The steps of the complaint, investigation and adjudication process are described below:
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Starting the process
To report discrimination, please call 311 or (212) 416-0197 and ask for the NYC Commission on Human Rights or send us an inquiry here. If the situation described is covered by the NYC Human Rights Law, an intake appointment will be scheduled, either in person or on the phone.
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.
At an intake appointment, an attorney or investigator interviews the person reporting discrimination, gathers information, and reviews documents. If what is reported is covered by the NYC Human Rights Law, the attorney will draft a "Complaint." In the Complaint, the person reporting discrimination is called the "Complainant" and the person or entity against whom discrimination is reported is called the "Respondent."
Complaint is filed
When the Complaint is ready, the person reporting discrimination reviews the Complaint and signs it. Then the Complaint is sent to the Respondent. The Respondent has 30 days to respond by filing an "Answer."
After the Respondent answers the complaint, the Law Enforcement Bureau (LEB) investigates further. The Complainant is asked to respond to the Respondent's position, by submitting a "Rebuttal." The investigation may include interviewing the parties and their witnesses, requesting documents from the parties, or other actions.
Mediation or Conciliation
At various stages of the process, LEB may seek to negotiate a pre-hearing resolution of each case, which could result in a conciliation agreement signed by all parties, including the Chair on the Commission's behalf. The conciliation agreement becomes an enforceable order of the Commission. LEB may also refer the case to the Commission's Office of Mediation and Conflict Resolution ("OMCR"), independent from any other Commission office, that 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. If any party is interested in pursuing mediation, they are requested to contact the LEB attorney.
LEB may issue three types of determinations.
1. Probable Cause Determination:
LEB shall find probable cause to credit the allegations of a complaint where a reasonable person, looking at the evidence as a whole, could reach the conclusion that it is more likely than not that the unlawful discriminatory practice was committed. If LEB finds probable cause, the parties receive a notice and the case is referred to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH – a separate city agency) for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Get more information about OATH.
After the trial, the ALJ issues a Report and Recommendation, which may include findings of fact, decisions of law, and recommendations on damages and civil penalties. The Commission’s Office of General Counsel gathers the Report and Recommendation, along with any post-trial comments or objections submitted by the parties, and provides the information to the Office of the Chair for a final Decision and Order. The Office of the Chair then issues its Decision and Order, adopting or rejecting – in whole or in part – the ALJ's Report and Recommendation. Either party may appeal to the New York Supreme Court within thirty days of service of the Decision and Order.
2. No Probable Cause Determination:
If LEB determines that probable cause does not exist to believe that the respondent has engaged or is engaging in an unlawful discriminatory practice, LEB sends all parties a document called a "Determination and Order After Investigation," which explains the LEB's decision. The parties can ask the Office of the Chair to review the determination by writing a letter within thirty days of service of the notice. Get more information about appealing a "Determination and Order After Investigation" to the Office of the Chair. If, after review, the Office of the Chair does not change the determination and issues a final order of the Commission dismissing your case, the parties may appeal to the New York Supreme Court within thirty days of service of the final order.
3. Dismissal for Administrative Convenience:
If LEB issues a notice dismissing a case for administrative convenience this means that LEB has decided not to continue investigating, which can be for a variety of reasons. This kind of dismissal allows the complainant the ability to bring her claim in court. The parties can ask the Office of the Chair to review LEB's determination to dismiss the case by writing a letter within thirty days of service of the notice of dismissal. Get more information about appealing a "Notice of Administrative Closure" to the Office of the Chair.
If a Probable Cause Determination is issued and the case proceeds to an administrative trial, an LEB attorney litigates cases at OATH. LEB does not represent the Complainant, but instead represents the interests of the City. The Complainant or her attorney may "intervene" in the case as of right at or before the first conference with the ALJ is held, or at any time prior to the commencement of the trial, at the discretion of the ALJ.
Report & Recommendation
The ALJ issues a Report and Recommendation on findings of fact, the issues of liability and remedies in the case. The ALJ's Report and Recommendation, along with the hearing record, and the parties' post-hearing submissions, if any, are sent to the Commission's Office of General Counsel for processing, and then forwarded to the Office of the Chairperson for review.
Final Decision & Order
The Office of the Chairperson of the Commission reviews the Report and Recommendation and the hearing record and issues a Decision and Order.
Either party may seek review of the Decision and Order in New York State Supreme Court within thirty days of the issuance of the Decision and Order.