How to file a complaint
File a complaint about illegal discrimination
Intake Questionnaire - The First Step
If you feel you have been discriminated against, call SOCR at 206-684-4500 to speak with our intake investigator. You also can visit our office in the Central Building, 810 Third Avenue, Suite 750 in downtown Seattle.
To help us learn more about your situation, please fill out the Intake Questionnaire. You can fill it out online and send it to us electronically, or you can print out a copy, fill it out and mail it to us. To avoid delays in processing, please submit only one Intake Questionnaire to SOCR (either by mail, online, or in person) regarding the same matter.
The questionnaire provides us with information we can use to help us serve you. It is not a formal complaint. Once we receive your completed questionnaire, we will review it and then contact you for more information. You do not have to fill out the questionnaire in order to contact us about filing a charge.
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:
SOCR's intake investigator will help you sort through the facts of your situation, and describe to you your options under the law. The intake investigator will explain the definition of illegal discrimination. Different treatment does not necessarily mean illegal discrimination. To be discriminatory under the law, a person's action must meet certain tests, such as:
If your situation appears to meet these tests, then the intake investigator will draw up a formal charge for you to sign. The final decision to file a charge is yours.
If your situation does not appear to meet the tests, the intake investigator may take one of the following actions:
The charge document that you sign will refer to you as the Charging Party - in other words, the person making the charge of discrimination.top
After you sign a charge, SOCR will contact the person who has been accused of discrimination, known as the Respondent. SOCR will send the Respondent a copy of the charge document, as well as a request for information and a written response to the charge.
We try to assign your case to an investigator within 30 days after you have signed the charge document. Often this step occurs much sooner. In some circumstances, however, it can take longer. Housing discrimination cases are assigned immediately. After assignment, an investigator will contact you to confirm that the case is now active.
After receiving a reply from the Respondent, the assigned investigator will meet with you to discuss your case, and to explain our investigation process in more detail.
Before you meet with your investigator for the first time, note the details of what happened to you, including the dates, times, and who was present or involved. Make a list of possible witnesses, including their phone numbers and addresses.
The investigator gathers evidence by conducting interviews, obtaining witness statements, and reviewing written information. As the Charging Party, you must prove that illegal discrimination has taken place. The investigator will explain the "elements" of your case that you must prove.
The average length of an SOCR investigation is six months (100 days for HUD cases). Each case is different, and cases may take more or less time depending on the circumstances.top
Facilitated Resolution Process - An Option for Both Parties
Throughout the investigation of your case, SOCR is willing to help you and the Respondent reach an agreement that is acceptable to both sides. We call this our Facilitated Resolution Process (FRP). Depending on the circumstances, the agreement might involve changes in working conditions, apartment repairs, training for the respondent's management and employees, and other terms designed to resolve the case.
During this period of negotiation, the investigation may be slowed or suspended. If both parties agree to a resolution, SOCR prepares a settlement agreement for everyone to sign. If the parties cannot agree to a resolution, then the investigation continues.top
SOCR - A Neutral Party
It is important to understand SOCR's role of neutrality during the filing, investigation and resolution of your claim. SOCR does not take sides in a case. We do not "speak for" the Charging Party; nor do we "represent" the Respondent. Our job is to enforce the City of Seattle's anti-discrimination laws. We strive to be fair, honest and impartial.top
Settlement: If you reach an agreement with the Respondent through our Facilitated Resolution Process, your investigator will prepare a Settlement Agreement for you and the Respondent to sign.
Administrative Closure: SOCR may close your case if the investigation proves impossible to proceed. For example, if SOCR is unable to locate you, if you refuse to cooperate, or if you choose to file your case in court, SOCR may end the investigation through Administrative Closure.
Withdrawal: You can end the investigation and withdraw your case.
Determination ("Finding"): When the investigator has finished looking into your case, SOCR will issue a determination or finding. SOCR issues two types of findings, "reasonable cause" or "no reasonable cause." A finding of "reasonable cause" means that enough evidence was found to determine that discrimination took place in your case. (See "Remedies" below.) A finding of "no reasonable cause" means there is not enough evidence to support your claim under the law. You can appeal a "no reasonable cause" finding within 30 days of issuance. (See "Appeal" below.) The Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights has the final say in all cases for a "reasonable cause" or "no reasonable cause" finding.top
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights honors public disclosure requests according to the City of Seattle's Public Disclosure Policy (11/3/09).
To make a public disclosure request (PDR) or for more information, contact SOCR's public disclosure officer Elliott Bronstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the City of Seattle public disclosure web portal.top
In cases where SOCR finds reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, we will work with you to determine appropriate remedies for the effects of the discrimination. Examples of remedies include:
If the Respondent refuses to settle the case after a finding of reasonable cause, SOCR will refer your case to the City Attorney's office for possible legal action. You may choose to take private legal action at this time, or at any time during the investigation. You are responsible for your own attorney's fees.top
If SOCR finds no reasonable cause in your case, or ends the investigation through Administrative Closure, you can appeal the decision within 30 days to the Seattle Human Rights Commission. The Commission can order the case back to SOCR with specific instructions for further investigation, or the Commission may agree with SOCR's determination.
Note: appeal rules differ in cases in which the City of Seattle is the Respondent.top
What you can do to assist the Investigation
Frequently Asked Questions
This and all information produced by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights will be provided in alternative formats to people with disabilities upon request.
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.