A few months ago, news broke about dozens of female members of the Arlington County Fire Department complaining about a toxic work environment. A letter from more than 30 female department workers identified multiple instances of harassment and discrimination, often sexual in nature.
The letter also described an equally troubling problem with leadership allegedly doing little (or nothing) about these problems despite complaints. Unfortunately, it’s common for human resources and/or management to be told about a problem, but do little to nothing about it.
This is why some workers will go to an outside agency, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to submit a complaint. But the EEOC isn’t the only option, as there are sometimes state or local agencies that can investigate instances of workplace discrimination and harassment. One such example is the Arlington County Office of Human Rights.
What Is the Office of Human Rights?
There are two main ways to submit a complaint. The first is by telephone, where you can call 703-228-3929 and speak with an intake officer. The second, is through an online questionnaire.
Before the OHR can investigate your complaint, you need to answer two threshold questions:
- Did the discrimination involve an organization in Arlington County?
- Did the most recent instance of discrimination take place within the last 180 days?
Assuming your answer to both questions is “yes,” the OHR can then process and investigate your complaint.
To conduct its investigation, the OHR will need information from you about what happened. This means you need to list the key individuals and organization(s) involved in the discrimination, if there are any witnesses to what happened and what other evidence you have to support your claims.
What Happens During the Investigation
The OHR will notify the person or organization you are complaining about (the respondent) and provide them a chance to respond to your allegations. This may include the respondent providing statements and documentation to the OHR.
After the OHR receives this response, you will have a chance to respond to what the respondent said to the OHR investigator. Even if you feel like you have nothing to add, the OHR might still reach out to you for follow-up questions and information.
After the OHR completes its investigation, the OHR will issue a Final Investigative Report. Around this time, the OHR will see if you and the respondent are willing to enter into a conciliation process.
The Final Investigative Report will list out your allegations, the respondent’s position, the OHR’s conclusions concerning your complaint and a final decision relating to your charges against the respondent.
Depending on what the OHR finds, an investigator will explain to you what your legal remedies are how to pursue them. If you disagree with the OHR, you will have the chance to file an appeal to the Arlington Human Rights Commission.
After Completing the Compliant Process with OHR
If submitting a complaint to the OHR does not address your concerns to your satisfaction, you can consider filing a lawsuit. However, you may want to wait and see if the EEOC can resolve your issue.
The Arlington County OHR and EEOC have a work-sharing agreement. This means if you file a complaint with the OHR, you can also file your complaint with the EEOC at the same time.
The Spiggle Law Firm Can Help You Learn More About Your Legal Rights If You’re Dealing With Sexual Harassment at Work
Whether you’re dealing with sexual harassment in Arlington or any other part of the DMV area, the experienced sexual harassment attorneys from The Spiggle Law Firm can help. If you’re thinking about filing a complaint with the Arlington Office of Human Rights or going to court, we can examine your situation and guide you through the process of whatever path you decide to take. You can contact us online or by telephone at 202-301-4171.