What is Discrimination?

Page updated on Feb 12, 2016 at 4:46 PM

What is Discrimination?

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 Alexandria Human Rights Code recognizes the following protected classes:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender (including sexual harassment)
  • Religion
  • Ancestry
  • National Origin
  • Marital Status
  • Familial Status (in cases of housing discrimination only)
  • Age
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Disability Status (actual, regarded as having, and/or record of having a disability)

The Alexandria Office of Human Rights enforces antidiscrimination laws in the City of Alexandria by investigating alleged discrimination in:


  • Hiring/firing
  • Compensation
  • Promotions/assignments
  • Harassment (scroll down for more information)
  • Discipline
  • Disability and religious accommodations
  • Retaliation
  • Other terms & conditions of employment


  • Sale or rental of housing
  • Advertising
  • Disability accommodations or modifications
  • Loans for the purchase, building, renovation, or repair of housing

Public Accommodations

  • Provision and use of goods and services
  • Access to and enjoyment of facilities and other privileges
  • Includes places like restaurants, hotels, retail stores, gyms and theaters

Health and Social Services

  • Access to services, programs, benefits, facilities and other privileges
  • Service rates


  • Terms, conditions, facilities, and other benefits
  • Disability accommodations


  • Provision, denial, or termination of credit-related services
  • Rates
  • Credit scores


It is illegal for an employer, housing provider, or other entity covered by the Alexandria Code to take an adverse action against you for:

  • Filing a discrimination complaint;
  • Objecting to a discriminatory practice; or
  • Participating in an investigation of discrimination

Harassment/Sexual Harassment

Harassment is a form of discrimination that involves unwanted and offensive conduct that is directed at you because of your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, etc.

Harassment can include:

  • Threats
  • Slurs or epithets
  • Threatening acts
  • Posting offensive materials on walls, bulletin boards, e-mail, etc.

To be considered harassment, conduct must:

  • Be serious and frequent enough to create a hostile environment; and
  • Interfere with your ability to work, live, or enjoy a public place

What is Sexual Harassment?

  • Sexual harassment is unwanted and offensive verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. 
  • It can include sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, offensive comments, jokes or gestures, exposure to sexually suggestive pictures or other objects, and physical touching or grabbing.
  • Either victim or harasser may be a woman or a man, and both victim and harasser can be of the same gender.

If you suspect you are being illegally discriminated against, contact the office at 703-746-3140, or fill out an intake form.