BOLI'S CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT PROCESS
|How to File a Complaint|
There are several steps involved in filing a civil rights complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The steps vary, depending on the findings of the intake officer and the investigator. The entire process generally takes seven months, but may take up to one year. The process includes the following components:
Intake - Filling out the Questionnaire
Filing a complaint usually begins by filling out a complaint Questionnaire and returning it to the Portland office. The Questionnaire is available online or by calling 971-673-0764. If you are unsure if you have a basis for filing a civil rights complaint or just have a question for the Civil Rights Division, please review the information in our Fact Sheets, contact one of our local bureau offices or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filling out the appropriate questionnaire is important. There are four types. If you believe you have experienced unlawful discrimination or retaliation in:
Employment: The place where you are currently employed, a previous employer or a job placement agency.
Housing: Rental, sale or lease of any real property for living purposes.
Public Accommodation: A place providing goods or services, like a store or restaurant. A place of public accommodation is defined in state law as any place that offers the public accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges, whether in the nature of goods, services, lodging, amusements or otherwise.
Vocational/Career Schools: Private vocational, professional or trade schools. These places provide specialized training focused on a particular career or area of employment and are licensed to operate in Oregon.
After the Bureau receives your questionnaire, it will be assigned to an intake officer who determines if there is sufficient evidence to draft your formal complaint document (Perfected Charge). The intake officer may need more information--in these cases, you will be contacted by phone or in writing. You must respond promptly to such requests or your complaint will not be processed further. If your complaint does not fall within the Bureau’s jurisdiction or there is not enough evidence to warrant an investigation, the intake officer will notify you in writing.
Reviewing the Complaint
The intake officer will draft a formal complaint document based on your questionnaire which will be mailed to you for your review. After you have verified that the information is correct, you must sign the document in front of a notary public and return it promptly to any bureau office. If you feel changes are necessary, please contact the Portland office.
If the complaint is acceptable, you must have it properly verified by signing the complaint in front of a notary. The Bureau provides notary service in its Portland, Salem and Eugene offices, if needed. (There is no notary requirement for housing discrimination complaints.)
Return your signed and notarized complaint to the division. The day the division receives your signed and properly notarized complaint is the official filing date.
Since you initiated the complaint, you are referred to as the complainant. The person or organization you made the complaint against is referred to as the respondent.
If the basis for filing an employment-related complaint is covered by both state and federal law, a complaint filed with BOLI (state) is automatically filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and if the basis for a housing-related complaint is covered by both state and federal law, a complaint filed with BOLI is automatically co-filed with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provided the complaint meets the jurisdictional guidelines. These are called dual filings.
After your complaint is filed, notices of the filing and a copy of the complaint are sent to you and the respondent. The complaint is a public record once it is filed.
Cases are assessed at multiple points in the processing of a complaint. Not all complaints will be assigned for extended investigation. If the Civil Rights Division determines that it is unlikely further investigation could yield substantial evidence supporting the allegations, the case will be closed and you will be provided information regarding your right to file a civil action in court.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof rests with a complainant; to prove discrimination occurred, you must provide substantial evidence. The investigation may be closed at any point that it appears unlikely further investigation could yield substantial evidence of the alleged violations.
Complainant interview and cooperation
If the Civil Rights Division forwards your case for further investigation, an investigator will attempt to contact you to schedule an appointment for an investigative interview. The investigator generally attempts to interview you within 45 days from the date your complaint is filed. If you cannot be available at your scheduled time, you must contact the Division immediately to reschedule your interview. If you do not complete the interview or cooperate in rescheduling it, your complaint will be dismissed.
The interview covers each discriminatory act stated in your complaint and its date of occurrence. You must be able to tell the Division how each discriminatory act is linked to your protected class(es).
The investigator may ask you to provide the following information:
Identify witnesses able to corroborate relevant facts;
Identify comparators (other employees or individuals who, in a situation similar to yours, were treated the same as you or differently by the respondent);
Provide copies of any relevant documents in your possession or available to you (the investigator may ask you to make reasonable efforts to obtain certain information, such as medical records or unemployment hearing transcripts);
Describe the details of any relevant documents not available to you.
The Division will not attempt to obtain documentation or interview a witness if there is not a clear basis for believing the document or witness may have information relevant to alleged violation(s).
BOLI investigators are neutral fact finders, and cannot offer legal advice or recommend specific attorneys. Complainants have the right to seek attorney representation at any time in the investigation process, but there is no requirement to have an attorney. If you believe you need legal advice, the Oregon State Bar has a lawyer referral service available at http://www.osbar.org/public/ris/
Completion of Investigation
Investigative findings and recommendations are reviewed by Division management. If the Division finds substantial evidence of a violation, a formal notice of Substantial Evidence Determination is issued. If no violation is found, the Division dismisses the case and notifies you and the respondent of the dismissal. When the case is closed, the complainant is provided information regarding the potential right to file a civil action in court.
Complainant option to withdraw complaint
You can withdraw your complaint at any time during the investigative process. If you want to withdraw your complaint, you must send your request in writing.
The division closes its investigation of your complaint following your withdrawal, and provides information regarding the potential right to file a civil action in court. Return Participating in a Fact-Finding Conference
During an investigation the investigator may require you to attend a fact-finding conference. The purpose of a fact-finding conference is to identify points of agreement and disagreement and, if possible, resolve any disputes and settle the complaint. If the fact-finding conference results in both parties agreeing to settle the complaint, the investigator drafts a conciliation agreement and closes the case. If the fact-finding conference does not result in a settlement, the investigation continues if more information is required. However, the investigator may be able to complete the case with the information supplied at the fact-finding conference Return Conciliation
It may be possible to resolve your complaint through a conciliation, either during the investigation or after the issuance of a Substantial Evidence Determination. A conciliation is a voluntary, no-fault settlement of a complaint. If you and the respondent are able to come to an agreement on a settlement, the division will draft a conciliation agreement for signature. This resolves the complaint. When the conciliation agreement is signed, the complaint is closed. If the investigator makes a Substantial Evidence Determination, the division will attempt to conciliate the case and will contact both the complainant and the respondent.
(All cases involving fair housing violations and resulting in a Substantial Evidence Determination
will result in Formal Charges by the agency.) If conciliation fails after a Substantial Evidence Determination, the division's management reviews the case to decide if BOLI will forward it to a case presenter in BOLI´s Administrative Prosecution Unit for further action. If the case is referred to the APU, a case presenter reviews the file and decides if the evidence meets the higher standard required for an administrative hearing. Not all Substantial Evidence Determinations (except for those involving fair housing violations) meet this standard. If the case presenter decides that the case should receive an administrative hearing, BOLI represents you at the hearing without charge. If either CRD management or the case presenter decides against an administrative hearing, the case is closed and you are issued a notice of your right to file a civil suit. On the one year anniversary of the filing of most employment complaints, the complainant must be issued the 90 day notice of the right to file a civil suit, even if BOLI is referring the case to the APU or has not yet made this decision. Return Administrative Hearing
An administrative hearing is similar to a court hearing and the decision of the administrative law judge has the same weight as a judge´s decision. If the finding of the administrative hearing is in your favor, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries issues a final order and specifies a remedy. A remedy is an award of money or a command to the respondent to compensate you for the effects of an unlawful practice. In cases of discrimination in employment, potential remedies include employment or reemployment, back pay or other benefits lost due to the discriminatory practice, out-of-pocket expenses having to do with the discriminatory practice and compensation for emotional distress. In cases of discrimination in housing or in places of public accommodation, remedies may include the rental, lease, or sale of real property, the provision of services, out-of-pocket expenses or benefits lost because of the discriminatory practice and compensation for emotional distress. If, during the processing of a complaint, the division finds that the respondent made a settlement offer that provides an effective remedy to the unlawful practice, the division will tell you about the offer. If you do not accept it, the division will close the complaint. In cases where a complaint has been dual-filed with the EEOC, the EEOC determines whether the offer constitutes a full settlement of the federal charge. Return Complainant Responsibilities
As a complainant, you have several responsibilities:
Civil Rights Division Limitations
The Civil Rights Division cannot process your complaint if there is not enough evidence to show that you were discriminated against on the basis of protected class status.
An investigator cannot give you legal advice or act as a lawyer for you or for the respondent. The investigator´s role is to investigate the facts of your case in an unbiased manner and, when feasible, to help resolve the complaint.
In most cases you have only one year from a date of harm in which to file a complaint.