§ 8-401 Legislative declaration. The council finds that certain forms of unlawful discrimination are systemic in nature rooted in the operating conditions or policies of a business or industry. The council finds that the existence of systemic discrimination poses a substantial threat to, and inflicts significant injury upon, the city that is economic, social and moral in character, and is distinct from the injury sustained by individuals as an incident of such discrimination. The council finds that the potential for systemic discrimination exists in all areas of public life and that employment; housing and public accommodations are among the areas in which the economic effects of systemic discrimination are exemplified. The existence of systemic discrimination impedes the optimal efficiency of the labor market by, among other things, causing decisions to employ, promote or discharge persons to be based upon reasons other than qualifications and competence. Such discrimination impedes the optimal efficiency of the housing market and retards private investments in certain neighborhoods by causing decisions to lease or sell housing accommodations to be based upon discriminatory factors and not upon ability and willingness to lease or purchase property. The council finds that the reduction in the efficiency of the labor, housing and commercial markets has a detrimental effect on the city's economy, thereby reducing revenues and increasing costs to the city. The council finds that such economic injury to the city severely diminishes its capacity to meet the needs of those persons living and working in, and visiting, the city. The council finds further that the social and moral consequences of systemic discrimination are similarly injurious to the city in that systemic discrimination polarizes the city's communities, demoralizes its inhabitants and creates disrespect for the law, thereby frustrating the city's efforts to foster mutual respect and tolerance among its inhabitants and to promote a safe and secure environment. The council finds that the potential consequences to the city of this form of discrimination requires that the corporation counsel be expressly given the authority to institute a civil action to enforce the city's Human Rights Law so as to supplement administrative means to prevent or remedy injury to the city.
§ 8-402 Civil action to eliminate unlawful discriminatory practices.
a. Whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that a person or group of persons is engaged in a pattern or practice that results in the denial to any person of the full enjoyment of any right secured by chapter one of this title, a civil action on behalf of the commission or the city may be commenced in a court of competent jurisdiction, by filing a complaint setting forth facts pertaining to such pattern or practice and requesting such relief as may be deemed necessary to insure the full enjoyment of the rights described in such chapter, including, but not limited to, injunctive relief, damages, including punitive damages, and such other types of relief as are specified in subdivision a of section 8-120 of this title. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit (i) an aggrieved person from filing a complaint pursuant to section 8-109 of chapter one of this title or from commencing a civil action pursuant to chapter five of this title based upon the same facts pertaining to such a pattern or practice as are alleged in the civil action, or (ii) the commission from filing a commission-initiated complaint pursuant to section 8-109 of chapter one of this title alleging a pattern or practice of discrimination, provided that a civil action pursuant to this section shall not have previously been commenced.
b. A civil action commenced under this section must be commenced within three years after the alleged discriminatory practice occurred.
c. Such action may be instituted only by the corporation counsel, such attorneys employed by the City Commission on Human Rights as are designated by the corporation counsel or other persons designated by the corporation counsel.
§ 8-403 Investigation. The corporation counsel may initiate any investigation to ascertain such facts as may be necessary for the commencement of a civil action pursuant to section 8-402 of this chapter, and in connection therewith shall have the power to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, to administer oaths and to examine such persons as are deemed necessary.
§ 8-404 Civil penalty. In any civil action commenced pursuant to section 8-402 of this chapter, the trier of fact may, to vindicate the public interest, impose upon any person who is found to have engaged in a pattern or practice that results in the denial to any person of the full enjoyment of any right secured by chapter one of this title a civil penalty of not more than two hundred fifty thousand dollars. In relation to determining the appropriate amount of civil penalties to be imposed pursuant to this section a liable party may plead and prove any relevant mitigating factor. Any civil penalties so recovered pursuant to this chapter shall be paid into the general fund of the city. Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the city from recovering damages, including punitive damages, and other relief pursuant to section 8-402 of this chapter in addition to civil penalties.