Workers in Seattle are protected by a vast web of anti-discrimination laws.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides federal protection against employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; and, with the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, establish a baseline of fair employment in the United States.  The Washington Law Against Discrimination substantially parallels the federal statutes, but it is limited to only those employers who employ eight or more persons at or around the time of the discriminatory acts and does not include religious organizations.  The Seattle Fair Employment Practices Ordinance on the other hand applies to all employers with one or more employee and goes even further than the federal or state laws to protect employees from discrimination based on race, color, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, political ideology, age, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status or the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability.

To pursue a charge under the Seattle Fair Employment Practices Ordinance, charges must be filed with the City of Seattle Office for Civil Rights within eighteen months after the unfair employment practice.  However, a lawsuit may be filed alleging violation of the Fair Employment Practices Ordinance regardless of whether administrative charges were pursued.  Likewise, charges under the Washington Law Against Discrimination may be pursued through the Washington Human Rights Commission within six months after the unfair employment practice—though with some exceptions.  But like the Seattle ordinance and the federal anti-discrimination statutes, aside from required administrative remedies, a lawsuit can be filed under the state statute regardless of whether administrative charges have been filed.

By Joseph Gehrke – Associate Attorney

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