Division on Civil Rights File a Complaint

File a Civil Rights Complaint with DCR

Rachel Weiner Apter - Director
Rachel Wainer Apter, Director

Filing a Complaint with the Division on Civil Rights

If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination or bias-based harassment in employment, housing, or public accommodations, you may file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights (DCR). Learn more about the DCR process here.

How to File a Complaint with DCR

In order to file a complaint with DCR, you must first submit an intake form. You can submit the intake form:
• Online by creating an account and using the NJ Bias Investigation Access System (NJBIAS)
• By calling 1.833.NJDCR4U and asking a DCR receptionist to assist you in filling out the form on the NJ Bias Investigation Access System (NJBIAS)

NJBIAS is available in English and Spanish. DCR also offers translation services for people with limited English proficiency who speak other languages. Call 1.833.NJDCR4U (833-653-2748) or email at NJDCR4U@njcivilrights.gov to request assistance with NJBIAS in a language other than English or Spanish.

To request a disability-related accommodation, please call 1.833.NJDCR4U (833-653-2748)(voice), call the Relay Service at 711, or email NJDCR4U@njcivilrights.gov.

To submit an intake form you will need the specific facts and any records about the incident, and copies of any documents that support your complaint. This may include:
• The names and contact information of the entity or people that you believe violated your rights under the LAD and/or FLA;
• The names and contact information of potential witnesses;
• Documents, text messages, or emails that support or relate to your allegations;

After you submit an intake form, a DCR investigator will contact you by phone to conduct an intake interview. During the interview, the investigator will gather any information necessary to determine whether DCR has jurisdiction over your complaint (i.e., whether you are alleging a violation of the LAD or NJFLA that occurred within the past 180 days).

If DCR does have jurisdiction over your complaint, DCR will prepare a verified complaint form for your signature. Once you sign the verified complaint, you are known as the Complainant.

Filing a Complaint with DCR vs. in Superior Court

If you believe your rights under New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) or the N.J. Family Leave Act (FLA) have been violated, you can file a complaint either with DCR or in Superior Court. Where a complaint is filed makes a difference, so it is important that you understand the differences before you file.

You may file your case in Superior Court without first filing with DCR. Alternatively, you may first file with DCR and, so long as (1) DCR has not issued a finding of no probable cause, and (2) it has been less than 2 years since the alleged violation, you may withdraw your complaint from DCR and file in Superior Court. However, you are not permitted to file with both DCR and the Superior Court at the same time. In addition, if DCR has issued a finding of no probable cause in your case, you may not file the same allegations in Superior Court. Instead, you may only appeal DCR’s decision to the Appellate Division.

Some of the differences between filing with DCR and filing in Superior Court are:

  DCR Superior Court
Filing Deadline Within 180 days of the alleged violation Within 2 years of the alleged violation
Investigation DCR will conduct an investigation You or your attorney will need to gather evidence
Attorney Needed An attorney is not needed, but you are permitted to be represented by an attorney.  If DCR finds probable cause to support the allegations in your complaint, and the case is not successfully conciliated, a Deputy Attorney General will present your case at a hearing at the Office of Administrative Law or in court. An attorney is not needed, but it is recommended that you have an attorney to represent you in Superior Court
Final Decision Maker The Director of the Division on Civil Rights Judge/Jury
Remedies

Reinstatement, compensatory damages, damages for pain & humiliation & attorneys’ fees.  Equitable relief can include requiring Respondent to institute policy changes, undergo training, or take other measures to prevent the challenged policies and practices from recurring.

In addition, Respondent may be required to pay a penalty to the State of N.J.

Reinstatement, compensatory damages, damages for pain & humiliation, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, any other relief ordered by the Judge.

Overview of the DCR Process

There are several steps in the life of a case at DCR:

Intake

In order to file a complaint with DCR, you must first submit an intake form. You can submit the intake form:
• Online by creating an account and using the NJ Bias Investigation Access System (NJBIAS)
• By calling 1.833.NJDCR4U and asking a DCR receptionist to assist you in filling out the form on the NJ Bias Investigation Access System (NJBIAS)

To submit an intake form you will need the specific facts and any records about the incident, and copies of any documents that support your complaint. This may include:
• The names and contact information of the entity or people that you believe violated your rights under the LAD and/or FLA;
• The names and contact information of potential witnesses;
• Documents, text messages, or emails that support or relate to your allegations;

Accessibility for People with a Disability or Limited English Proficiency

DCR provides people with disabilities equal access to our services and information. If you need an accommodation for a disability in order to complete an intake form, or to otherwise use our services, call 1.833.NJDCR4U (833-653-2748) (voice), call the Relay Service at 711, or email NJDCR4U@njcivilrights.gov.

Accessibility for People with Limited English Proficiency

NJBIAS is available in English and Spanish. DCR also offers translation services for people with limited English proficiency who speak other languages. Call 1.833.NJDCR4U (833-653-2748) or email at NJDCR4U@njcivilrights.gov to request assistance in your language.

Intake Interview
After you submit an intake form, a DCR investigator will contact you by phone to conduct an intake interview. During the interview, the investigator will gather any information necessary to determine whether DCR has jurisdiction over your complaint (i.e., whether you are alleging a violation of the LAD or NJFLA that occurred within the past 180 days).
Verified Complaint, Answer, and Petition Statement
If DCR has jurisdiction over your complaint, DCR will prepare a verified complaint form for your signature. Once you sign the verified complaint, you are known as the Complainant.

DCR will then serve the verified complaint on the party that you allege violated the law, known as the “Respondent.” The Respondent is required to respond to the allegations in the complaint by filing an Answer and Position Statement and providing DCR with any evidence that supports its position. You will be permitted to review the Respondent’s Answer and Position Statement.

Investigation
After the Respondent has submitted an Answer and Position Statement, your case will be assigned to a DCR investigator. All information and evidence submitted by the parties will be reviewed and analyzed by the investigator who will determine whether additional evidence is needed. DCR investigators use several investigative tools to gather evidence including witness interviews, site visits, a review of relevant documentary evidence, and/or a fact-finding conference.

It is important that you preserve all relevant evidence, including electronically stored evidence such as text and email messages, until your case has concluded.

Dispute Resolution
DCR also offers free dispute resolution services to parties who wish to resolve the complaint on mutually agreeable terms. A voluntary resolution can be negotiated at any time during the complaint or investigation process. Please note on your intake form if you are interested in DCR’s free dispute resolution services.
Finding of Probable Cause or No Probable Cause
If no voluntary resolution of your complaint is reached, DCR will complete its investigation and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that the law was violated in your case.

If DCR determines there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that the law was violated in your case, it will issue a “Finding of Probable Cause.” Once DCR issues a Finding of Probable Cause, the case will go to conciliation, where the parties will have the opportunity to negotiate a voluntary resolution. If no voluntary resolution is reached, DCR will appoint a Deputy Attorney General to prosecute the case either in the Office of Administrative Law or in Court. While you are free to hire your own attorney, it is not necessary for you to do so.

If DCR determines there is not sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that the law was violated in your case, it will issue a “Finding of No Probable Cause.” A Finding of No Probable Cause is a final determination by DCR on the merits of your claim.

You may appeal a Finding of No Probable Cause with the Appellate Division, New Jersey’s intermediate court, within 45 days after you are served with a Finding of No Probable Cause. If you fail to file an appeal within 45 days, you will lose your right to have the Court review the Director’s determination. In addition, if DCR has issued a finding of no probable cause in your case, you may not file the same allegations in a new complaint Superior Court. Instead, you may only appeal DCR’s decision to the Appellate Division.

Remedies

If DCR finds that a violation of the Law Against Discrimination or Family Leave Act occurred in your case, it can order the respondent to remedy the harm caused by its conduct. That may include the payment of money damages, including compensatory damages (lost wages and out of pocket expenses), damages for pain and humiliation, and attorneys’ fees. DCR can also order other make-whole relief, such as job reinstatement or granting you access to housing.  It can also order equitable or affirmative relief to prevent discrimination or harassment from recurring, including requiring respondent to create new policies, procedures, or programs; hire new staff; undergo training; or take other affirmative measures.

Withdrawing Your Case from DCR
You may withdraw your DCR case at any time so long as the Director has not yet issued a finding of no probable cause. You may withdraw your DCR complaint in order to file in Superior Court, so long as you are within the 2-year statute of limitations. You are not permitted to have the same claim pending in DCR and Superior Court at the same time.
Requesting to have your case heard at the Office of Administrative Law
You may also request to have your complaint sent to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge provided (1) it has been 180 days since you filed your DCR complaint and (2) DCR has not issued a finding of no probable cause. If you request to have your case sent to the Office of Administrative Law prior to a probable cause determination by DCR, you will need to present your case with your own attorney or yourself (and not by a Deputy Attorney General).
Attorneys

Although it is not a requirement, any party that appears before DCR may be represented by an attorney. Attorneys are required to file a Notice of Appearance with DCR.

Retaliation
Retaliation against a person who files a complaint or participates in an investigation at DCR is prohibited by law. Please notify the investigator if, during or after an investigation, you believe that you or someone else has been retaliated against for participating in DCR’s investigation.

Additional Information

Information provided here is not legal advice and is not intended to be exhaustive. If you are unsure of your rights, please contact DCR or consult with an attorney. Not all of the laws and regulations that apply to a proceeding before the N.J. Division on Civil Rights are discussed or reviewed here. For additional information, see DCR’s rules of practice and procedure.

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