Equal Pay and Discrimination against Women

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 is a federal law which prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of gender. Continue reading

Discrimination in Public Accommodations: Government Enforcement

When and Where to File a Complaint — Public Accommodations and Facilities

Federal law prohibits privately owned facilities that offer food, lodging, gasoline or entertainment to the public from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. If you think that you have been discriminated against in using such a facility, you may file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, or with the United States attorney in your area. You may also file suit in the U.S. district court.

In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in a wide range of places of public accommodation, including facilities that offer lodging, food, entertainment, sales or rental services, health care and other professional services, or recreation.

There are also state laws that broadly prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, religion, national origin, and disability in places of public accommodation. To determine whether your state has such a law, you should contact your state or local human rights agency, or your state attorney general’s office.

Public facilities such as courthouses, jails, hospitals, parks, and other facilities owned and operated by state and local government entities cannot discriminate in their services because of race, color, religion, national origin, or disability. If you think a public facility has discriminated against you because of race, color, religion, or national origin, you may file suit in the U.S. district court or file a complaint with the nearest U.S. Attorney’s Office.

People with disabilities cannot be discriminated against or excluded from services, programs, or activities offered by state or local governments. All public transportation systems must be accessible to people with disabilities, regardless of whether the system receives federal financial assistance.

State and local governments must eliminate any eligibility criteria for participation in programs, activities, and services that screen out or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, unless the government can establish that the requirements are necessary for the provision of the service, program, or activity. In addition, public facilities must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs, or activities because buildings are inaccessible.

State and local agencies that provide emergency telephone services must provide “direct access” to individuals who rely on telecommunication display devices (TTD’s pr TTY’s) for the deaf, or computer modems for telephone communication. Companies offering telephone services to the general public must offer telephone relay services to individuals who use TTY’s or similar devices.

Intrastate complaints should be filed with that state. Interstate complaints should be filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

Discrimination complaints about public facilities (other than Architectural Barriers Act complaints, see below) should be sent to:

  • the federal agency that provides funding to the facility subject to the complaint;
  • the federal agency designated to investigate complaints; or
  • the Department of Justice.

Complaints may always be filed with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which will refer your complaint to the appropriate agency.

Complaints regarding new construction of, or alterations to buildings or facilities funded by the federal government and subject to the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 should be sent to:

Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
Office of Compliance and Enforcement
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
(202) 222-0800
(800) 872-2253
TTY: (202) 272-0082
TTY: (202) 993-2822
Fax: (202) 272-0081

The Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice handles complaints of discrimination based on disability in places of public accommodation, including all hotels, restaurants, retail stores, theaters, health care facilities, convention centers, parks, and places of recreation. To file a complaint of discrimination based on disability, call (800) 514-0301 and send your complaint to:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 307-2227
TTY: (800) 514-0383
Fax: (202) 307-1198

If the Disability Rights Section believes that there is a pattern or practice of discrimination, or the complaint raises an issue of general public importance, it may attempt to negotiate a settlement of the matter, or bring an action in U.S. district court. Any such action would be taken on behalf of the United States. You also have the option of filing your own lawsuit in U.S. district court.

Filing a Consumer Complaint About a Bank

If you have a complaint about a bank or other financial institution, the Federal Reserve System might be able to help you. The Federal Reserve is responsible for carrying out many of the federal laws that protect consumers in their dealings with financial institutions. The Board of Governors, located in Washington, D.C., works with the twelve Federal Reserve Banks around the country to make certain the commercial banks that the Federal Reserve supervises abide by these laws. The Federal Reserve can help individual consumers by:

  • Answering questions about banking practices, and
  • Investigating complaints about specific banks under the Reserve’s supervisory jurisdiction. Complaints about financial institutions that are not supervised by the Federal Reserve System are referred to the appropriate federal agency.

What Kinds of Complaints are Investigated?

As a federal regulatory agency, the Federal Reserve System investigates consumer complaints received against state chartered banks that are members of the System. If you think a bank has been unfair or deceptive in its dealings with you, or has violated a law or regulation, as a consumer you have the right to file a complaint.

The Federal Reserve is particularly concerned that state member banks comply with federal laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination in lending. In such cases, additional steps are taken to ensure that your complaint is promptly and thoroughly investigated. In addition, complaints alleging discrimination in housing that are covered by the Fair Housing Act are referred to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

How to File a Complaint

Before writing or calling the Federal Reserve, consumers are encouraged to try to settle the problem with the financial institution first. This may involve directly contacting senior bank management or the bank’s customer service representative for assistance. If you are still unable to resolve the problem, you may file a written complaint with the Federal Reserve including the following information:

  • Your name, address and daytime telephone number, including area code;
  • Name and address of the bank involved in your complaint or inquiry;
  • Your bank or credit card account number;
  • The name of the person you contacted at the bank, along with the date, if applicable;
  • Description of the complaint. State what happened, giving the dates involved and the names of those you dealt with at the bank. Include copies of any letters or other documents that may help the Federal Reserve to investigate your complaint. Please do not send original documents, copies are preferred; and remember to sign and date your letter.

It’s important to give the Federal Reserve as much information about the problem as possible; this will assist the Federal Reserve in providing a quicker response to you.

Where to Send Complaints

Send your complaint to:

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Division of Consumer and Community Affairs
20th and C Streets, N.W., Stop 801
Washington, DC 20551

For further information you may call (202) 452-3693.

What Will the Federal Reserve Do?

Consumer complaints filed against state member banks are investigated by the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks. Once received, your complaint will be reviewed by the consumer affairs staff who will contact the bank about your concern. The Reserve Bank will investigate each issue raised in your letter and ask the bank involved for information and records in response to your complaint. If additional information is needed, the Reserve Bank will contact you by telephone or in writing. The Reserve Bank will analyze the bank’s response to your complaint to ensure that your concerns have been addressed and will send a letter to you about their findings. If the investigation reveals that a federal law or regulation has been violated, the Reserve Bank will inform you of the violation and the corrective action the bank has been directed to take.