How to File a Discrimination Complaint Against a Nonprofit


How to File a Discrimination Complaint Against a Nonprofit

Discrimination is an unfortunate reality that many individuals face, even within nonprofit organizations that are meant to serve and support the community. If you believe you have experienced discrimination within a nonprofit organization, it is important to take action and file a complaint. This article will guide you through the process of filing a discrimination complaint against a nonprofit, providing you with the necessary steps to seek justice and equality.

1. Understand the Law:
Before moving forward with filing a discrimination complaint, it is crucial to have a basic understanding of the laws that protect against discrimination. The main federal laws that address discrimination are the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Each law prohibits discrimination based on different characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. Familiarize yourself with the specific law that applies to your situation to ensure you have a solid foundation for your complaint.

2. Document the Discrimination:
Gather as much evidence as possible to support your discrimination claim. This may include written documents, emails, photographs, videos, or any other form of evidence that can demonstrate the discriminatory behavior. It is essential to provide specific details about the incidents, including dates, times, locations, the individuals involved, and any witnesses. Keep a record of all interactions related to the discrimination, as this documentation will strengthen your case.

3. Exhaust Internal Remedies:
Before filing a complaint externally, it is generally advisable to try to resolve the issue internally within the nonprofit organization. Review the organization’s policies and procedures to determine if there are any specific steps you must follow to report discrimination. This may include bringing the issue to the attention of a supervisor, human resources department, or a designated internal complaint coordinator. Make sure to document your attempts to resolve the issue internally, as this will demonstrate that you have followed proper channels.

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4. Contact the Appropriate Agency:
If internal remedies fail to address the discrimination or if the organization does not have a process in place, it is time to contact an external agency that handles discrimination complaints. The appropriate agency will depend on the type of discrimination you have experienced. For instance, if it is related to employment, you may need to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the discrimination occurred in a federally funded program, you may reach out to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) or the Department of Justice (DOJ). Research the specific agency that handles your type of discrimination and follow their guidelines to file a complaint.

5. File the Complaint:
When filing a discrimination complaint, it is crucial to provide all the necessary information and complete any required forms accurately. Include a detailed description of the discrimination, the individuals involved, and the harm it caused you. Attach any supporting evidence that you have gathered, ensuring it aligns with the agency’s guidelines. Be aware of any deadlines for filing the complaint, as failure to meet them may result in your complaint being dismissed.


Q: Can I file a discrimination complaint against a nonprofit if I am a volunteer?
A: Yes. Volunteers are protected against discrimination under various laws, just like employees. You can file a discrimination complaint based on the same criteria as an employee, such as race, sex, religion, or disability.

Q: What should I do if the nonprofit retaliates against me for filing a discrimination complaint?
A: Retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint is illegal. Document any acts of retaliation and report them immediately to the relevant agency handling your complaint. Retaliation can strengthen your case against the nonprofit.

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Q: How long does the complaint process take?
A: The duration of the complaint process can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the agency’s workload. It may take several months to a year or more. Be patient and follow up regularly to stay informed about the progress of your complaint.

Q: Can I file a discrimination complaint anonymously?
A: While it is generally more effective to provide your contact information when filing a complaint, some agencies may allow anonymous complaints. However, filing anonymously may limit the agency’s ability to investigate and address the issue fully.

Q: Should I consult an attorney?
A: While not required, consulting an attorney who specializes in discrimination law can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process. They can help you understand your rights, review your case, and advocate on your behalf.

Filing a discrimination complaint against a nonprofit may seem daunting, but it is crucial to stand up against discrimination and seek justice. By understanding the relevant laws, documenting incidents, exhausting internal remedies, contacting the appropriate agency, and filing a comprehensive complaint, you can take an essential step towards combatting discrimination and promoting equality within nonprofit organizations.