Complaint Investigations Division - How to File a Complaint
The Complaint Investigations Division (Division) investigates complaints of discrimination that have occurred in the City of Minneapolis within 365 days of the alleged incident. The Division does not have jurisdiction to investigate complaints against any county, state or federal government entity.
How to File a Complaint
The Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance (MCRO) specifies that it is illegal to discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex (including sexual harassment), sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, marital status, and status with regard to public assistance. Additionally, in the area of housing, it is illegal to deny housing and real estate opportunities based on familial status.
The Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance prohibits discrimination in these areas:
- Labor Organization Membership and Referrals
- Employment, including employment agencies, employment information and employment advertisement
- Real Estate, including rental, lease and sales
- Professional Organizations
- Public Accommodations
- Public Service
- Educational Institutions
- Reprisal, including aiding and abetting discrimination, concealing discriminatory acts and opposing discrimination
The Complaint Investigations Division investigates all complaints of discrimination which fall under the jurisdiction of the MCRO. The Complaint Investigations Division staff act as neutral investigators, gather information from all parties, and complete impartial investigations.
The Department is a Federal Employment Practices Agency (FEPA). If your case is an employment case or involves a labor organization, it may be dual filed with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), which has separate jurisdictional requirements. By dual filing your case, your federal rights as well as your city rights are protected.
Anyone who believes they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination in the City of Minneapolis within 365 days of the alleged incident may contact the Department to set up an intake appointment with the Intake Officer. The Intake Officer will discuss the alleged discriminatory act(s) and the investigatory process with you. Appointments can be set up in person or by phone at (612) 673-2091. You can start the complaint process by completing an online complaint request. Once the online request is submitted, the Intake Officer will contact you to set up an intake appointment. Or, you can fill out the Civil Rights Intake Questionnaire (pdf) and bring it in with you.
The Intake Officer uses information collected during the initial meeting(s) to determine whether to file a charge of discrimination. Charges of discrimination must be filed within one year of the alleged discriminatory act(s). After the charging party (Complainant) reviews and signs the charge, the Department sends it to the alleged discriminating party (Respondent) within ten days. The Respondent must submit a written response to the Department within twenty days of receiving the charge. The Complainant will receive a copy of the Respondent’s written response and will have twenty days to respond, called a rebuttal statement.
The Intake Officer and Investigators inform the Complainant and the Respondent of the process under the Civil Rights Ordinance and remain neutral at all times. They do not represent or advocate for either party and cannot offer legal advice.
Complainants do not need a lawyer to go through the investigatory process, however if you choose to retain an attorney you will have to do at your own expense. The Complaint Investigations Division does not assist in locating lawyers for either party.
Investigating the Complaint
Once a charge of discrimination is signed and filed, the Department will investigate the allegations and decide whether or not "probable cause" exists to believe the Civil Rights Ordinance has been violated. Probable cause means that based upon a reasonable and impartial view of the evidence gathered during the investigation, there is enough evidence (51% of the evidence) to believe that discrimination was a factor in how the Respondent acted. A finding of "probable cause" does not mean that the Respondent acted in a completely discriminatory manner.
The amount of time each investigation takes depends on the complexity of the case and the number issues involved. Because the Department investigates a high volume of cases, we strongly encourage the parties to mediate.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process where both parties must agree to come to a resolution regarding the allegation(s) of discrimination/retaliation filed. Our department provides a volunteer mediator to assist both parties to come to an agreement that everyone is happy with. If there is an agreement, your case will be closed with our department. If mediation fails and there is no agreement, your case will be forwarded to investigation. In this process, both parties are in control of the outcome. Otherwise, the Department will decide on the outcome and next steps. There is no cost to mediate your case.
Investigations may involve:
- Conducting mediation conferences with the parties to resolve the complaint.
- Interviewing witnesses.
- Requesting and analyzing relevant documentation.
- Performing legal analysis of data collected.
An investigation may result in:
- A mediated settlement agreement.
- A dismissal of the charge.
- A final determination of "Probable Cause" or "No Probable Cause."
The Director’s Final Determination
Upon conclusion of the investigation, the Director reviews the Investigator’s recommendation and determines whether the evidence substantiates the allegations of discrimination and/or retaliation. The Director’s final written determination states that there is either PROBABLE CASE or NO PROBABLE CAUSE that unlawful discrimination occurred.
Finding of "No Probable Cause" and Appeal
After receiving a determination of NO PROBABLE CAUSE, the Complainant may withdraw the charge and pursue a civil action. Alternatively, the Complainant may appeal the determination by submitting a Notice of Appeal to the Director within fifteen days of receiving the final determination. The Director then forwards the Notice of Appeal to the Chairperson of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights, who designates three Commissioners to review the Director’s determination. Upon request, Complainant may present his or her appeal in person to the Review Committee.
The Review Committee has three options: 1. Affirm the Director’s Determination; 2. Reverse the Director’s Determination; or 3. Remand (return) the case to the Department for further investigation.
A Finding of "Probable Cause"
If a finding of probable cause is made, the Director attempts to appropriately address the discriminatory conduct through conciliation. A conciliation period is mandated by the Civil Rights Ordinance. During conciliation the Department provides a conciliator to bring parties to an agreement. The difference between conciliation and mediation is that during conciliation the Charging Party has a determination of probable cause made by the Department and a Department representative is a party to the conciliation agreement, as the Department has an interest in eradicating discrimination in the city. If a settlement is not reached during conciliation, the Director refers the case to the Commission for a public hearing.
Within thirty days of referral to the Commission, the Chairperson designates a three-member panel to preside over the pre-hearing conference(s) and public hearing. Upon completion of the public hearing, the panel determines whether or not the Respondent engaged in discriminatory practices. The panel prepares a written opinion explaining its determination. The Commission hearing phase is more like a trial, where both parties present their case and the panel of three Commissioners will decide the outcome and remedies provided, if any. Remedies which may be provided are outlined in Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance §141.50(k).
Some Points to Remember
- Discrimination is a community concern. A person does not have to be directly affected by discrimination to file a complaint.
- Cases must be filed within one year of the alleged discriminatory incident.
- The act of discrimination must occur within the City of Minneapolis.
- Complainants and Respondents have the right to legal representation throughout the investigation or during hearings.
- Parties must provide the Investigator with relevant dates, documents, witnesses, and other evidence that would help in the investigation.
- Parties must provide the Investigator with any changes in address, home and work phone number, legal representation, etc., throughout the investigation.
Please review the Civil Rights Ordinance for a detailed explanation of civil rights protections in Minneapolis. Please call (612) 673-3012 with any questions concerning the complaint investigation process. If you need this material in an alternative format please contact the Civil Rights Department at (612)673-3012.
Last updated Dec 1, 2016