COVID-19 and Human Rights

Purple image with a silhouette of two heads talking, each with an "X" in a speech bubble above them.  Text on the right says "Fear about COVID-19 is not an excuse for harassment or discrimination."  NYC Commission on Human Rights logo appears in bottom right corner.

Last Updated: January 14, 2021

Harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, age, and disability (including having COVID-19 or another serious illness) is illegal under the New York City Human Rights Law. In recent months, we have seen a sharp increase in instances of hostility and harassment directed at Chinese and other Asian communities related to COVID-19 anxiety. The Commission on Human Rights, the Mayor's Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, and the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs are coordinating closely to educate the public about their rights and protections in light of COVID-19 related stigma and hate crimes. If you have faced harassment or discrimination in housing, at work, or in any public place, contact the Commission by filling out our online form or by calling 212-416-0197. If you are a victim of or witness a hate crime, call 911.

Information about coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing at a rapid pace. For the latest information, text "COVID" to 692-692 or visit the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) website at NYC.gov/coronavirus where you will find information about preventing the spread of this disease, symptoms, and guidance on citywide mandates such as school and business closures.

Race discrimination is illegal in all medical settings in New York City.
Discrimination and harassment due to COVID-19 are illegal in New York City.

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Fact Sheet on Hate and Bias Incidents Related to COVID-19

Hate or discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, or other characteristics is not tolerated in NYC. The New York City Commission on Human Rights, the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, and the New York City Police Department are monitoring and responding to hate and bias incidents related to COVID-19. Download this fact sheet for additional resources to address bias, harassment, discrimination and to access mental health support.

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Stop Asian Hate Public Education Resources

This past Lunar New Year, a time when we are celebrating our diverse Asian communities, we saw a rise in harassment and violence against Asian elders. Discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, national origin, age, and disability (including having or being perceived to be exposed to COVID-19) is illegal under the New York City Human Rights Law.

View this toolkit of public education resources from the NYC Commission on Human Rights, the Mayor’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. The resource include social media graphics and videos, available in multiple languages, that explain how to report discrimination and harassment to law enforcement agencies in the City of New York.

COVID-19 Response Team

Due to the sharp increase in reports of harassment and discrimination connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission launched a COVID-19 Response Team, comprised of dedicated Law Enforcement and Community Relations staff members with specific expertise that can provide rapid response and strategically engage with impacted communities.

The COVID-19 Response Team quickly and efficiently tracks and responds to harassment and discrimination incidents connected to the pandemic. Examples of the team's responses include:

  • conducting early or emergency intervention;
  • providing information on how to request a reasonable accommodation; or
  • commencing an investigation.

Where appropriate the COVID-19 Response Team refers individuals to appropriate resources, such as other City agencies, legal services providers, and community groups. Instances that may be criminal violations of the law, including hate crimes, are referred to the New York City Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force and the Mayor's Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. Instances that do not violate the New York City Human Rights Law, such as name-calling on the street, are handled by CRB, which conducts training and education for community members on the law.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Commission has been working with community organizations to track and monitor reports of discrimination. The Commission's Community Relations Bureau (CRB) has also held bystander intervention trainings with the Center for Anti-Violence Education. Learn more about COVID-19 Events.

Call 311 and say "human rights" to report harassment and discrimination. Call 911 to report a hate crime.

Case Deadlines

In accordance with a series of executive orders issued by Governor Cuomo in response to the pandemic, the statute of limitations in cases filed with the Commission was tolled from March 20, 2020 to November 3, 2020. This means that when calculating the deadline for filing a complaint at the Commission (within one year of the discriminatory act, or within three years for claims of gender-based harassment), the period between March 20, 2020 and November 3, 2020 will not be counted. For example, if a complainant experienced discrimination on March 30, 2019, they may bring a claim of discrimination based on that incident by November 13, 2020. For additional information, please see Executive Order 202.72.

If you have questions about this, fill out our online form or call 212-416-0197.