Filing a Complaint with the Commission 

 

The Complaint Process

The Alaska Human Rights Law makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, in places of public accommodation, in practices by the State or its political subdivisions, in the sale, lease or rental of real property, and in credit and financing practices because of race, religion, color, national origin, sex or physical or mental disability.  In employment and some other situations, it is also illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy or parenthood.

The Human Rights Law also makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for opposing any practice forbidden under the Human Rights Law, or because the person has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in a proceeding under the Human Rights Law.

If you believe you have experienced discrimination on any of these bases, you may contact the Commission about filing a complaint. You must contact us within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination. You may contact the Commission by telephone, by mail, or by visiting the Commission’s office.  Commission staff will help you determine if you can file a formal complaint. Staff will draft the complaint and prepare it for signature and filing.

You must have your complaint drafted, notarized and filed with the Commission within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. 

Mediation

The Commission offers a mediation program as an alternative to investigation. Mediation is a free and entirely voluntary process to help parties resolve their differences and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Parties exchange information and work together with a neutral mediator to try to resolve the complaint. If parties reach a settlement, the Commission will dismiss the complaint. If no settlement is reached, the case will be transferred for a full and impartial investigation.  

The Investigation Process

The Commission impartially investigates the complainant's allegations. During the investigation the Commission does not advocate for one side or the other. The Commission first sends a copy of the complaint to the Respondent (the person or business against whom discrimination is alleged). The Respondent may provide a written response to the Commission.  The Commission will assign an investigator to the case, who will then interview witnesses, collect documents, and may visit the site of the alleged discrimination or gather evidence in other ways. The Commission also has the power to subpoena witnesses or documents, if it becomes necessary to do so.  

After the investigation is complete, the Commission staff will issue a finding called a Determination. The Determination may conclude that:  (1) the investigation did not find “substantial evidence” that discrimination occurred and the complaint therefore will be dismissed; or (2) the investigation found “substantial evidence” exists that discrimination occurred and the complaint will be referred for conciliation (settlement). 

The Conciliation Process

If the Commission staff finds substantial evidence to believe discrimination occurred, the Commission will immediately contact the parties and attempt to facilitate “conciliation”  (settlement). The Respondent will be asked to cease the discriminatory act or practice. Respondent also may be asked to provide make-whole relief to the complainant, undergo training in the laws prohibiting discrimination, adopt an anti-discrimination policy, or take other actions necessary to remedy the discrimination uncovered during the investigation.

The Commission will dismiss the case after the parties have met the requirements set forth in the conciliation agreement.  If an agreement  cannot be reached, the Commission’s Executive Director will certify conciliation failure and may decide to file a formal Accusation and refer the case for public hearing.

Confidentiality

Under the Alaska Human Rights Law, cases are confidential and the Commission is prohibited from disclosing the names of parties or any records or information obtained during an investigation. If a case fails conciliation, the case is no longer considered confidential and may be referred for public hearing.

After conciliation failure, the records and information obtained during the investigation become available to the parties. The records of investigation may also be made available according to the rules of discovery if an action relating to the charge is filed in court.