The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country, prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion/creed, age, national origin, immigration or citizenship status, gender (including sexual harassment), gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, military service, marital status and partnership status. As a newsroom that serves immigrant communities, Documented has written a comprehensive guide for immigrants.
The NYC Human Rights Law forbids the following employment-related discriminations: hiring, including in job postings and interviews; salary and benefits; performance evaluations; promotions and demotions; discipline and firing; and any decisions that affect the terms and conditions of employment. In addition, the NYC Human Rights Law also includes protection against employment discrimination based on unemployment status, arrest or conviction record, credit history, caregiver, and status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, and sex offenses.
- Pay workers lower wages or no wage because of their immigration status;
- Harass or make fun of workers because of their nationality, religious beliefs or attire, accent, or immigration status;
- Punish workers for speaking their own language;
- Threaten workers about calling the police because of their immigration status;
- Refuse to hire someone because of their nationality, religious beliefs, attire or accent.
The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in:
- Leasing and sales, including in advertisements and interviews;
- Rental and sale, including the terms, conditions, or privileges thereof;
- Steering people toward or away from certain neighborhoods;
- Mortgages and loans, including the terms;
- Any decisions that affect the terms and conditions of your housing.
A person’s lawful occupation, source of income, children and status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking and sex offenses are all under additional protected classes.
It is unlawful for the owner, home repairers, building managers, brokers and realtors to: refuse to sell, rent, or lease housing; require additional payments, or charge a higher rent, security deposit, or additional fees; post advertisements limiting the type of tenant or stating a refusal to accept a certain type of tenant; fail to make adequate repairs for, or provide equal services to, certain tenants; refuse to accept government-provided rental assistance based on one’s immigration status, national origin or religion/creed.
Public accommodations protection
The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, such as restaurants, stores, hospitals, museums, and theaters, among others.
It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person, being the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of any place or provider of public accommodation because of someone’s citizenship status, national origin or creed, to refuse, withhold from or deny to such person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges thereof, or, directly or indirectly, to make any declaration, publish, circulate, issue, display, post or mail any written or printed communication, notice or advertisement, to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any such place or provider shall be refused, withheld from or denied to any person on account of citizenship status, national origin or creed or that the patronage or custom of any person belonging to, purporting to be, or perceived to be, of any particular race, creed, color, national origin, age, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation or alienage or citizenship status is unwelcome, objectionable or not acceptable, desired or solicited.
In addition, the New York City Human Rights Law protects you from retaliation if you:
- Opposed an unlawful discriminatory practice
- Made a charge or filed a complaint of discrimination with the NYC Commission on Human Rights, your employer, or any other agency
- Testified, assisted, or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing relating to something prohibited by the NYC Human Rights Law
What to do when encountering discrimination
To make a claim of discrimination, you can either file a claim in court or file a claim with the Law Enforcement Bureau (LEB) of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, according to the NYC Human Rights Law.
If you choose one of those options and your case is unsuccessful, you cannot start again and try the other one, which is different than some other laws. For instance, before filing a lawsuit, you need to first file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency conducting employment discrimination investigations. If the case is not resolved after the EEOC has a chance to investigate your claim, you have an opportunity to raise your claim in court.
There are three important differences between filing in court and at LEB:
Time Limit: Under the NYC Human Rights Law, you have ONE YEAR to file a complaint at LEB of the discriminatory practice (including retaliation) or act of discriminatory harassment, but have 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 LEB will not have jurisdiction over your claims of which you have also been the victim of violations of other laws (such as not receiving overtime pay). In contrast, you could bring a case that included claims under both the NYC Human Rights Law and other laws in court.
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. However, it exclude unemployment insurance or workers compensation claims. You can also file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board and a lawsuit in state or federal court if your complaint relates to bias-based profiling by law enforcement.
If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment, call 311 and request to speak with the Commission on Human Rights or directly contact the NYC Department of Human Rights to file a complaint.
Appointment: Call 311 or (212) 416-0197 for further details on how to report discrimination, how to make a complaint or about the complaint process. When you visit the Commission, you will discuss with a staff attorney about the allegations of discrimination. Commission services are free of charge. The office is located at 22 Reade Street, New York, NY 10007.
What to Bring: Please bring all relevant information covered in the complaint including names, addresses, and phone numbers of the people or organizations you are charging, and the exact dates of the events to accelerate the interview process. Bring your photo identification to access the building.
Attorney: Attorneys should consult the Rules of Practice when filing a complaint on behalf of a client. Attorneys may file verified complaints that follow the format outlined in the Rules of Practice by submitting the complaint by mail to the Commission’s Law Enforcement Bureau at 22 Reade Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10007. Please also include a copy of our intake form, which you may request by emailing [email protected].
If you need pro-bono legal services to help you file a discrimination lawsuit, please refer to our pro-bono legal services for Chinese immigrants in New York.