The New York City Human Rights Law applies to most employees working in the five boroughs, and it expands the anti-discrimination protections found in New York State and Federal law. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, newly appointed Chair Carmelyn P. Malalis, and the current City Council, the New York City Commission on Human Rights—the agency responsible for enforcement and implementation of that law—has stepped up its efforts, and the results are beginning to become clear.
The Commission recently announced that it doubled the average amount collected in damages and civil penalties assessed in employment discrimination claims filed with it, collecting nearly $1.4 million in 2015 alone.
The work of the agency has also increased, with 755 investigations opened in 2015, a 20 percent increase from the prior year. Of those investigations, disability-related complaints comprised the highest proportion of complaints filed, at 31 percent, followed by race-related complaints at 20 percent, and gender-related complaints at 18 percent. National origin discrimination complaints accounted for 15 percent of the complaints filed in 2015.
The New York City Human Rights Law also prohibits discrimination in housing against individuals receiving government assistance with their rent, and complaints of this nature made up 11 percent of the Commission’s cases last year. According to the Commission, their investigations of these types of complaints quadrupled in 2015, from 23 investigations in 2014 to 86 in 2015.
The Commission was able to resolve more than 100 of their cases by settlement or agreement, rather than trial, including both employment and housing complaints, but that leaves a substantial number of investigations that resulted in or are still waiting for trial with the Commission.
Claims that fall under the New York City Human Rights Law can be either filed in court or filed with the Commission, but once a claim is filed in either venue, a plaintiff cannot change his or her mind and file it in the other venue. For that reasons, and many other reasons, consulting with an attorney prior to filing any claims is important. Our attorneys represent employees in a wide variety of employment matters and would be happy to schedule a consultation to discuss your particular situation.
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