Employees in the District of Columbia are protected from workplace discrimination based on certain traits, such as age or religion. Congress and the D.C. legislature have decided that these traits, called protected characteristics, are not a fair and legal basis for employment decisions—including who to hire, who to fire, and how much to pay employees.
Below, we explain your rights under the state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including which employers must comply with the laws and which employees are protected. (For more on this topic, see our employment discrimination and harassment page.)
Federal Laws Prohibiting Employment Discrimination
Federal laws—including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act—protect employees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia against discrimination based on:
- national origin
- age (applies only to employees who are 40 years of age or older)
- genetic information, or
- physical or mental disability.
These federal laws make it illegal for employers of a certain size to discriminate in all aspects of employment, including hiring, benefits, promotions, pay, discipline, and termination. You are protected from discrimination if you work for a private employer with at least 15 employees (or 20 employees, for age discrimination).
Government employees are protected from discrimination, too. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to all federal, state, and local government employers. For other types of discrimination, all federal government employers are covered, and state and local government employers are covered if they have at least 15 employees.
The District of Columbia Human Rights Act
The District of Columbia Human Rights Act applies to all private employers and all government agencies, regardless of size. The Act prohibits discrimination based on:
- age (18 and older)
- national origin
- gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions)
- gender identity and expression
- sexual orientation
- genetic information
- marital status
- family obligations
- political affiliation, or
- personal appearance.
Separate laws prohibit discrimination based on tobacco use and unemployed status.
Agencies That Enforce Discrimination Laws
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination. The EEOC website provides details on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the primary federal law that prohibits employment discrimination, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other federal laws. See Laws Enforced by EEOC for details. See our article on how to file an EEOC claim or visit the EEOC’s website for more information.
In the District of Columbia, the Office of Human Rights enforces the Human Rights Act. You can find more information on the Human Rights Act, including how to file a complaint, at the Office’s website.
Finding an Employment Law Attorney in the District of Columbia
If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, you should talk to an experienced D.C. employment lawyer. A lawyer can assess your situation, explain the laws that might apply, and evaluate the strength of your claims. A lawyer can also advise you on how to proceed, including filing a complaint or lawsuit, and what damages might be available if you win.