Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Fairfax County Human Rights Commission?

The Human Rights Commission was formed as a result of the adoption of the Human Rights Ordinance. What does the Human Rights Ordinance do?

The Human Rights Commission serves as a resource for individuals on both sides of a complaint. Can you elaborate on that?

Does an individual have to go in person to the Human Rights Commission in order to file a complaint?
What happens after someone files a complaint?

What happens in a public hearing?

What happens if the Commission decides that the Ordinance has been violated?

Are there instances where filing a complaint under the Human Rights Ordinance affects federal or state claims?

Although the Commission is a County agency, its main focus is on the private sector. Why is that?

The Human Rights Commission members ensure that the Ordinance is upheld here in Fairfax County. How long do they serve? What special skills or experience is needed to serve on the commission?

When and where does the Human Rights Commission meet?

Can my organization get someone to lead an informational seminar on compliance with the Ordinance and similar civil rights laws?

Can my organization get a speaker to talk to us about the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Ordinance?



 

What is the Fairfax County Human Rights Commission?

The Human Rights Commission was created by the Fairfax County Human Rights Ordinance and consists of 12 county residents appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The Commission is charged with eliminating discrimination in housing, public accommodation, employment, education and credit facilities by utilizing its enforcement powers under the Ordinance.

The Commission takes the approach of not only receiving and investigating complaints alleging a violation of the Human Rights Ordinance, but also of cooperating with the employers, the housing industry and other businesses in the County to make sure we all understand our duty to ensure equal opportunity and equal access.

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The Human Rights Commission was formed as a result of the adoption of the Human Rights Ordinance. What does the Human Rights Ordinance do?

The Human Rights Ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit facilities in the private sector because of race, sex, age, national origin, religion, color, disability, marital status and familial status. Familial status refers to the status of being a family with children under the age of 18, and applies only to housing.

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The Human Rights Commission serves as a resource for individuals on both sides of a complaint. Can you elaborate on that?

The Ordinance protects the rights of citizens and visitors to the County in that it allows for a person to file a complaint alleging a violation of the Ordinance with the Commission and have that complaint investigated by the Executive Director and staff. The Commission hears appeals and conducts public hearings to determine if the Ordinance has been violated.

The Commission also serves as a resource for those who provide employment, housing, public accommodations, education or credit facilities by having the staff available to help them understand their responsibilities under the Ordinance and what to do if a complaint is filed against them. The staff offers seminars and workshops on fair employment and fair housing. Just call the Executive Director if there is a need for information. It is important to remember that the Commission is here to enforce the Ordinance, not to take sides in a dispute.

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Does an individual have to go in person to the Human Rights Commission in order to file a complaint?

No, an individual can file a complaint over the phone or through the mail. You may file a complaint by calling the Commission phone numbers listed below and simply inform us that you want to file a complaint.

(703) 324-2953
(703) 324-2900 (TTY)
(703) 324-3570 (FAX)

A Human Rights Specialist will listen to you and formulate a complaint for you to sign. You do not need an attorney to file a complaint, but you may consult with one if you wish.

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What happens after someone files a complaint?

A letter notifying the respondent that a complaint has been filed is prepared and sent, including a copy of the complaint and a request for information, or "RFI". The respondent is given four to six weeks to respond to the request. If they respond appropriately, the investigator assesses the response and determines if any more information is necessary, such as interviews with witnesses, copies of documents, a site visit, etc. If the respondent does not respond to the RFI, then the matter is referred to the County Attorney's office to seek approval of the Board of Supervisors to file in court for a subpoena to get the information needed to complete the investigation. After all of the necessary information is gathered, it is analyzed by the staff to determine if there is reasonable ground to believe that the Ordinance has been violated.

If the staff does not find a reason to believe that the Ordinance was violated as alleged, the complainant is notified by letter of the finding and given a chance to appeal to the Commission. If appealed, the Commission hears the appeal and decides whether to uphold the staff's finding or refer the matter back to the staff for more investigation, or conduct a public hearing in the case.

If the staff finds a reason to believe that the Ordinance has been violated, the respondent is notified of the reason by letter and given the opportunity to conciliate the matter. If the respondent chooses not to conciliate, then the case is referred to the Commission for a public hearing. After the public hearing, the Commission will decide if it believes the Ordinance has been violated and notify the parties of its decision.

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What happens in a public hearing?

It is much like you would imagine a court case to proceed. Both parties attend a pre-hearing conference to stipulate to evidence, list witnesses, and point out those items in dispute. During the hearing, both sides give opening statements, the complainant presents his or her case first and is cross examined by the respondent and the Commissioners and then the respondent presents its case and is cross examined. Then both parties present closing arguments. After this, the Commission deliberates until it reaches a decision in the case.

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What happens if the Commission decides that the Ordinance has been violated?

The Commission notifies the parties of its decision and gives them four weeks to see if the matter can be settled with the help of the staff. If so, a conciliation agreement is drawn up and signed by both parties and the Commission. If not, the matter is referred to the County Attorney to seek the approval of the Board of Supervisors to file a claim in court alleging a violation of the Ordinance by the respondent.

 

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Are there instances where filing a complaint under the Human Rights Ordinance affects federal or state claims?

Yes, especially with regard to employment claims. If you file in Fairfax County your case is filed with the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if your allegation is also jurisdictional under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as amended; and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Human Rights Ordinance so that it is substantially equivalent to the federal fair housing law and allows for local cases of housing discrimination to be crossfiled with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Although the Commission is a County agency, its main focus is on the private sector. Why is that?

The County has chosen not to enter into any conflicts of interest by investigating and having the final say over allegations that it has violated the civil or human rights of its constituents. There are federal and state agencies that prohibit discrimination in local government employment and services and those agencies receive and investigate allegations of discrimination in those areas. The Ordinance covers only private employers, housing providers, credit facilities, private businesses doing business with the public and private education providers.

 

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The Human Rights Commission members ensure that the Ordinance is upheld here in Fairfax County. How long do they serve? What special skills or experience is needed to serve on the commission?

It's a 12-member board appointed by the Board of Supervisors. There is one representative on the Commission for each Supervisor's District. Each member serves a three-year term. Three positions are appointed by the Chairman of the BOS. Annually, the Commissioners elect a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and a Secretary as officers of the Commission.

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When and where does the Human Rights Commission meet?

The Commission meets the first and third Wednesday of every month, and these meetings, which may include appeals and or public hearings, are open to the public.  The meetings take place in the Fairfax County Government Center in Rooms 9 & 10 at 7:30 PM.

If the number of appeals is especially high on any given month, the Commission will often schedule a third meeting in order to cover all of the cases to be heard.

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Can my organization get someone to lead an informational seminar on compliance with the Ordinance and similar civil rights laws?

Yes. Call the Division Director at 703-324-2953 to discuss your needs and schedule a seminar.

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Can my organization get a speaker to talk to us about the work of the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Ordinance?

Yes. Call the Division Director at 703-324-2953 to discuss your needs and schedule a seminar.

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