How soon do I have to file the complaint after I was discriminated against?
All complaints of discrimination under the Cambridge Human Rights Ordinance and the Cambridge Fair Housing Ordinance must be filed within 180 days of the occurrence of the last act of discrimination. If the last discriminatory act or occurrence was more than 180 days before the filing of the complaint, but less than 300 days earlier, the Complainant should contact the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).
What preliminary information do I need to provide the Commission in filing my complaint?
At the intake meeting, you should be able to provide the Commission investigator with the following information:
Names, work addresses, and work phone numbers of the people or entities you believe discriminated against you
Your name, work and home addresses, and work and home phone numbers
A concise chronology of discriminatory incidents that you believe occurred, with approximate dates
A list of names and phone numbers of witnesses, if known.
If you have documents relevant to your complaint, be sure to keep them in a safe place, as you will be asked to
submit them during the investigation
May I file my complaint anonymously?
Yes, if "public interest" requires the use of a pseudonym. Factors used by the Commission in determining whether public interest would be served by allowing the Complainant to proceed under a pseudonym are:
The potential physical danger to the Complainant if his or her identity is disclosed to the Respondent and/or its agent, and
The privacy interests of the Complainant.
May a minor file a complaint?
No, a minor must file a complaint through his or her parent or guardian, or wait until he or she reaches age 18 to file. The statute of limitations will be tolled for minors who wait until the age of majority to file.
Do I have to have an attorney to file a complaint and/or represent me in the matter?
You are not required to have an attorney to file a complaint or to represent you in any proceeding before the Commission, although you may retain one at your own expense at any time. During the investigation of your complaint, the Commission acts as an impartial entity in gathering evidence and determining the merits of the complaint. Upon the completion of the investigation, if the Commission determines that there is sufficient evidence of discrimination to warrant a public hearing, a Commission attorney will be provided to represent you at the hearing at no cost.
What happens in the investigation?
The investigation of a complaint may involve a number of steps, including:
a) The investigator gathers testimony or interviews witnesses identified by the parties as having relevant knowledge of the situation at issue;
b) A Mediation conference, conducted by the investigator, where the parties attempt to amicably resolve the complaint;
c) After reviewing and analyzing information and evidence relevant to the complaint, the investigator makes an appropriate recommendation regarding the merit of the complaint to the Executive Director.
What are the possible outcomes of an investigation?
The investigation phase of your complaint may result in
a) An agreement between both sides, reached with the help of the Commission.
b) A final determination by the Executive Director that, on the merits, there is a "Lack of Probable Cause" to believe that discrimination has occurred. In this event, the case will be dismissed.
c) A final determination that, on the merits, there is "Probable Cause" to believe that discrimination occurred. In this event, efforts to conciliate an outcome acceptable to both parties will take place.
d) If the conciliation effort is unsuccessful, a public hearing will be held at a later date. A public hearing is a full legal hearing comparable to a court trial. At the hearing, parties will have opportunities to present evidence and argue their case. The results of the hearing are legally binding.
How does it benefit me to file a complaint?
Very often, complaints filed with the Commission result in mutually-agreeable settlements even before an investigation is completed. Investigations can also result in "compensable remedies" for injuries sustained from an act of discrimination.
Does the investigator take sides during an investigation?
The investigative process is a neutral, impartial process where the rights of all parties are protected. The investigator does not advocate for any party. Complainants and Respondents alike have the right to be taken seriously, to be treated with respect, and to have their issues thoroughly considered. If you do not feel these rights are being respected, you should contact the Executive Director immediately.
What if the Respondent (the employer, the landlord, etc.) retaliates against me for filing the complaint?
Reprisal against Complainants or witnesses in a civil rights investigation is also a civil rights violation. A complaint alleging reprisal is considered on its own merit, whether or not the original complaint is upheld.