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What is Illegal Discrimination?

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Where to Find Help

Illegal discrimination is when:

  • You are treated differently from others in a similar situation; and

  • You are harmed by the treatment; and

  • You are treated this way because of your membership in a protected class (i.e., race, gender, etc.)
    or -

  • Your request for a reasonable accommodation due to a disability is refused without a valid business reason.

    Please note: the Seattle Office for Civil Rights has jurisdiction within Seattle city limits. A charge of illegal discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the date that the incident under consideration occurred. If your situation does not qualify for investigation by us, we will refer you to another agency for help.

    Other civil rights agencies:

  • In unincorporated King County King County Office for Civil Rights: 206-296-7592. For more information:
  • In Washington State Washington State Human Rights Commission: 1-800-233-3247. For more information:

Seattle currently includes these protected classes:

Age **
Breastfeeding in a public place
Gender identity
Marital status
National Origin
Parental status *
Political ideology
Sexual orientation
Use of a Section 8 certificate *
Use of a service animal
Military status or Veteran

* - Not applicable to Employment or Fair Contracting cases
** - Not applicable to Public Accommodations cases


It is against the law for someone to penalize or discriminate against you because:

  • You file a discrimination complaint

  • You cooperate with a discrimination complaint

  • You cooperate with the enforcement of a discrimination complaint

  • You comply with anti-discrimination laws

You can file a separate charge of discrimination if you believe someone has retaliated against you. SOCR will conduct a separate investigation concerning retaliation.


Seattle's anti-discrimination laws also protect you from harassment. Harassment is conduct that is directed at you because of your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, etc.

Harassment can include:

  • Threats

  • Slurs or epithets

  • Threatening acts

  • Posting offensive materials on walls, bulletin boards, e-mail, etc.

To be considered harassment, conduct must:

  • Be serious and frequent enough to create a hostile environment;

  • Interfere with your ability to work, live, or enjoy a public place.

If you have questions, comments or requests about our services please contact our office at (206) 684-4500 voice, (206) 684-4503 TTY or send eMail to Elliott Bronstein.