This is the first bill in the country to provide a private cause of action for those unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of being unemployed

Council will vote to require gas stations to post signage clearly indicating price differences for cash, credit or debit purchases

New York, NY- Today, the City Council will vote to prohibit employers from using a person’s employment status in a hiring decision and ban the posting of job advertisements that require applicants to be currently employed. Proposed by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn in her State of the City address last year, this legislation is the first of its kind in the nation, providing a private cause of action for those unjustly discriminated against because they are unemployed.

The Council will also vote to require gas stations to post signage to clearly indicate differential pricing for credit, debit cards and cash purchases and what those prices are. Many gas stations offer a discount for using cash to make a purchase, but often station signs only display the discounted cash price as a means to attract customers. However, before customers purchase gas, they should be aware of how much it will cost them.

Appropriately following Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, the Council will today vote on a resolution authorizing the filing of an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Shelby County, AL v. Holder. Filing jointly with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, this amicus brief will support the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents unnecessary burdens from being placed on minority voters.

Finally, the Council will vote to clarify the public reporting requirements for membership organizations, labor unions and corporations that make independent expenditures in City elections.

Unemployment Discrimination Bill

At 9.4% in 2012, New York City’s unemployment rate far exceeds both the national and the New York State averages. Of those who are unemployed, more than half (51%) were actively seeking work for more than six months and nearly a third (29%) were still actively looking for work after searching for more than a year.

This bill would make it illegal under human rights law for an employer to base a hiring decision on an applicant’s unemployment without a substantially job-related reason for doing so. It will also make it unlawful for employers to post in job advertisements that current employment is a requirement, or that unemployed applicants will not be considered for the position. Under the legislation, an individual who believes he or she has been wrongfully discriminated against will be able to take action in court or make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. The Commission will have the authority to order the employer to stop discriminatory practices, require discriminated applicants to be hired and subject the employer to penalties if they fail to comply with the Commission’s orders.

The bill recognizes that there are circumstances where an employer could reasonably consider an applicant’s unemployment by explicitly permitting employers to consider employment status in certain cases. For example, an employer may consider whether an applicant has a current or valid professional license; a certificate, permit or other credential; or a minimum level of education or training. Additionally, “small businesses,” meaning those with fewer than four employees, would not be subject to private rights of action for unemployment-based discrimination. Small businesses would, however, be subject to the prohibition against discriminatory advertising.

“Discrimination is wrong in all its forms, and we cannot – and will not – allow New Yorkers who are qualified and ready to work have the door of opportunity slammed in their faces,” said Speaker Quinn. “This bill will stop unfair hiring practices that are hurting New Yorkers who are trying to get back on their feet. Today, we will vote to remove unnecessary obstacles that job seekers simply should not have to face.”

“It is hard enough to find a job in today’s economy, and the last thing New Yorkers need is another obstacle to obtaining one. Discriminatory practices have no place in our city. This legislation will stop employers from turning down applicants and advertising current employment status as a requirement or qualification for the job they are looking to fill. Additionally, once this legislation is passed, New York City will be the only place in the country that will allow its residents to plead their case at the Human Rights Commission or in court. I am proud to have sponsored this legislation, and I want to thank Speaker Quinn and my Council colleagues, in helping to make sure these discriminatory practices in our city do not continue,” said Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie.

“Employers who weed out candidates simply because they are unemployed has become the new face of employment discrimination. If you are otherwise qualified, being unemployed should not prevent you from securing a job. This important piece of legislation will effectively end this perverse Catch-22 that has served only to deepen our unemployment crisis in New York City,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile.

Gas Pricing Signage Legislation

As the price of gas steadily increases, consumers need to be equipped with as much information as possible. This bill would ensure that consumers have more pricing information when they patronize gas stations.

Today’s legislation would require all gas stations to maintain a sign, poster or placard advertising the selling price of gasoline that is visible to drivers of approaching vehicles. It would also require all gas stations to clarify on these road signs any price differences that may exist between purchases made using cash, credit, debit or other form of non-cash payment. Gas stations that charge cash-paying customers less would be required to post the total selling price for each type of payment. Language distinguishing the price for cash and non-cash purchases must be written in letters no less than half the size of numbers displaying the price.

“The idea that a business could show one price to the public, while charging a higher price when they go to pay is just wrong,” said Council Member Lew Fidler. “It is no less wrong when a gas station does it. This bill will correct that wrong by making the purchase price of gas more transparent. And with that information is power – the power to be an informed shopper and, hopefully, the power to create some small measure of price competition between gas stations. It is not in the City’s power to force gas stations to charge the same amount for cash and credit, but I am proud to say that with my bill my Council colleagues and I have not let that stop us from finding ways to empower and protect consumers.”

Shelby County, AL v. Holder Resolution

At issue in this case is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that jurisdictions that had imposed literacy tests, and had less than 50 percent voter turnout in the 1964 or 1968 elections, be subject to special scrutiny (“preclearance”) by the Department of Justice or a panel of federal judges when changing their election and voting laws to ensure that the voting strength of racial and ethnic minority groups is not diminished. Bronx, Kings and New York counties within New York City are among these covered jurisdictions. The City has precleared over two thousand election-related changes since being covered by the Voting Rights Act.

In Alabama, Shelby County sued the Department of Justice alleging Section 5 violates the Constitution and that in passing it, Congress went beyond its enumerated powers. After losing in both the District Court and in the D.C. Circuit Court, Shelby County has appealed to the Supreme Court.

Like Shelby County, many jurisdictions covered by Section 5 would like the Supreme Court to declare the law invalid. In contrast, the Council, along with the Mayor, will jointly file an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the law. Section 5 continues to provide substantial benefits to the nation by eliminating barriers to minority political participation and has helped to secure the rights of racial and language-minority voters.

By voting on this resolution and authorizing the filing of an amicus brief, the Council today sends the message that the voting rights of Americans will not be eroded while honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

Campaign Finance: Member to Member Communications

This bill exempts certain communications from the independent expenditure reporting requirements of the City’s campaign finance law. The exemption applies to internal communications between membership organizations – such as civic groups and unions – and their members, and between corporations and their shareholders.

This is a sound bill supported by the City’s major good government groups that will protect speech, maximize participation in the electoral process and continue to protect voters from anonymous political spending.

“This is a very simple bill that preserves the intent to the 2010 NYC Charter Revision process by making sure that members of the public are aware of who is attempting to influence their votes in a local election,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez. “This legislation preserves the free speech and associational rights of membership organizations (such as unions) by exempting communications between members from the CFB’s independent expenditure reporting requirements. This narrow and targeted bill protects transparency and disclosure (there is no anonymity or Super PAC to hide behind) while simultaneously encouraging membership organizations to undertake the critical operations that help their members who vote to become familiar with candidates and/or their positions. Ultimately, this increases voter participation in our City which is a universal good and desired outcome.”
“Intro 978-A is a piece of legislation that seeks to strike a balance between the public’s right to know who is spending money on independent political messages, and an organization’s right to communicate internally with its own members. I believe this bill strikes the appropriate balance by maintaining disclosure of independent expenditures aimed at the general public, without infringing on member to member speech. This bill is the result of extensive collaboration and discussion between various stakeholders, and I thank everyone for their input throughout this process,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer, Chair, Committee on Governmental Operations.