind of unlawful intent, they have no general right to request people to move from one place to another unless there is unlawful conduct.

What are the general rules about interaction with police?

The presence of individuals who appear to be LGBTQ+– whether because such individuals are displaying symbols such as a rainbow flag or pink triangle or for any other reason– should not trigger any special scrutiny by a police officer.

Police may, of course, approach a person, and make inquiries, but the officer can neither explicitly nor implicitly assert that the person must respond to their inquiries. Even if a person has been convicted of a past offense, fails to respond, or responds in a way that does not satisfy the officer, that person cannot be arrested.

If an officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, they may briefly detain an individual, or stop the person for purposes of investigation. An arrest can only occur upon “probable cause” that a crime has been committed.

What can I do if I believe I have been improperly treated by the police?

Complaints may be made to any individual police department for matters concerning its officers. Call GLAD if you need to find out how to make a complaint to the local police.

Complaints to the Massachusetts State Police may be made via a Citizens Response Report, or form SP-340, which can be completed online and sent electronically (see Submit a Citizen Response Report | Mass.gov for more information) or mailed to The Massachusetts State Police, Division of Standards and Training/Citizen Response Reports, 470 Worcester Road Framingham, MA 01702. An officer assigned to the Division of Standards and Training will contact you upon receipt of your report.

Please let GLAD know whenever you make a complaint so that we can track the responsiveness of the various police departments.

In some cases, you may decide to pursue a lawsuit, either because of injuries, improper detainment, or for some other reason. These matters are highly specialized, and GLAD can make attorney referrals. People can also register serious complaints with the Attorney General’s Office, Civil Rights Division.

Resources

ACLU Know Your Rights: Stopped by Police: Know Your Rights | Stopped by Police | American Civil Liberties Union

 

Criminal Justice | Criminal Sex | Massachusetts

Does Massachusetts have a sodomy law?

Although Massachusetts has had two felony sodomy laws on the books since before its statehood, the Supreme Judicial Court has said (most recently in 2002) that neither law applies to private, consensual, adult conduct.

The first of the two laws is a “traditional” sodomy law, in that it prohibits anal sex and bestiality. It can be applied to anal sex between gay or non-gay people but has often been associated in the public mind with gay men. The second of the two laws covers “unnatural and lascivious acts.” The courts have ruled that this language encompasses “oral and anal intercourse, including fellatio, cunnilingus, and other intrusions of a part of a person’s body or other object into the genital or anal opening of another person’s body.”

Thanks to GLAD’s 2002 case, GLAD et al. v. Reilly et al., adults engaging in private, consensual activity cannot be prosecuted under either of these laws. In a separate, similar ruling in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to apply sodomy laws to non-commercial sex between consenting adults in private.

How do I know whether the place where I am engaged in sexual intimacy is “private”?

That is the million-dollar question: what is “private?” For the most part, what happens in the privacy of your own home should be of no concern to the police. Most people arrested for sexual activity are arrested for activity occurring outdoors. However, the courts have ruled several times that sex is not illegal simply because it takes place outdoors, in parked cars, or on public lands. It all depends on the circumstances.

In order for the conduct to be “public,” it must occur in a place where it is reasonably foreseeable that unsuspecting bystanders will happen upon it. When the participants act in deliberate disregard of that risk, their conduct is considered “public” regardless of whether they are discovered by the police or another person. In other words, the laws are “not designed to punish persons who desire privacy and take reasonable measures to secure it.” So long as the sexual activity takes place in a reasonable secluded area, it should be beyond the scope of the law.

Why do people get arrested for sex outdoors if it can be considered “private”?

The Commonwealth has a legitimate law enforcement interest in protecting the general public from open displays of sex, no matter who the participants. That being said, these laws only encompass sexual activity: no one should be arrested or hassled for hand-holding, or cruising, or talking, or flirting, or other non-sexual touching, regardless of where it occurs.

As a practical matter, regardless of one’s rights, having sex outdoors is a risky business. For one, based on numerous reports to us, we believe that some police will overlook outdoor sexual activity between straight couples, but arrest LGBTQ+ people engaged in the same behavior. Another concern is that some police “hunt” for LGBTQ+ people having sex outdoors in park lands and rest areas to arrest them, sometimes in uniform and sometimes as undercover decoys. A person caught engaging in public sex can be charged with either of the sodomy laws discussed above, or any other of a variety of sex offenses, some of which may require the person to register as a “sex offender.”

GLAD has challenged these practices by many police departments and has sometimes helped to develop more constructive policing practices, such as with the MBTA. Due to a court case filed by GLAD, the Massachusetts State Police have issued training bulletins to all Troopers informing them of the limits of the sex laws in Massachusetts.

Does Massachusetts have any other criminal sex laws that can be applied to LGBTQ+ people?

Unfortunately, yes. There are numerous laws addressing public sexual activity, any number of which can be charged against an LGBTQ+ person arrested for having sex in “public.” These include “open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior,” a felony involving public exposure of the genitals (the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has established the elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction under this statute), as well as “lewd and lascivious behavior,” a misdemeanor. When an undercover police officer has been touched by someone, that individual can be charged with “indecent assault and battery on a person over age 14, another felony. Often these laws are charged together. Sometimes police will also charge trespass or disorderly conduct, which are both misdemeanors. Occasionally, people will be charged under the sodomy laws described above.

Does Massachusetts have a sex offender registry law?

Yes. Every state now has such a law, although the terms differ from state to state. In Massachusetts, the law has been tied up in legal challenges and has been redrafted several times. GLAD successfully challenged one version of the law because of our concerns.

What types of crimes are deemed to be “sex offenses”?

As you would expect with a law designed to ensnare dangerous and violent predators, most of the crimes involve violence or sex with children. However, a conviction for indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 is still a “sex offense” in some circumstances, as is a “second and subsequent adjudication or conviction for open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior,” For a full list of sex offenses, see Mass. Gen. Laws, chap. 6, sec. 178C.

What if I was not actually convicted? Or what if my conviction is very old?

The sex offender registry only applies to people who were convicted (or “adjudicated” as a youthful offender) after August 1, 1981, as well as those who were still incarcerated, on parole or probation, or in civil commitment as of that date. If you received a continuance without a finding, that is NOT a conviction and the law does not apply to you. Similarly, if your conviction is from before August 1, 1981, and you were no longer in jail or on probation by that date, the law does not apply to you.

How can I find what charges I have been convicted of?

You can contact your local police or call the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Support Services Unit at (617) 660-4600 to request a form to get your criminal records. Alternatively, you can request your records online at Sex Offender Registry Board | Mass.gov

What obligations are imposed on “sex offenders”?

Most sex offenders will have to register annually with the Sex Offender Registry Board and provide personal data, work information, and other identification. Depending on the circumstances, some or all of this information may be made available to the public.

Where can I get help if I have been convicted of a crime that qualifies me as a “sex offender”?

Because of the strict time deadlines involved in contesting the need to register at all and the classification of one’s dangerousness, it is important you hire an attorney right away. Contact GLAD Answers for a referral.

What is the age of consent for sexual activity?

Generally, the age of consent for sexual activity in Massachusetts is 16. However, there is some confusion about the age of consent for anal sex and oral sex, with case law questioning whether the age of consent for such acts is 18.

Resources

Massachusetts Law About Sex Offenders: Massachusetts law about sex offenders | Mass.gov

Requesting Transfers to Gender Affirming Facilities in Massachusetts: Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get assigned to the right facility? 

Whether you are entering a facility for the first time or have already been in a facility for some period of time, you can request a transfer to a gender-affirming facility. The process is a little different if you request it from the start.

 At the time you first enter the facility, an officer will complete an “Internal Housing Risk Factor Assessment”, which you can find at the end of this document. That form has places to fill out issues about potential risks to your safety at a facility. That is a good time to tell the intake officer that you would like to be placed in a gender-affirming facility. Once you tell them, then they have to follow instructions from this policy, and also described below.

In order to get the right assignment, you either need to self-identify as having “Gender Dysphoria”, or request a referral for “Gender Dysphoria”. After you make your request, then you should meet with a person called the Primary Care Clinician, or PCC, who works at your facility. That PCC should complete an evaluation to determine if you have “Gender Dysphoria” as well as make decisions about how to proceed with your case.

The evaluation should consider things like safe housing, work opportunities, education, program assignments, and your individual safety. These are done on a case-by-case basis. They also consider your security level, your prior history, medical records, and vulnerability. You should also be asked about your own views on your safety and what you think would be best. In some cases, the evaluation will also include if surgery should be a part of the potential treatment plan.

What is “Gender Dysphoria”? 

Massachusetts uses a definition for “Gender Dysphoria” from a book, written by doctors at the American Psychiatric Association, called the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders [Fifth Edition], or the “DSM-5”. The definition is:

A difference between a person’s experienced and expressed gender and their assigned gender that has taken place for at least six months. It must include two of the following: 

  1. A marked incongruence between one’s experiences/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics);
  2. A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics);
  3. A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender;
  4. A strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender);
  5. A strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender);
  6. A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender). 

When a PCC is deciding if a person has “Gender Dysphoria”, they try to determine if a person is experiencing distress or difficulties in socializing, working, or other important areas of life. They will do a face-to-face evaluation and review things like mental health history, medical history, and any medical documents you may have. If you have already been given a diagnosis of “Gender Dysphoria” in the past, then you don’t need to get another referral. 

If the PCC does not agree that you have “Gender Dysphoria” and should get the transfer, it doesn’t mean your case is over. Your case should be referred to two people: the Psychiatric Medical Director, and the Director of Clinical Programs. Then, you should get another face-to-face evaluation within thirty days of the referral. 

If I get a diagnosis from the PCC, what should happen? 

If the PCC decides that you qualify for services under “Gender Dysphoria”, then they should ask you if you will allow a “Release of Information.” They are asking for the Release of Information so that they can see what kinds of medical care you may have been getting in the past and try to continue it. 

The PCC works together with other people, including the Mental Health Director and other providers at the facility. You may meet with someone from your facility known as the on-site psychiatric provider. That person might be different from your Psychiatric Medical Director, or any of the other people you have met with so far. The PCC should then complete a form for you called the Gender Dysphoria Mental Health Referral Form in order to make sure that the facility is aware of your request to transfer. You can find that form at the end of this document.

The Psychiatric Medical Director or another officer should confirm the PCC’s Referral Form. They will consider a number of documents in this decision, including your Referral Form, a review of your medical records, and another consultation with the Psychiatric Medical Director or other officer. If there are any concerns about your diagnosis, then a person with the role Gender Dysphoria Consultant will review the case within 30 days. 

Once my diagnosis is confirmed, what kind of care should I receive? 

After you receive a confirmed diagnosis, you should be given an individualized plan that includes the diagnosis and any other medical concerns you may have. The PCC will make your individualized plan with assistance from a number of other medical providers at the facility. The individualized plan will be sent for final approval to a group called the Gender Dysphoria Treatment Committee. That Committee should look at your plan and make sure it is a good fit for your needs.

Some types of care that they can add to your plan include hormone therapy and meetings with an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists specialize in hormones and how they control metabolism, blood pressure, cholesterol, hunger, thirst, body temperature and more. Hormone therapy may be recommended if the facility’s Primary Care Provider believes that there would not be negative physical effects. 

Sometimes, the plan also includes housing recommendations. Final decisions about your housing are the responsibility of the Department of Corrections. Every six months, you should get something called an Internal Housing Risk Factor Assessment. You can find that at the end of this document. This Assessment is to make sure that your placement is correct for your case and includes a review of any safety risks you may be exposed to. 

If you are going to be transferred, then the facility has to follow a special Transportation plan called “103 DOC 530, Inmate Transportation”. This is not available to the public, but you can ask someone for a copy of it and they might provide one. 

Also, once you have been identified as Gender Non-Conforming, you have a right to shower separately from other people in your facility. This rule is part of a document called 103 DOC 750, number 11, which you can find here. Whether you have a “Gender Dysphoria” diagnosis or not, you should be allowed to shower, perform bodily functions, and change your clothing without non-medical staff of another gender viewing your body, except if there is an emergency. 

What if the Gender Dysphoria Treatment Committee doesn’t approve my plan?

If the Treatment Committee doesn’t approve your plan, they need to provide specific and justifiable reasons in writing. Their reasons need to explain why they are denying the recommended treatment. They have to base their decision off of proof that your treatment plan presents an overwhelming security, safety, and/or operational concern.

What are my rights once I have a treatment plan? 

Your treatment plan should contain at least three parts. You should be able to participate in at least monthly individual appointments with the facility’s mental health provider. Your treatment plan should also have personalized recommendations about clothing and canteen items that are approved for your use. If you are a woman seeking to be reassigned to a female facility, then you should be able to purchase clothing items and articles available to male individuals as well as female individuals with the same security clearance as you. You can find a full list of the types of items you are allowed to purchase and keep here

If there are parts of your Treatment Plan that you do not want to participate in, then the facility should write those down and make potential modifications to the plan if medically necessary. 

If you already took hormones before entering your facility, then you should tell the PCC that as soon as possible. They will want to review your Release of Information and prior medical records so that they can continue your care. If you don’t want to give them a Release of Information, then you don’t have to, but that may mean that your care plan changes and you can’t access hormones or other medical care you want. 

Is there any way for my treatment plan to be taken away?

There could be a time that the facility decides that your treatment plan presents an “overwhelming security, safety or operational” difficulty. If they want to make that claim, then the Director of Behavior Health has to refer the treatment recommendation to two people: the Deputy Commissioner of the Prison Division, and the Deputy Commission of Re-entry. They will complete a “security review”, which takes into account your personal history, how long you have been at that facility or other facilities, and your current situation.

If those two people agree that your plan presents a security, safety, or operational problem, then they have to forward your plan to the Commission for a final review. If the Commissioner agrees and wants to reject your treatment plan, then that security review needs to include specific and justifiable reasons for denying it. The review also needs to be in writing. It has to be completed within 60 days. 

What is the Prison Rape Elimination Act? 

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) is a federal law passed in 2003. Under PREA, rather than automatically assigning people to a facility, transgender and intersex people are assessed for potential safety threats and housed “on a case-by-case basis” according to gender identity. Correctional staff have to consider housing and program assignments at least twice a year to review any threats to safety experienced by transgender and intersex people living in prison. 

According to the law, they also have to take into account your own view of your safety. They are not allowed to separate you for housing or other program placements based solely on your LGBT status. 

PREA also protects “involuntary segregation”, or the removal of a person to a different housing assignment against their will. You cannot continue to be kept in a different part of the prison against your will unless prison officials have determined that there is no other way to keep you safe. They have to make that determination within the first 24 hours if they do place you in separate housing against your will. People cannot be segregated against their will for more than thirty days, and they must be given access to all of the same work, educational, and programming opportunities as any other person.

Hate Crimes | Vermont

Does Vermont have a hate crimes law?

Yes. Vermont law imposes increased penalties for crimes committed because of hatred or animus toward the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, service in the U.S. armed forces, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity (13 V.S.A. § 1455).

In addition to being subject to criminal prosecution, the Attorney General’s office may seek civil penalties from a perpetrator of up to $5000 (payable to the state) plus costs and attorney’s fees for every violation of the criminal hate crimes statute and for violations of any injunctions imposed (see discussion below) (13 V.S.A. § 1466).

How does the law define what is a hate crime?

The hate crimes law applies to “[a] person who commits, causes to be committed or attempts to commit any crime and whose conduct is maliciously motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, service in the U.S. armed forces, disability…, sexual orientation or gender identity” (13 V.S.A. § 1455).

According to the Attorney General’s office, assaults, unlawful mischief (damage or destruction of property), telephone harassment and disorderly conduct (by public yelling of threats and abuse) are the most common hate crimes in Vermont (www.ago.vermont.gov/divisions/civil-rights/hate-crimes.php).

Besides the police, who can I call if I think I’ve been a victim of a hate crime?

In addition to contacting the local police, you may contact the Civil Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office toll-free (in Vermont) at (888) 745-9195 or at (802) 828-3657 or AGO.CivilRights@vermont.gov.

What other options do I have if I think I have been the victim of a hate crime?

Victims of hate crimes can also file a civil claim in the Superior Court of the county where they live or where the crime occurred (13 V.S.A. § 1457). These claims can seek:

  • an order to stop the hate-motivated behavior and restrict the perpetrator’s ability to contact you in any way;
  • money damages to compensate for the injury caused by the crime;
  • money damages to punish the perpetrator;
  • costs and attorney’s fees; and
  • any other relief the court thinks is appropriate.

Through this process, you have the right to obtain very similar protections to those available to domestic violence victims.  (See discussion above).  If you have been the victim of a hate crime or of a stalker, you can go to Superior Court and quickly obtain a preliminary order providing protection from the perpetrator of the hate crimes.  This order may:

  • prohibit the perpetrator from committing any crime against you or other people;
  • prohibit the perpetrator from contacting you; and
  • prohibit the perpetrator from coming near you, your home, or other places where you are likely to be (i.e. workplace, homes of family members, etc.).

This preliminary order will remain in effect for a period of time set by the court up to 120 days, or until there is a final decision in the case (13 V.S.A. § 1461).

A final order can be issued for up to two years, but the court can extend the order for any amount of time if it finds it is necessary to protect the victim.  Violating these kinds of orders is a crime, subject to immediate arrest, imprisonment and fines (13 V.S.A. § 1461(c), 1465(a-b)).

In what ways might the federal hate crimes law help to investigate and prosecute hate crimes?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (see 18 U.S.C. § 249) was passed by Congress on October 22, 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009.  It expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

First, and perhaps foremost, the Act allows local and state law enforcement agencies to apply for the following federal assistance from the U.S. Attorney General:

  • investigative, technical, forensic or prosecutorial support for criminal investigations and prosecutions,
  • grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and
  • grants to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

In providing assistance to local and state authorities, the priorities are hate crimes:

  • where the offender(s) has committed crimes in more than one state, or
  • that occur in rural areas which do not have the resources needed to prosecute such crimes.

Second, for hate crimes that in some way involve crossing state or national borders, or involve or affect interstate commerce, and where a state does not have jurisdiction or has requested federal assumption of jurisdiction, or where the federal government feels that justice has not been served or that U.S. prosecution is in the public interest,  the Act authorizes the federal government to prosecute the case.

The Act also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups are already tracked) and on crimes committed by and against juveniles. This is the first federal law to explicitly extend legal protections to transgender persons.

Hate Crimes | Rhode Island

How does Rhode Island define a “hate crime”?

In Rhode Island, a hate crime is “any crime motivated by bigotry and bias, including, but not limited to threatened, attempted, or completed acts that appear after investigation to have been motivated by racial, religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or disability prejudice or motivated by prejudice against a person who is homeless or is perceived to be homeless” (R.I. Gen. Laws, § 42-28-46 (a)(2)). “Gender identity or expression” was added in 2012.

In order to track hate crimes, the State has set up a reporting system so that incidents alleged are centrally recorded (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-28-46 (b)). All police departments within the state are required to have training on identifying, responding to and reporting hate crimes (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-28.2-8.1), and must report monthly the occurrence of such crimes to the state police, who must maintain a permanent record of the offenses, categorized by community of occurrence, type of offense, and target (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-28-46 (b)).

Does Rhode Island have increased sentencing for hate crimes?

Yes, Rhode Island law establishes additional penalties for crimes motivated by hatred or animus toward the victim’s actual or perceived, religion, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation or gender (R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-38(a)). Although “gender identity or expression” was added in 2012 to the definition of a “hate crime” as noted above, it has not been added to the hate crimes sentencing statute.

If it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was motivated by hatred or animus toward a person’s protected characteristic, then the person shall, for a misdemeanor, be sentenced to no less than 30 days mandatory imprisonment and, for a felony, be sentenced to an additional, consecutive term of imprisonment for not less than 1 year and no more than 5 years (R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-19-38(c) and (d)).

Where can I call if I think I’ve been a victim of a hate crime?

Begin by contacting the local police. Police officers do not actually charge people with hate crimes, but will need to provide the prosecutor with evidence that the crime was motivated by bias, so be sure to explain all of the factors that make you think this was a hate crime.  You may
also contact the criminal division of the Attorney General’s office at (401) 274-4400.

For support and advocacy, contact:  Day One, Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource of Rhode Island, (401) 421-4100 or (800) 494-8100.  www.dayoneri.org

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What other options do I have if I think I have been a victim of a hate crime?

In addition to pursuing your rights in the criminal justice system, you can contact the Office of the Civil Rights Advocate of the Attorney General’s Office at (401) 274-4400.  The Civil Rights Advocate is authorized to receive complaints, to conduct investigations, education and training, and to bring civil actions for injunctions or other equitable relief to address physical threats, trespassing, property destruction, or harassment that interfere “with the exercise or enjoyment by any other person of rights secured by the United States Constitution or the laws of the United States or of rights secured by the Constitution of Rhode Island or laws of the state.”  In addition, a fine of up to $5,000 may be imposed (R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-9.3).

An injunction under this provision does not prevent you, depending on the circumstances, from seeking monetary damages for harms you experienced from the crime committed against you.

In what ways might the recently passed federal hate crimes law help to investigate and prosecute hate crimes?

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed by Congress on October 22, 2009 and was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009.  It expands the 1969 United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

First, and perhaps foremost, the Act allows local and state law enforcement agencies to apply for the following federal assistance from the U.S. Attorney General:

  • investigative, technical, forensic or prosecutorial support for criminal investigations and prosecutions,
  • grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and
  • grants to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

In providing assistance to local and state authorities, the priorities are hate crimes:

  • where the offender(s) has committed crimes in more than one state, or
  • that occur in rural areas which do not have the resources needed to prosecute such crimes.

Second, for hate crimes that in some way involve crossing state or national borders, or involve or affect interstate commerce, and where a state does not have jurisdiction or has requested federal assumption of jurisdiction, or where the federal government feels that justice has not been served or that U.S. prosecution is in the public interest, the Act authorizes the federal government to prosecute the case.

The Act also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to track statistics on hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups are already tracked) and on crimes committed by and against juveniles.  This is the first federal law to explicitly extend legal protections to transgender persons.

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