Frequently Asked Questions

Download the AHRC discrimination complaint form (PDF).

What is a protected class?

A protected class is a group of people that is protected, by civil rights laws, from discrimination in accessing education, employment, housing, financial services, healthcare, transportation, voting, marriage, free speech, and privacy. Protected classes in Arlington, Massachusetts, are: race, color, religious views, national origin, sex, gender identity and expression, citizenship, age, ancestry, family/marital status, sexual orientation, disability, source of income, and military status.

Federal protections

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces nondiscrimination in federal jobs based on "race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and genetic information, as well as reprisal for protected activity. The Commission's interpretations of these statutes apply to its adjudication and enforcement in federal sector as well as private sector and state and local government employment. The EEOC has held that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender (also known as gender identity discrimination) is discrimination because of sex and therefore is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ... The [EEOC] has also held that discrimination against an individual because of that person's sexual orientation is discrimination because of sex and therefore prohibited under Title VII." See https://www.eeoc.gov/federal/otherprotections.cfm for more information.

The federal Fair Housing Act covers discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children. See http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/FHLaws/yourrights for more information.

State protections

"The state nondiscrimination laws for employment forbid taking an action against someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity as well as race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, disability or membership in a uniformed military service of the U.S., including the National Guard. In housing, the criteria are expanded to include marital status, or because the person is a veteran. In public accommodations, gender identity, marital status and age are not included among the law’s protections." (Information from GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.)

For acts of discrimination in Massachusetts, you can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). "In all but a few cases, the MCAD has a 300-day statutory filing deadline. This means that you only have 300 days from the last discriminatory act to file a claim with the MCAD. Cases involving applying to schools only have a six month statutory filing deadline." See http://www.mass.gov/mcad/filing-complaint/#filing for more information.

MCAD enforces the following nondiscrimation laws:

  • 804 CMR 02.00 - Housing Discrimination - "Prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, age, ancestry, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, children, handicap, and receipt of public assistance or housing subsidy in the selling, renting or leasing of housing accommodations, commercial space, or land intended for use as such."
  • 804 CMR 03.00 - Employment Discrimination - " 'Protected class status' shall include race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age and ancestry. Qualified handicapped persons shall be deemed as members of a protected class and as such shall have protected class status."
  • 804 CMR 08.00 - Maternity Discrimination

In Massachusetts, gender identity or expression is a protected class regarding employment, housing, public education, and credit/lending, but there are currently no protections in places of public accommodation. A public accommodation is any place that is open to the public and provides goods or services. This includes museums, public transportation, coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants. Many employers based out of or operating in Massachusetts are places of public accommodation, including the MBTA, Starbucks, and hospitals. These businesses cannot discriminate in employment on the basis of gender identity, but they are not prohibited from turning away a transgender customer.

AHRC supports the passage of a statewide law to add protections for trans and gender nonforming people in all of Massachusetts. The bills (House Bill #1577, Senate Bill #735) have passed in the state Senate and the state House and are now in committee to reconcile language differences between the two bills before going to the governor for approval.

Town protections

In Arlington: "It shall be considered an unlawful practice ... for any person to deny, interfere with, threaten or subject an individual to coercion or intimidation concerning equal access to and/or discrimination in employment, housing, education, recreation, services, public accommodation and public area where such denial, interference, threats, coercion, intimidation or unlawful discrimination against a person is based upon race, color, religious views, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, citizenship, age, ancestry, family/marital status, sexual orientation, disability, source of income, or military status." See Title II, Article 9, Section 2 of the town bylaw for more information.

At Town Meeting in 2016, AHRC sponsored a bylaw amendment to add "gender identity and expression" to the list of protected classes in Arlington, including in places public accommodation. The bylaw is now in effect. 

See http://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/laws-and-regulations for more information about laws affecting Arlington.

How do I file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission?

To file a discrimination complaint in Arlington, Massachusetts, please print and fill out the AHRC discrimination complaint form (PDF) or ask us for a hardcopy of the form. Complaints must be submitted within four (4) months of the most recent discriminatory act. Complaints must be filed by transmitting one (1) original, completed copy of this form to the AHRC by mail or hand delivery. Alternatively, complaints submitted electronically shall be deemed officially filed as of the date of electronic submission if an original, signed copy is received or postmarked within (2) calendar weeks of the electronic submission. All correspondence with the Arlington Human Rights Commission is public. You can call to speak confidentially with a commissioner about your options before filing a complaint.

You can reach AHRC by phone at 781-316-3250, via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by mail at 27 Maple St., Arlington, MA 02476. We also plan to add the complaint form as an electronic form that you can fill out and submit directly.

What does the AHRC do when a complaint is filed?

Under the commission's rules and regulations, the chair will designate one  or more commissioners to review your complaint to determine whether the conduct you describe falls within the jurisdiction of the commission. The commissioner(s) will report findings back to the full commission, which shall make the final determination as to whether the complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the commission. If it does, we will begin an investigation; if it does not, we will so notify you. You have the right to appeal an adverse determination.

(updated June 30, 2016)