The DC Commission on Human Rights (“Commission”) is an agency within the Office of Human Rights (“OHR”) that adjudicates private sector discrimination complaints brought under the D.C. Human Rights Act. The Commission also provides an appeals process to applicants who were found ineligible for employment under the Criminal Background Checks for the Protection of Children Act. Although the Commission is within OHR, the Commission acts independent of OHR in order to adjudicate cases in an impartial manner.
The Commission is comprised of 15 Commissioners, who are nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. Each Commissioner is appointed to a three-year term without compensation.
The Adjudication Process
If OHR finds “probable cause” that discrimination occurred, the case is then certified to the Commission. After certification, the Commission conducts a secondary, independent review of the case. The secondary review includes an evidentiary hearing in a “trial-type” setting either before an administrative law judge or a panel of three Commissioners.
The Commission’s hearing process operates under the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act as well as the Commission’s Rules of Procedure for Contested Cases, 4 DCMR § 400 et seq. (1995). Hearings are de novo, or “from the beginning,” and parties have access to full discovery and motion practice, have the opportunity to submit documentary evidence, and may present testimony by witnesses who are subject to cross-examination. All hearings are public and transcribed by a court reporter.
Once an administrative law judge within the Commission completes the hearing, he or she reviews the record and issues a proposed decision with findings of fact and conclusions of law. The proposed decision is then given to the parties who have the opportunity to submit written exceptions to the proposed opinion. After the written exceptions filed by the parties are addressed, the administrative law judge submits the entire record to the three Commissioners assigned to the case. The Commissioner then issue a final decision that either affirms, modifies or rejects the administrative law judge’s proposed decision.
What happens if discrimination is found by the Commission?
When discrimination is found, the Commission may award a successful complainant injunctive relief, back and front pay, compensatory damages, and/or attorney’s fees. The Commission is also authorized to furnish a civil penalty on a discriminating respondent which is paid to the District government. Final decisions of the Commission may be appealed to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In addition to its adjudicative responsibilities, the Commission may undertake public investigations or hearings concerning various patterns of discrimination and make recommendations to the Mayor and/or the City Council. The Commission also has authority to promulgate rules, regulations, and procedures that implement various portions of the DC Human Rights Act.
Select from the following for more information:
- Hearing Guide Book (en español)
- Procedure for Contested Cases
- Guidelines for Payment of Damages, Civil Penalties, and Attorney's Fees
- Recent Decisions and Orders
- Commission on Human Rights Meeting Minutes
Human Rights Commission
Government of the District of Columbia
One Judiciary Square
441 4th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001