Filing a Discrimination Claim - North Dakota

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, 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 Human Rights Division of the North Dakota Department of Labor (HRD) or 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: http://www.nd.gov/labor/services/human-rights/employment-disc.html.

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 http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

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

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. 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.