Filing a Complaint of Discrimination

Acts of discrimination within the City of Columbia are prohibited by law under Chapter 12 of the City of Columbia Code of Ordinances.

If you feel you have been discriminated against in employment, housing and places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status (housing only), age (employment only), receipt of governmental assistance, alienage or citizenship status, status as a victim of sexual or domestic violence, or order of protection status, you can file a complaint with the City of Columbia. Please review the information below and contact the Human Rights Investigator to discuss the specifics of your complaint.

General Information for complainants and Respondents

Chapter 12, Article II Of City of Columbia’s Code of Ordinances prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status (housing only), age (employment only), receipt of governmental assistance, alienage or citizenship status, status as a victim of sexual or domestic violence, or order of protection status.

Human Rights Invesigator’s role during an investigation of any complaint is that of a neutral fact-finder. The City does not represent either party to the complaint. Evidence is gathered to determine whether or not the ordinance has been violated. Individuals are encouraged to cooperate with the investigation. 

If probable cause is found, both parties will be encouraged to resolve the complaint through conference, conciliation or mediation.  If resolution through these means is not successful the City of Columbia Human Rights Commission will vote on whether or not to forward the Complaint to the City Prosecutor.

If no probable cause is found the file is closed.  The complainant has no authority to appeal a decision of the Human Rights Commission.

Retaliation is a violation of the Human Relations Ordinance. To retaliate or discriminate in any manner against any person for filing a complaint or testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation is prohibited.

Knowingly filing a false complaint is a violation of the Columbia Code of Ordinances.

Representation by an attorney is not necessary however you can seek an attorney’s consultation at your own expense. If you are represented by an attorney please have your attorney contact the City of Columbia Law Department at 573-817-5024 or via email at HumanRights@CoMo.gov.

Complaints must be made within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination.  

Failure to inform the City of Columbia Law Department of changes to your address and phone number could result in your case being delayed or administratively closed.

You can also file complaints of discrimination with other state and federal agencies including the Missouri Commission on Human Rights or the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Procedures for Filing and Investigating Complaints of Discrimination

The City of Columbia’s role during an investigation of any complaints received is that of a neutral fact-finder.  In the investigation, the City does not represent either party to the complaint and its role is to attempt to gather evidence to determine whether or not the ordinance has been violated.

Outline of Procedures for Filing and Investigating Complaints of Discrimination

The following outlines the sections in the Procedures of Filing and Investigating Complaints of Discrimination.

  1. Preliminary Inquiry:  You may contact the Human Rights Commission’s staff liaison to discuss the circumstances and merits of your complaint and your options for filing a complaint at the local, state or federal level.
  2. Complaint of Discrimination Intake:  Following your preliminary inquiry, if your complaint appears to be within the City of Columbia’s jurisdiction, the Human Rights Commission’s staff liaison will assist you in filing a complaint of discrimination with the City of Columbia and/or other state and federal agencies.
  3. Notification of Complaint:  Once you (the Complainant) have filed a complaint of discrimination with the City, the Human Rights Commission will notify the appropriate person (the Respondent) that a complaint of discrimination has been filed against them.
  4. Jurisdictional Review:  Once the Human Rights Commission’s staff liaison receives your complaint of discrimination, the staff liaison will determine whether the City has jurisdiction over the complaint
  5. Resolution Prior To Investigation:  If your complaint falls within the City of Columbia’s  jurisdiction, the Human Rights Commission will contact the Complainant and the Respondent to determine if the complaint can be resolved prior to conducting an investigation.  Resolution may be accomplished by an agreement between both parties to the complaint or both parties to the complaint may choose to have the complaint mediated by the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Missouri School of Law.
  6. Investigation:  If your complaint cannot be resolved through mutual agreement or mediation, the Human Rights Commission will conduct an investigation of the complaint.  
  7. Commission Review and Determination:  Upon completing the investigation, the Human Rights Commission’s staff liaison will present the information gathered during the investigation process to the Human Rights Commission for review and determination if probable cause exists to support the complaint of discrimination.
  8. No Probable Cause:  If the Human Rights Commission finds that the evidence does not support the complaint of discrimination, a no probable cause finding will be issued and the complaint will be administratively closed.
  9. Probable Cause:  If the Human Rights Commission finds that the evidence does support the complaint of discrimination, a probable cause finding will be issued. 
  10. Conference, Conciliation or Mediation: Mediation services are provided at no cost by the Center for Dispute Resolution at the University of Missouri -School of Law.  The Center for Dispute Resolution acts as a neutral third party in mediating a resolution to the complaint.
  11. Referral or Prosecution:  If efforts to eliminate the alleged discriminatory practice have failed, the Commission shall determine whether the complainant will be referred to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights or the complaint of discrimination and related file be forwarded to the municipal prosecutor for prosecution.
  12. Voluntary Withdrawal and Administrative Closure:  At any point in the process, a complaint may be subject to closure for administrative reasons.  

    Chapter 12, Section 12-59. provides the following penalties for violation of the discriminatory practices outlined in Chapter 12, Article III of the Code of Ordinances:

    “Any person who shall violate any provision of this article shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), or imprisonment not exceeding thirty (30) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

    The Human Rights Commission is authorized to investigate complaints of discrimination in the following three (3) areas:

    1. Employment,
    2. Public Accommodation, and
    3. Housing which includes:
      • The Sale or Rental of Dwellings,
      • Real Estate Loans, and
      • Acceptance of Membership in Real Estate Sales Organizations

    Charges of discrimination in these three areas must have a basis for the charge.  A complaint of discrimination must be based on one or more of the following protected categories:

    • Race / Racism
    • Color
    • National Origin
    • Ancestry
    • Sex
    • Religion
    • Disability/Handicap
    • Marital Status
    • Sexual Orientation
    • Gender Identity or Expression
    • Age (Employment Only)
    • Familial Status (Housing Only)
    • Receipt of Governmental Assistance
    • Alienage or Citizenship Status
    • Status as a Victim of Sexual or Domestic Violence
    • Order of Protection Status

    These protected categories are defined in Chapter 12 of the Code of Ordinances.

    Other alternatives for filing complaints of discrimination include various other state and federal organizations such as the State of Missouri Commission on Human Rights or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.