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1. How do I file a claim under the NYC Human Rights Law?
The NYC Human Rights Law provides two ways to make a claim of discrimination: 1.You can file a claim in court; or 2. You can file a claim with the Law Enforcement Bureau (LEB) of the NYC Commission on Human Rights (Commission). How to file a complaint
It is important to know that if you choose one of those options and your case is unsuccessful, you cannot start again and try the other route. This is different than some other laws. For example, the federal employment discrimination law requires that you first file a claim with the federal agency that investigates employment discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before going to court. After the EEOC has a chance to investigate your claim, if the case is not resolved, you have an opportunity to raise your claim in court.
In contrast, because the NYC Human Rights Law requires you to choose between 1) going to court; or 2) bringing a claim to LEB, you should carefully consider these options.
Attorneys seeking to file a complaint on behalf of a client should consult the Commission’s Rules of Practice for guidance on the format of the complaint.
2. What is the difference between filing in court and at LEB?
Three important differences between filing in court and at LEB are the following: Time Limit: The NYC Human Rights Law allows you to file a complaint at LEB within ONE YEAR of the discriminatory practice (including retaliation) or act of discriminatory harassment, but allows THREE YEARS to bring a complaint to court. Multiple Claims: LEB can only investigate discrimination prohibited by the NYC Human Rights Law. This means that if you have also experienced violations of other laws (for example, if you did not receive overtime pay), LEB will not have jurisdiction over those claims. In contrast, in court, you could bring a case that included claims under both the NYC Human Rights Law and other laws. Another Agency or Court: You cannot file a claim with LEB if you have already filed the same claim based on the same facts with another agency or in court. This includes the NY State Division of Human Rights, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and any state and federal court.
3. Will I be provided with a lawyer when I file a complaint?
It is important to know that if you file a claim with LEB, the LEB attorney investigating your case does not represent you, but instead is a neutral investigator. This means that in the investigation the LEB attorney seeks information to support each side’s position. If your case is referred for a hearing at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearing (OATH - another city agency), the LEB attorney does not represent you, but instead represents the interests of the City of New York. Your interests and the interests of the City may be the same in many instances, but might also differ in some ways. For example, LEB may decide to settle your case even though you may want to continue it. If you want to be able to present different evidence and arguments than LEB, you or your attorney may intervene in the case.
4. Can a lawyer represent me in bringing my claim to LEB?
Yes, but you do not need a lawyer to bring a claim to LEB, although you may have a lawyer represent you at LEB if you want. LEB cannot provide a lawyer or pay for your lawyer. If you would like to find a lawyer to either represent you at LEB, at OATH or in court, please ask for a referral list. There are several organizations in the City that provide free legal services to low-income people who have experienced discrimination.
5. What is the first step for filing a complaint?
To start the process of reporting discrimination, please call 311 or (212) 416-0197 and ask for the NYC Commission on Human Rights or send us an inquiry. For more information about the complaint process
6. I am a lawyer and I would like to file a complaint on behalf of my client: what do I do?
Attorneys may file a complaint on behalf of a client. Consult the Commission’s Rules of Practice for guidance on the format of the complaint. Attorneys must submit complaints by mail or personal service to: 22 Reade Street, New York, NY 10007. A copy of our intake form should also be included. Please request a copy of our intake form by emailing LEB@cchr.nyc.gov. A signed, verified complaint is filed when it is mailed to or personally served on the Law Enforcement Bureau.
7. What happens after the complaint is filed?
The Respondent is given thirty days to answer your complaint. After the Respondent answers your complaint, you may be asked to respond to the Respondent’s position, by submitting a “Rebuttal.” Then, in most cases, there will be further investigation. The investigation may involve interviewing you again, interviewing your witnesses and the Respondents’ witnesses, requesting documents from you and from the Respondent, and other actions. You should give all documents and any other pieces of evidence to the attorney investigating your case.
8. What if, after I have filed my complaint with LEB, I decide I do not want my complaint investigated by LEB?
You can ask to withdraw your Complaint. It is within LEB’s discretion to grant your request. At certain points in the investigation, you can also ask to have the Complaint dismissed for “administrative convenience” so that you can file the same claim in court.
9. Will there be a chance to settle my case before a trial?
New York City Human Rights Law § 8-115 permits the Commission to attempt resolution of complaints filed with the agency through the use of mediation. The Commission’s Office of Mediation and Conflict Resolution (“OMCR”), independent from any other Commission office, provides parties with mediation services, at no cost, to help facilitate resolution. In mediation, a neutral third party known as a mediator helps the parties reach a voluntary, negotiated resolution. A mediator does not take sides or decide who is right or wrong. Instead, the mediator is impartial and neutral. Any party may request mediation instead of continuing with the investigation or litigation after the Verified Complaint, Answer(s)/Position Statement(s), and Rebuttal have been filed with LEB. To be eligible for mediation, all parties, including LEB, must agree. Mediation may also be available when LEB is attempting resolution through the use of conciliation or after LEB issues a finding of probable cause. If any party is interested in pursuing mediation, they are requested to contact the LEB attorney. If a case is resolved in mediation through OMCR, the parties will sign a settlement agreement, and LEB will close the case without further investigation. In the event the case does not settle and the mediation is terminated, OMCR will refer the case back to LEB for further processing. Even if the case is not referred to mediation at OMCR, throughout the investigation phase, the LEB attorney may also attempt to negotiate a resolution of the case. This is called “Conciliation.” Sometimes, LEB may determine that a proposed resolution is sufficient to close the case, even if one party disagrees.
10. What are the possible results of the investigation?
LEB may issue a Probable Cause Determination, a No Probable Cause Determination, or a Dismissal for Administrative Convenience. Get more information about each of these results
11. What kind of compensation or other remedies can I get from my case?
The Commissioner can order a respondent to cease and desist from engaging in the unlawful conduct; reinstate an employee; provide an accommodation; pay for lost wages; and pay for emotional distress damages, among other remedies. The Commissioner may also assess civil penalties (paid to the City of New York) of up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton or malicious conduct, as well as require respondents to take other actions such as training for managers and employees, structural changes to promote equity, and other restorative accountability measures.
12. Can I file a complaint if I am undocumented?
Yes. Undocumented immigrants are covered by the NYC Human Rights Law and can file claims. Any information you provide about your status will be kept confidential. If you are undocumented, and have been the victim of a crime related to the discrimination claim, you may be eligible for certification as a victim of crime for the purposes of applying for a U or T visa.
13. I filed a complaint and now the respondent is taking action against me: what can I do?
Retaliation is a violation of the NYC Human Rights Law. Please contact LEB immediately at (212) 306-7450 if you believe you are being retaliated against because you complained about discrimination informally or because you filed a complaint at LEB. If you filed a complaint with LEB, contact the attorney investigating your case.
14. Can I remain anonymous while filing a complaint?
Generally, you cannot remain anonymous while filing a complaint. In certain limited circumstances, your address can be omitted from the complaint and in rare circumstances where your safety may be at risk, you may request to proceed without revealing your name to the respondent. If you want to report discrimination without filing a complaint, you may do that. See the following question and answer.
15. What if I want to report discrimination, but I do not want to be involved?
LEB has the ability to initiate its own investigations. If you want to provide information about discrimination, but do not want to be involved in the investigation, LEB will take the information and consider initiating its own investigation into the situation you have reported. Whether or not to pursue the investigation is within the discretion of the agency.
16. Is my complaint available in the public record?
Members of the public may obtain a copy of the complaint through a request made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law after LEB issues a determination. If your case proceeds to a hearing at OATH, the judge’s decisions and recommendations in the case, which may refer to the facts of your case, could be published on the Internet. The Commission’s final Decision and Order could also be published on the Internet.
17. Are there any costs or fees connected to filing a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights?
No. There are no fees or other charges that an individual must pay in connection to filing a discrimination complaint with LEB.
18. I need interpretation in order to file a complaint, what should I do?
We have staff members who speak many languages. If staff members who speak your language are not available, we will obtain an interpreter either on the phone or in person depending on the stage of the case.
19. I need an accommodation for a disability in filing a complaint or attending an appointment or hearing, what should I do?
Please contact LEB at (212) 306-7450 if you need an accommodation in order to attend your appointment or hearing. If you have already filed a complaint with LEB, please speak to the attorney investigating your case about any accommodations you need in order to fully participate in the process.