What We Do


Protected Classes

Unlawful discrimination occurs when a person is harassed or treated arbitrarily or differently because of their membership in a "protected class." A protected class is a group of people who share common characteristics and are protected from discrimination and harassment by federal, state, and/or local laws.

The Human Rights Commission receives and investigates complaints filed by any persons who believes they have been discriminated against in Prince William County on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, familial status, religion, disability, age, gender identity, marital status, source of income or status as a veteran in the areas of:

Employment Discrimination

Employment Discrimination happens in the job recruiting or hiring process or in the workplace. It happens when employment decisions such as hiring, layoffs, pay or other work terms or conditions are based on factors other than qualifications or job performance.

Examples of Discriminatory Actions:

  • Firing or demoting someone based on their race or sex rather than job performance;
  • Referring only woman to secretarial or administrative jobs;
  • Refusing to hire someone because that person is over 40 years of age;
  • Employment discrimination includes discriminatory job ads, racial harassment, sexual harassment, unequal pay, age discrimination and pregnancy discrimination among many other examples. 

Housing Discrimination

Housing discrimination happens in the process of renting, buying, selling or getting a loan for a home. It also includes discrimination that denies someone the use or enjoyment of their home.

Examples of Discriminatory Actions:

  • Refusing to rent to a family with children under the age of 18;
  • Housing advertisements that express a preference for people of a certain race, sex or religion; 
  • A landlord refusing accessible parking or otherwise denying access to the housing accommodation of a person with a disability; 
  • Harassment by a landlord based on race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, etc.

Public Accommodation Discrimination

In general, public accommodations discrimination happens when someone is denied access to the facilities or services of a business or other public places, including local and state government.

Examples of Discriminatory Actions:

  • A restaurant owner refuses to serve a  customer wearing religious headgear; 
  • A delivery service will not deliver to a largely minority neighborhood, but serves surrounding non-minority neighborhoods;
  • A taxi driver refuses to allow a minority person in their cab; 
  • a public library bars service animals from entering the facility; 
  • A county recreation center denies a person with arthritis the right to swim during pool hours for the general public;

Credit Discrimination

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) makes it illegal for creditors (also known as banks, mortgage companies, small loan and finance companies, credit unions, retail and department stores, credit card companies, other online companies offering credit, and people who arrange for credit) to discriminate against you. The discrimination prohibition of this law applies to every part of the credit process: when you’re seeking credit, when a creditor evaluates your income, and when a creditor makes credit decisions.

Examples of Discriminatory Actions:

  • An underwriter refuses to guarantee a loan because of an applicant's sex;
  • A bank asks about an applicant's marital status when the applicant is applying for a separate, unsecured account; 
  • A savings and loan company refuses to grant a loan or discourages a qualified applicant from applying for a loan because of the applicant's race;
  • A finance company imposes different terms or conditions, like a higher interest rate or higher fees, on a loan based on an applicant's religion or national origin. 

Education Discrimination

Discrimination in education occurs when a person or entity takes unfair action (or inaction) against people belonging to certain categories in enjoying a full right to educational opportunities.

Examples of Discriminatory Actions:

  • A teacher requests sexual favors in return for grades or repeatedly makes sexual comments to a student; 
  • A school denies a student the use of a guide or support animal for a disability; 
  • A student cannot physically access a facility because of barriers or a lack of ramps or elevators; 
  • Students are denied opportunities such as scholarships or extracurricular activities because of their race, sex, religion, national origin or disability;
  • A classmate repeatedly makes sexual comments or gestures, or subjects a peer to sexually offensive images.


Human Rights Ordinance

Prince William County is a community richly diverse and valued for the heterogeneity of its residents. It is in the public interest of the county to assure that each citizen is treated fairly, provided equal protection of the law and equal opportunity to participate in the benefits, rights, and privileges of community life. Discrimination deprives the citizenry of the bare essentials of life and is detrimental to the public welfare, safety, and health of the community. 

Prince William County Code Chapter 10.1



The Investigative Process


Once a complaint is served on the Respondent, the Respondent has thirty calendar days, pursuant to the Human Rights Code, to respond in writing to the complaint. The office will offer to conduct mediation with the parties early in the process. If the parties do not agree or if mediation fails, the investigation will proceed. As a neutral fact-finder, the Human Rights Investigator may interview parties and witnesses, review respondent's position statement and supporting documentation, issue interrogatories and document requests, and conduct field visits where appropriate.


At the conclusion of the investigation, the Human Rights Investigator recommends a determination of probable cause or no probable cause to believe unlawful discrimination has occurred to the Human Rights Director. The Human Rights Director reviews the recommendation and issues a formal finding.

No Probable Cause

If a formal no probable cause finding is issued, the case will be dismissed, and no further action will be taken. A Complainant whose complaint was filed under federal anti-discrimination laws may ask the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to review the Office's finding.

Probable Cause

If a probable cause finding is issued, the Office will begin a thirty-day mandatory conciliation process. If conciliation is successful, the terms of the agreement are set forth in writing and the case is closed. If conciliation is not successful, the Human Rights Director may notify the Human Rights Commission to schedule a public hearing. The parties should consult with the Investigator or with an attorney about post-administrative legal actions.

Request for a Notice of Right to Sue

Complainants may request a "Notice of Right to Sue" in federal court from the EEOC at specified periods while a case is pending. Once a request for a Notice of Right to Sue is made, the office terminates its investigation, and the case is closed.