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Your Rights Filing a Discrimination Claim - North Dakota

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Employment discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of other people at work, because of their membership in a legally protected category such as race, sex, age, or religion.  Each state has passed laws and rules to protect your workplace rights: this page covers North Dakota employment discrimination.  The purpose of the North Dakota Human Rights Act is to protect workers in North Dakota from unlawful discrimination in employment. Read below to learn more about North Dakota employment law and how the law protects you.

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in North Dakota?

The North Dakota Human Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age (40 years and older), disability, pregnancy, marital status, or receipt of public assistance. It is also illegal to discriminate against an employee for participation in a lawful activity off the employer's premises during non-working hours, as long as the activity is not in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests of the employer.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, a discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rightsor the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to either of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other agency.

The North Dakota anti-discrimination statute covers employers of any size. Therefore, if your workplace has between 1 and 14 employees, you should file with the HRD, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. If your workplace has 15 or more employees, you may file with either agency.

To file a claim with the HRD, contact its office below. More information about filing a claim with HRD can be found at the North Dakota Human Rights Employment Discrimination page.

North Dakota Department of Labor, Human Rights Division 
Mailing Address: 
600 East Boulevard Avenue, Dept. 406 
Bismarck ND 58505-0340 
Physical Address: 
State Capitol, 13th Floor 
Bismarck, North Dakota 
Phone: (701) 328-2660 
Toll-Free (in-state): (800) 582-8032: 
TTY (Relay ND): (800) 366-6888 or (800) 366-6889 
Fax: (701) 328-2031

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at the EEOC Filing a Charge page.

EEOC — Denver District Office 
303 E. 17th Avenue 
Suite 510 
Denver, CO 80203 
Phone: (303) 866-1300
TTY: (303) 866-1950

EEOC has launched an online service that enables individuals who have filed a discrimination charge to check the status of their charge online.  This service provides a portal to upload and receive documents and communicate with the EEOC, allowing for a faster transmitting period.  Those who have filed a charge can access information about their charge at their convenience, and allow entities that have been charged to receive the same information on the status of the charge.  All of the EEOC offices now use the Digital Charge System.  If you file on or after September 2, 2016, the Online Charge Status System is available for use.  The system is not available for charges filed prior to this date or for charges filed with EEOC's state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. The system can be accessed at the EEOC website. If you do not have internet or need language assistance, you may call the toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000. For additional help, you may also call the toll free number to retrieve the same information provided in the Online Charge Status System.

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the HRD or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for these agencies to act on your behalf, you must file with the CRU or EEOC within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible, but if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your discrimination claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

4. What happens after I file a charge with the EEOC?

When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to do one of the following:

  • Ask both you and the employer to take part in a mediation program
  • Ask the employer to provide a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim, then your charge will be given to an investigator
  • Dismiss the claim if your charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction

If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge, the EEOC may interview witnesses and gather documents.  Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If they decides that discrimination did not occur then they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot reached, your case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” `                         

How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On average, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge is often able to settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).

5. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in North Dakota?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the HRD or EEOC, however, and you may want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your claim. This process is called “exhaustion” of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required to proceed with your state discrimination claim.

Because North Dakota's anti-discrimination law does not permit the punitive damages (damages that punish the employer) allowed under federal law, and limits the back pay award to two years of back pay, some North Dakota attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court using federal law. A case filed in state court using federal law may be “removed” to federal court by the employer because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The EEOC must first issue the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue,” (Form 161) before you can file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive it.)

A lawsuit based on your state claim must be filed within 3 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If you have received one of these agency letters, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.