Information For Business Owners

If someone has named you in a discrimination complaint filed with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights:

  • This does not mean that you have discriminated against anyone. A charge of discrimination is the first step in an investigative process.
  • Our job is to investigate claims of discrimination in the City of Seattle. We enforce City, State and Federal anti-discrimination laws.
  • We do not take sides We are neutral agency. Until we finish our investigation, we reach no conclusion about the complaint.
  • Throughout the investigation, all parties will be able to present their side of the story.
  • At any time during our investigation, you may request a negotiated resolution of the charge.
  • This page gives you a brief overview of our investigative process. Please refer to your notification letter and other documents for a complete statement of your legal obligations.
  • We want to work with all parties to resolve complaints. Please call SOCR at (206) 684-4500 with any questions or concerns.

Case Process - an Overview

  1. Notification of Charge and Request for Information
    • A charging party files a charge of illegal discrimination against a respondent, often a business. The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (“SOCR”) sends the respondent a Notification of Charge and Request for Information.
    • The Request for Information is a respondent’s first opportunity to respond to the charging party's complaint.
    • Before responding to this request, respondents have the option to call our office (206-684-4500) to ask for a negotiated resolution of the charge. All parties may request a negotiated resolution at any time during the investigation.
  2. Written Response
    • Respondents may respond in writing within 20 days or 10 days (depending on the type of case). Respondents should respond to each item in the Request for Information and answer questions as completely as possible.
    • Respondents should include supporting documentation. The investigator assigned to the case may call a respondent for more information.
  3. Charging Party Responds
    • The charging party has a chance to respond to the information submitted by the respondent.
  4. SOCR Investigation
    • The investigator assigned to the case sets up interviews with witnesses related to the case.
    • During the interview(s), the investigator may request additional documents.
    • Investigators are neutral and objective. They do not take sides.
  5. Review
    • The investigator reviews all the information and materials gathered from parties and witnesses.
    • Our investigators follow the law to evaluate the evidence.
  6. Negotiated Resolution
    • A negotiated resolution offers an alternative to a full investigation. It can save time, attorney's fees, and emotional turmoil.
    • Any party may request a negotiated resolution at any time.
    • The parties may meet with our investigator or a neutral third party, to negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to all sides. The parties may also exchange offers of settlement through the investigator.
    • Settling a case is not an admission of fault. A settlement ends the case as long as the parties comply with the agreed-upon terms.
  7. Results of the Investigation
    We issue a finding.
    • Reasonable Cause
      • The evidence supports the charge that discrimination has occurred.
      • All parties will receive a copy of the finding and an explanation.
      • All parties have seven days to discuss settling the case.
      • If the parties do not reach a settlement, SOCR has the option to turn over the case to the Seattle Attorney's Office to pursue further legal action.
      • If we find reasonable cause, the investigator will contact the parties prior to issuing the written finding.
    • No Reasonable Cause
      • The evidence does not support the charge that discrimination has occurred.
      • All parties will receive a copy of the finding and an explanation.
      • The case is closed, unless the charging party files an appeal within 30 days to the Seattle Human Rights Commission.