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Filing a Discrimination Claim – Alaska

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Alaska?

The Alaska Human Rights Law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, physical disability, gender, marital status, and changes in marital status. A separate law , along with the Human Rights Law, prohibits discrimination on the basis of mental illness.

In Alaska, courts have determined that Alaska law should be interpreted more broadly than federal law, because it is the mission of the state to eradicate discrimination, so in certain cases protection under state law may be greater than under federal law.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Alaska?

A discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (ASCHR), or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have a work-sharing agreement, which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with each agency is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to cross-file the claim with the other agency.

The Alaska anti-discrimination statute covers some smaller employers not covered by federal law. Therefore, if your workplace has between 2 and 14 employees, you should file with the ASCHR, 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.

Filing with the ASCHR is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court, but if you do not have an attorney, you may wish to see whether the ASCHR can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. ASCHR complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

To file a claim with http://www.gov.state.ak.us/aschr/.

Alaska State Commission for Human Rights
800 A Street, Suite 204
Anchorage, AK 99501-3669
Toll-Free Complaint Hot Line: (800) 478-4692
Phone (Anchorage Area): (907) 274-4692
TTY/TDD Toll-Free Complaint Hot Line: (800) 478-3177
TTY/TDD (Anchorage Area): (907) 276-3177

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

EEOC’s Seattle District Office
Federal Office Building
909 First Avenue, Suite 400
Seattle, WA 98104-1061
Phone: (206) 220-6883
TTY: (206) 220-6882

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the ASCHR or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for the ASCHR to act on your behalf, you must file (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. In order for the EEOC to act on your behalf, you must file (or cross-file with the state agency) 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 a discrimination claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

If you live or work in Anchorage, you may also wish to check with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission within 120 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. This local antidiscrimination agency processes claims under the city’s ordinance and may also be able to assist you.

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Alaska?

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 ASCHR or EEOC, however, you may need to pursue your claim in court.

A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court until the claim is filed with the EEOC, as discussed above, and the EEOC dismisses your claim. This process is called exhaustion of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required to file a discrimination claim in court based on state law.

Because Alaska state law limits the damages and attorneys fees for a discrimination claim, many attorneys in Alaska choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court using federal law. However, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court. 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 ADEA.

The EEOC must first issue a Dismissal and Notice of Rights or Notice of Right to Sue, (Form 161) before you can file a case in court based on a 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 the notice.) If you have received one of these EEOC notices, do not delay consulting with an attorney.

Any cases filed in Alaska state court must be filed within 2 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

These deadlines are called the statute of limitations. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.