File a Complaint

Initial inquiries are treated confidentially. Tell us what happened and when and why you feel you were treated differently. We may be able to suggest ways you can resolve the situation yourself, we may make an informal contact, or you may decide to file a charge of discrimination.

Do I Need An Attorney To File A Charge Or If A Charge Is Filed Against Me?

No, you do not need an attorney; however, you may hire an attorney to represent you if you wish.

What Is The Administrative Process?

Idaho law requires that an administrative complaint be filed with the IHRC before a discrimination lawsuit can be filed. An administrative complaint may be drafted by an individual, by a lawyer or by a commission staff member based on information provided by an individual.

What Does The IHRC Do With A Complaint?

A complaint is served immediately upon the organization, so they have an opportunity to know exactly what accusations are being made and to explain their side of the story. The IHRC’s job is to conduct a neutral fact-finding investigation, asking for information and evidence from both parties. The evidence is summarized and submitted to commissioners (appointed by the governor) who decide the merits of the case. Legal issues are resolved with guidance from a deputy attorney general assigned to the IHRC.

Will The Press Find Out About An Administrative Charge?

Not from the IHRC. Our staff will talk to third parties about the charge only as necessary to conduct an investigation or otherwise process the case. The IHRC encourages the parties to also keep the complaint confidential. Cases are very difficult to resolve and/or investigate when the matter is being discussed in a public forum or with outside groups.


To complete and submit an intake questionnaire to the staff at the Commission.


When a charge is filed, the charge will go through an internal process from beginning to end. This process may take up to one year from the filing date to complete.

Learn More


It is a prohibited act under the Idaho Human Rights Act (IHRA) for an educational institution to discriminate against a person because of or on a basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

According to the IHRA, this includes the following:

(a) To exclude, expel, limit or otherwise discriminate against an individual seeking admission as a student or an individual enrolled as a student in the terms, conditions and privileges of the institution or

(b) To make or use a written or oral inquiry or form of application for admission that elicits or attempts to elicit information or to make or keep a record of an applicant for admission, except as permitted by the regulations of the commission,

(c) To print or publish or cause to be printed or published a catalogue or other notice or advertisement indicating a preference, limitation, specification, discrimination of an applicant for admission or

(d) To announce or follow a policy of denial or limitation through a quota or otherwise of educational opportunities of a group or its members.

Public Accommodation

It is a prohibited act under the Idaho Human Rights Act (IHRA) “[f]or a person… to deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of a place of public accommodation, or… to print, circulate, post, or mail or otherwise cause to be published a statement, advertisement or sign which indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of a place of public accommodation will be refused, withheld from, or denied an individual or that an individual’s patronage of or presence at a place of public accommodation is objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable” on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, religion or disability. Idaho Code § 67-5909(5).

The IHRA defines “place of public accommodation” to mean “a business, accommodation, refreshment, entertainment, recreation, or transportation facility of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” Idaho Code § 67-5902(9). Respondent is a place of public accommodation.


Idaho Fair Housing Law (Title 67-State Government and State Affairs) prohibits discrimination in real estate transactions which is based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Sex

Idaho law applies to all real estate transactions, including:

  • Advertising 
  • Showing
  • Renting
  • Leasing
  • Buying
  • Selling
  • Financing

What housing is covered?

Idaho law covers most housing, including single rentals, houses and duplexes. An exemption is made for an owner occupied duplex.

Who is covered?

  • Advertising media
  • Apartment housing agents and managers
  • Banks, savings & loan associations, mortgage lenders or other financial institutions
  • Developers and owners
  • Contractors
  • Home builders
  • Individual home owners
  • Landlords
  • Landowners
  • Rental agents
  • Real estate brokers
  • Real estate salespersons

Discrimination can occur:

  • When an owner or manager, broker, salesperson or anyone else refuses to show or submit offers for property, or otherwise interferes with or discourages a transaction or
  • When any form of advertisement indicates a preference for or limitation on particular groups or
  • When a person to whom an application for financing is made limits access to financing because the applicant is a minority or has a disability or
  • When a person for the purpose of trying to induce a real estate transaction indicates that the minority composition of the surrounding area is changing or is about to change.
  • When a renter is not allowed to install a wheelchair ramp or other type of reasonable modification that would permit accessibility for the person with a disability, at his/her own expense, even though he/she promises to remove it when he/she leaves.


The Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) enforces both state and federal anti-discrimination law in Idaho. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an individual in hiring, employment and the voluntary or involuntary termination of employment on the basis of sex, religion, race, color, national origin, disability or age (over 40).

The IHRC enforces Title 67, Chapter 59 of the Idaho Code; Title 44, Chapter 17 of the Idaho Code; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; the Age Discrimination in the Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA); and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


Race, Color and National Origin

Race, Color, National Origin Discrimination And Equal Employment Opportunity Law

Discrimination is treating someone differently from others because of a particular characteristic. Both state and federal laws prohibit discrimination based upon race, color or national origin in employment relationships. It is also illegal to retaliate against someone because that person has opposed discrimination, asserted his or her own civil rights or assisted others to do so.

The Idaho Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is an independent agency established by the Idaho legislature to help protect persons within the state from illegal discrimination. The IHRC also handles complaints under federal law deferred to them by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This page summarizes some important points about the law as it applies to race, color and national origin discrimination and employment.

What issues are covered by the anti-discrimination laws?

The coverage is very broad, including all aspects of the employment relationship, such as:

  • Pre-employment job applications and inquiries
  • Hiring
  • Job assignments
  • Recommendations
  • Discipline
  • Overtime
  • Salary
  • Promotions
  • Terminations
  • General terms and condition of employment
  • Harassment
  • Lay off

Who is protected against discrimination based on race, color and national origin?

EVERYONE! Many people believe that minorities have greater rights under the anti-discrimination laws than others, but that is not true. All people fall within the definition of race, color and national origin and all have equal protection under the law. However, most of the complaints received by the IHRC about race, national origin or color discrimination come from persons of Hispanic, African-American or Native American descent. Persons who are discriminated against because of their association with minorities or minority organizations are also covered by the law.

What are some examples of discriminatory employment practices?

Discrimination comes in many forms. Here are some examples:


Ethnic and racial slurs should never be permitted in the workplace. Other verbal or physical conduct may be discriminatory if it is directed towards someone because of their race, color or national origin and if the conduct has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment. An employer has an affirmative duty to maintain a working environment free of harassment based on color, national origin or race. An employer may be held liable for the acts of its employees if supervisors know (or should have known) about the harassment and failed to take appropriate corrective action. An employer may also be liable for the harassment coming from non-employees if the employer has some legal control over the non-employees, fails to take immediate corrective action or expects an employee to tolerate the harassment as part of his or her job.

Using personal preferences in employment decisions

Favoring members of a particular culture, skin color or race in making any employment decision, from hiring to termination.


Pre-judging a member of a racial or national origin group because of assumptions about the group. Assumptions are often made about:

    • Intelligence
    • Punctuality/Reliability
    • Integrity
    • Criminality
    • Cooperativeness

Past experience

Problems in dealing with others of a certain race, color or national origin are sometimes used to assume all members will present similar problems.

Co-worker or customer preferences

Racial biases and preferences of customers or co-workers cannot be used as a rationale to deny equal employment opportunity.

Relying solely on current employees to find new job applicants

Information transmitted by informal contacts, especially if few minorities are in the current workforce, may not reach qualified minority applicants, thus denying them equal opportunity to compete and be considered for new positions.

Eliminating job candidates because of their arrest records

An arrest is not an indicator of guilt and historically minorities have suffered proportionally more arrests than others. Employers may request information about past convictions, and they can terminate employees for giving false answers. The EEOC urges employers not to use convictions as an absolute bar to employment. Rather, they should consider such factors as age and time of offense, the seriousness and the nature of any violations.

Eliminating candidates because of economic status

Rejection of applicants because of poor credit ratings has an adverse impact on minority groups and may be illegal unless a business reason exists to justify the practice. Inquiries about bankruptcy, car ownership, rental or ownership of a house and past garnishment of wages may be illegal.

English language skill/testing

Hiring or promoting only people who are fluent in English adversely impacts members of certain ethnic groups, such as Hispanics in Idaho. An employer should require or test for English language skill only when there is a business necessity for workers to use that skill on their jobs. Employers may, however, require employees who are able to speak English to use that language while on the job, if the rules are reasonable and employees have been given notice of when it is permitted and when it is not permitted to speak in other languages.

Imposing unnecessary education requirements

Educational requirements should be job-related. If they are merely used as a screening device, they may be illegal because of their adverse impact on members of minority groups.

Imposing unnecessary height/weight requirements

People of Asian and Hispanic descent tend to have smaller statures than people of some other backgrounds. Using minimum height or weight requirements will disproportionately screen them out of jobs. An employer who uses minimum height or weight requirements, therefore, must be able to demonstrate that there is a business necessity for the requirement. Otherwise, the practice is discriminatory.

Requiring an applicant to supply a maiden name or spouse’s name

This is information which is not relevant to a person’s ability to do a job and could be used to discriminate on the basis of national origin.

What are examples of employment practices that might appear to be unfair but are actually legal under the anti-discrimination laws?

Affirmative action

Many Idaho employers who do business with federal money are required by their contracts with federal agencies to have affirmative action plans. Other employers write voluntary affirmative action plans in order to redress the effects of past discrimination, intended or unintended. The goal of affirmative action is to obtain a workforce representative of the diversity of the labor pool.

Data required for legitimate business purposes

An employer may ask applicants to voluntarily provide information about race or ethnicity. This information may be used for implementation of affirmative action programs or government reporting or record-keeping requirements. It may also be used for studies to identify and resolve possible problems in the recruitment and testing of members of minority groups. If this information is requested on an application, there should also be a written assurance that it will be maintained separately from application materials and not be a part of the hiring process.

National security

It is not unlawful to deny employment to any individual who does not fulfill national security requirements as defined by the law.

Indian preference

It is not illegal under federal law for an employer on or near an Indian reservation to maintain and publicize an employment policy giving preference to Indians living on or near the reservation. This is an exception to the general prohibition against race-based preferences. It was inserted into federal law in recognition of the unique status of tribal and reservation-based activities.

Bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ)

An employer may, in very limited circumstances, restrict hiring to members of a particular national origin. The employer must be able to demonstrate that this requirement is an actual qualification for doing the job and is necessary for the normal operation of business. BFOQs are narrowly interpreted. There are no recognized BFOQs for race or color.

“National origin” and “citizenship” are different legal concepts and are treated differently under the law

“National origin” refers to the country from which an individual or her/his forbears came; it does not refer to whether the person is a U.S. citizen. Anti-discrimination laws protect citizens and non-citizens alike from discrimination based on race, national origin or color. However, the laws enforced by the IHRC do not protect an individual who believes that he/she has been discriminated against because of the particular citizenship held: U.S. citizen or citizen of another country.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, prohibits discrimination based upon citizenship status, unless U.S. citizenship is required by law, regulation or executive order. Therefore, if individuals who are legally authorized to work in the United States feel they have been discriminated against because of citizenship status, they may contact the U.S. Department of Justice for assistance at the following location:
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Special Counsel for Immigration
Related Unfair Employment Practices
P.O. Box 65490
Washington, D.C. 20035
1-800-237-2515 (TDD)


Retaliation against an individual who has engaged in a protected activity is unlawful. “Protected activity” means opposing conduct which a person, in good faith, reasonably believes to be unlawful under the anti-discrimination statutes or participating in Commission proceedings, those proceedings set up for the enforcement of the anti-discrimination statutes.

Can someone get in trouble for filing a complaint?

Federal and state laws make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against someone for asserting civil rights by filing a charge. The IHRC notifies the organization named in a complaint of this provision of the law when it serves a charge.
The laws that protect against retaliation mean only that an action should not be taken against someone because he or she filed a complaint. Employees still are subject to disciplinary actions for other reasons. For instance, if an employee disobeys company rules after filing a charge, he or she can be disciplined by an employer in the same manner as that employer treats others. 


Idaho workers, regardless of sex or gender, both men and women, are protected against sex discrimination in many aspects of their employment, including the areas of:

  • Advertising for job openings
  • Hiring decisions
  • Assignment of work
  • Rate of pay
  • Disciplinary measures
  • Evaluations
  • Promotions, demotions
  • Lay-offs
  • Discharge
  • References
  • Terms and conditions

Sex discrimination claims account for about half of the discrimination cases filed with the Idaho Human Rights Commission each year. Some of the issues raised are discussed below.


The senior civil rights investigator assigned to your case can answer your questions and provide more information.

A decision not to mediate does not impact the case as it goes through the investigative process.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual conduct that is severe enough or occurs often enough to interfere with an employee’s ability to do his or her job. Sexual harassment takes many forms, such as touching, sexual comments or jokes, displays of pornographic materials, indecent exposure, assault or even rape. Sexual harassment occurs in many different work environments and victimizes both men and women. The harasser may be a person of the opposite sex or the same sex. It is the effect of the sexual conduct, not the harasser’s intent, that determines whether the law has been violated. Victims of sexual harassment should not try to ignore it or assume it is a joke or an accident. Sexual harassment is a wrongful use of power. Experience shows that harassment will continue or increase if it is ignored.

Employers may be liable for sexual harassment whether it comes from a supervisor, a co-worker or even from non-employees, such as customers or contractors. Many employers have anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures to deal internally with these problems. Effective policies and employee training can go a long way towards discouraging improper conduct before it becomes serious enough to violate the law.

Job Assignments

Even though jobs usually are no longer advertised as “male jobs” or “female jobs,” some employers still maintain informal job segregation. Often this is based on stereotyped ideas of “appropriate” work for men and women. Such stereotypes include, for example, that men are less capable of assembling intricate equipment or that women are less capable of selling construction tools or automobile parts. Sometimes job segregation is based on habit or just the way the work has been done in the past. The principle of nondiscrimination requires that persons be considered for jobs on the basis of individual capacities and not on the basis any characteristics generally attributed to their sex.

The refusal to hire an individual because of the preferences of coworkers, the employer, clients or customers is a form of illegal sex discrimination. There are a very few instances in which sex will be recognized as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Some examples include jobs where authenticity or genuineness calls for one sex, such as an actor or actress or when privacy interests of vulnerable populations, such as juveniles in custody or the elderly, will be impacted.

Equal pay

State and federal anti-discrimination statutes and equal pay laws require that men and women be given equal pay for equal work. To determine whether two jobs should be paid equally, the jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. It is job content, not job titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. For example, one person may be called an accountant and another a bookkeeper, but if the content of their jobs is very similar and one is male and the other female, a higher pay rate for one may be sex discrimination. Wage differences based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production or other factors other than sex are permitted.

Pregnancy discrimination

There is one simple rule employers should follow in dealing with pregnant employees: treat women affected by pregnancy or related medical conditions the same way you treat others with temporary disabilities. Note: Pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination. Unless the pregnancy or childbirth results in serious complications, it is not covered as a “disability” under the ADA. This means that pregnant employees can be expected to perform the essential functions of their jobs. They are not entitled to accommodations for their health condition, unless the employer also accommodates other temporary disabilities. Employers should not exclude pregnant women from jobs because of stereotypical beliefs that they are incapable of doing their jobs or that, after childbirth, they will leave their jobs. The term “maternity leave” often is used to describe disability or sick leave due to pregnancy as well as leave to recuperate from childbirth. If an employer allows leave for temporary disabilities not related to pregnancy, it may not deny leave for pregnancy-related disabilities or apply different terms or conditions to such leave.

Maternity leave commences – such as six weeks before delivery or when the pregnancy “shows.” An employer must use the same procedures to determine a pregnant employee’s ability to work as it uses to determine any other temporarily disabled employee’s ability to work.

Questions often arise about insurance coverage for maternity-related medical expenses. The basic rule mentioned above – treat women affected by pregnancy the same way you treat others with temporary disabilities – is good guidance. For example, if an employer’s health plan covers pre-existing medical conditions, then it must cover an insured employee’s pre-existing pregnancy. Deductibles for pregnancy-related medical costs must be the same as deductibles for other conditions and limitations on expenses, including the employee’s share of premiums, cannot be applied exclusively for pregnancy-related conditions.

Fetal protection policies

Fetal protection policies sometimes exclude “all women,” “all women of childbearing capacity,” “all women of childbearing age” or “all pregnant women” from a work site containing hazards to a fetus. Any policy that excludes members of one sex from a workplace for the purpose of protecting fetuses cannot be justified under the laws prohibiting sex discrimination. Individuals who can perform the essential functions of a job must be considered eligible for employment, regardless of the presence of workplace hazards to fetuses.


Freedom of Religion is a Strongly Held American Value

Freedom to believe and practice one’s own religion was one of the primary factors that motivated people to travel to colonial America and continues to motivate similar journeys today. Consequently, it is not surprising that discrimination based on religion is one of the specific kinds of discrimination protected under both federal and Idaho law. Since 1969 the Idaho Human Rights Act (Title 67, Chapter 59) of the Idaho Code has prohibited discrimination in employment, public accommodations, education, and real estate transactions on the basis of religion.

Recognizing Religion

Most religious discrimination claims brought to the Commission do not question whether a belief or practice is actually religious in nature, and thus, entitled to legal protection. Occasionally, however, that issue is raised. Case law defines “religion” in a broad way that includes moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong that are sincerely held by the individual person with the strength of traditional religious views. The fact that no religious group espouses such belief, or the fact that the religious group to which the individual professes to belong may not accept such belief, does not determine whether the belief is “religious” to that individual.

Courts have also held that the freedom not to believe is also a religious belief protected by the anti-discrimination statutes. For example, an employee who is an atheist may be a victim of religious discrimination if she is required to attend her employer’s monthly staff meetings that begin with religious exercises which she, as an atheist, finds objectionable.

Religious Discrimination in Employment

Equal treatment

Employers may not treat employees or applicants more or less favorably because of their religious beliefs, including all aspects of religious observance and practice. For example, an employer may not refuse to hire or fail to promote an individual because of his religious beliefs or practices.


Employers must take steps to prevent religious harassment of their employees. Verbal or physical conduct may be harassing if it is directed at someone because of religion and has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment.


Employees cannot be forced to participate — or not participate — in a religious activity as a condition of employment.


Employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ or applicants’ sincerely held religious beliefs and practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship (unreasonable cost or excessive adjustment) on the employer. A reasonable religious accommodation is an adjustment to the work environment that will allow a person to practice his or her religion and be productively employed. As examples, employers accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices by allowing: flexible scheduling, voluntary substitutions or swaps in scheduling, job reassignments or transfers, providing space for daily prayers, modification of grooming and dress requirements and other workplace practices, policies and/or procedures. Employers are not expected to grant religious accommodations that are costly or would otherwise create an undue hardship on the business.

Finally, employees who request religious accommodations must cooperate with the employer’s accommodation efforts. Employees are not entitled to receive their preferred accommodation: just one that meets their religious needs.

Other Forms of Religious Discrimination

The Idaho Human Rights Act also prohibits religious discrimination by places of public accommodation, (such as stores, restaurants, theatres or care facilities) educational institutions, and those engaged in real estate transactions (such as landlords, home sellers or real estate lenders). Claims of religious discrimination in any of the areas are not made very frequently to the Commission. Occasionally, however, the Commission does get reports of stores that offer merchandise discounts to people who belong to one religion; of service refused to customers wearing traditional religious garments; or of homeowners who prefer to rent or sell their home to members of their own church. The rule is basic:

Individuals should not be treated more or less favorably in any of these areas because of their religious beliefs or practices. Decisions about providing service, educational benefits or real estate transactions should be made without regard to someone’s religious preferences.