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District of Columbia Civil Rights Laws

The right to receive equal treatment under the law, regardless of skin color or other arbitrary classifications, is referred to as civil rights. Laws meant to protect civil rights are enforced by a combination of federal and state laws. Civil rights statutes are primarily focused on protecting minorities, the disabled, women, and other historically marginalized groups of people from being treated unequally. Civil rights laws pertain to employment, public access, and housing.

Washington, D.C. Civil Rights Laws at a Glance

In addition to the federally recognized classifications -- such as race, national origin, and disability -- the District of Columbia also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and political affiliation. While the district allows private lawsuits for most claims, disability claims are typically filed through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Contact the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights to learn more about how to file a discrimination complaints.

Additional details about Washington D.C.'s civil rights laws are listed in the following table. See FindLaw's Discrimination section for more articles and resources.

Code Section 2-1401.01, et seq. (Generally); 7-1001, et seq. (Handicapped)

Prohibited Acts


Discrimination on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of any individual.
Exceptions (Employment)
  • Observing the conditions of a bona fide seniority system or a bona fide employee benefit system such as retirement, pension or insurance plan which is not a subterfuge to evade the purposes of this chapter, except that no such employee seniority system or benefit plan shall excuse the failure to hire any individual.
  • Prescribing minimum and maximum age limits for appointment to the police officer and firefighter cadet programs.
Agency Generally: Commission on Human Rights; Handicapped: None
Administrative Preemption No
Private Action Permitted? Generally: Yes; Handicapped: No
Attorney Fees Recoverable by Plaintiff? Generally: Yes; Handicapped: No
Statute of Limitations Generally: 1 yr.; Handicapped: Not specified

Note: State laws are subject to change at any time through the enactment of new legislation, decisions from higher courts, and other means. You should consider contacting a District of Columbia civil rights attorney or employment law attorney, or conducting your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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