Frequently Asked Questions


Questions about Filing a Complaint



What is discrimination?

Discrimination is any difference in treatment of an individual or person because of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. It is illegal to discriminate in the City of Baltimore.

What is "gender identity or expression"?

Gender identity and gender expression have nothing to do with an individual's sexual orientation. Gender Identity refers to a person's innate, deeply felt psychological identification as man, woman, or some other gender which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender expression refers to all the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social interactions. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine, or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another.

What is discrimination in Employment?

Discrimination in employment is when an employer treats an individual differently because of any of the previously mentioned characteristics in decisions regarding hiring, tenure, promotion, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

What is discrimination in Housing?

Discrimination in housing is when someone authorized to sell, rent, lease, sub-lease, or manage a dwelling discriminates in negotiations, the rental, or sale of a dwelling on the basis of any of the previously mentioned characteristics. It is also illegal to falsely claim that a dwelling is not available for rent or sale.

What is discrimination in Financial Practices?

Financial Institutions are prohibited from discriminating in the extending of loans for the purchase or improvement of a home.

What is discrimination in Health and Welfare?

Health and Welfare agencies, like hospitals, nursing homes, counseling centers, community service centers, may not discriminate by withholding or denying services, programs, benefits, facilities, or in setting rates for services based on any of the previously mentioned characteristics.

What is discrimination in Education?

It is illegal for any educational institution to discriminate in admissions, in access to facilities,  in participation of extra-curricular activities, in course enrollment, or in setting of rates, fees, and tuition.

What is discrimination in Public Accommodations?

Discrimination in Public Accommodations is when a person, business, or organization that provides services to or makes facilities available to the public discriminates based on any of the previously mentioned characteristics. For example, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and health clubs are not allowed to discriminate against people nad prevent them from enjoying the privileges of the facility and at the same rates as other customers.

Are there exceptions?

Yes, there are some exceptions. Certain groups, employers, or institutions are allowed to discriminate under specific circumstances. Religious Institutions may discriminate in employment, the rental or sale of housing and property, and in operating public facilities in order to promote their religious principles. Private Clubs may discriminate in eservices they provide only to their members. Employers may discriminate if a particular occupation reasonably requires a certain type of person. Also, employers with less than 15 employees for 15 days of the previous year are exempt. Renting to members of one sex is permitted if the dwelling is constructed in such a way that personal privacy and personal safety are an issue, such as in dormitories or shared housing. Property Owners can be exempt from fair housing laws if they live in the building and the building contains 4 or fewer unites. Some Health and Welfare agencies operated by religious institutions or fraternal organizations that primarily serve only their membership are exempt.


Questions about the Community Relations Commission

What does the Community Relations Commission do?

The Community Relations Commission is the City Agency designated to enforce Article 4 of the Baltimore City Code. Article 4 of the Baltimore City Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, color, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression in the areas of employment, public accommodations, education, health and welfare services, and housing. The Community Relations Commission receives and investigations claims of discrimination that violate Article 4 of the Baltimore City Code.

What enforcement power does the Community Relations Commission have?

The Community Relations Commission has the authority to subpoena information and witnesses, to hold public hearings when conciliation attempts fail; to issue cease and desist orders and to take unresolved cases into court via legal. To learn more about the process through which the Community Relations Commission handles claims, visit the page Complaint Procedure.


Questions about Complaints

What do I do if I think I have been discriminated against?

If you think you have been discriminated against you should first inform the person. If an employer, landlord, or business owner acts in a way that is prohibited by the law, tell them about the law. Try redirecting them to the Community Relations Commission so that they can learn more. If that does not fix the situation, you should contact the Community Relations Committee and file a complaint. Also, make sure you document everything. Write down conversations and save every piece of paper related to the discrimination. If there are friendly witnesses, ask them to give you a written statement. These documents and written statements can be handed to the Community Relations Commission as part of your complaint.

How do I file a complaint?

If you would like to file a complaint you can do so by contacting the Community Relations Commission directly. You can also start the process for filing a complaint on the page File a Complaint Online.

What will happen if I file a complaint?

If you would like to know more about the procedure followed when you file a complaint, you can read about it on the page Complaint Procedure.

Will filing a complaint make things worse?

No! Filing a complaint will not make things worse. You are protected in your right to file a complaint. Someone is not allowed to retaliate against you or further discriminate against you for filing a complaint. You can read more about your rights regarding filing a complaint on the page Rights and Responsibilities.