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Employment Law -- Employee

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What Action Can I Take If I Feel I Have Been Discriminated Against?

The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission was established to provide a mechanism for the uniform enforcement of Hawaii’s anti-discrimination statutes including part I of HRS 378, the Hawai’i Employment Practices Act. HEPA covers all employers in the State except the federal government.

Part I makes unlawful actions taken or not taken because of or in relation to: race, sex, age, religion, color, ancestry, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or arrest and court record, assignment of income for child support obligations, and National Guard participation. It is unlawful discrimination under the Part I for an employer to refuse to hire, employ, bar or discharge, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual in compensation or in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

Likewise, employment agencies may not classify or refuse to refer or otherwise discriminate or advertise in a way that expresses, directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification, or unlawful discrimination. Nor may a labor union exclude or expel from its membership or refuse to enter into an apprenticeship agreement with anyone (16 years or older) in a discriminatory manner.

If you have been discriminated against in the above manner, the time limit to file a charge with the Civil Rights Commission is 180 days. This time period starts from the commission of an alleged discriminatory act. Employees who are victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault are exempt from the 180-day statute of limitations for filing with HCRC, providing two years to bring civil action against their employers.

The claim filing procedure is as follows: You fill out the applicable Pre-Complaint Questionnaire and submit a hardcopy to the HCRC. Investigator contacts you for an intake interview. If jurisdictional, they draft the complaint and send it to you for signature. You sign the complaint and return it. Complaint is officially filed–you’re sent a copy. Complaint is sent to the respondent. Respondent sends a response to the charge. Investigator conducts investigation and contacts you for rebuttal information. Complaint is either closed–you’re issued a right to sue letter (valid for 90 days) or further investigation is conducted. Further investigation results in: (a) No reasonable probability finding–complaint is closed and you’re issued a right to sue letter (valid for 90 days). (b) Reasonable probability finding–complaint is transferred to one of our attorneys. Attorney either settles complaint with the employer or prepares the case for an Administrative Hearing. 

Hearing conducted and Hearing Examiner issues a proposed decision to the Commission. Five-member Commission accepts, modifies, or reverses the proposed decision, and issues a final decision and order. You or the respondent may appeal the final decision and order within thirty days in state court. For more information, contact: E-Mail: Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission [email protected], or On O’ahu call 586-8640 From Neighbor Islands, call 1-800-468-4644 (ext 68640)