Legislation serves as crucial first step in overhauling Human Rights Commission as outlined in Speaker Mark-Viverito’s State of the City Address

City Hall – Today the City Council will vote on three pieces of legislation that will strengthen the city’s Human Rights Commission. Introduction 421-A would expand annual reporting requirements. Introduction 689-A would require a minimum of five housing discrimination investigations during a period of one year commencing this October. Introduction 690-A would require a minimum of five employment discrimination investigations during a period of one year commencing this October..

Human Rights Commission Accountability

Introduction 421-A, sponsored by Council Member Darlene Mealy, would require the Human Rights Commission to include information regarding the number of investigations the Commission conducts each year in its annual report to the Council and the Mayor. This information would increase transparency regarding the number and type of investigations initiated by the Commission each year.

Housing and Employment Discrimination Investigations

Introduction 689-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would require the Human Rights Commission to conduct no less than five investigations of discrimination housing accommodations over a period of one year. This bill would require the Commission to use pairs of “testers” to investigate local housing accommodation providers. Each investigation would include matched pair testing where testers who present similar credentials, but differ based on one or more of the protected classes in the Human Rights Law. For example, the testers could differ in actual or perceived race, gender, sexual orientation or national origin. The investigations would begin on or before October 1st, 2015.

Introduction 690-A, sponsored by Council Member Darlene Mealy, would create the same requirements as 689-A for investigations into employment discrimination. Information related to the results of these investigations would be included in the Commission’s annual report to the Council.

“It’s time for us to put teeth into a commission that has been ineffective for far too long,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Our City’s commitment to human rights is essential to ensuring fairness for all New Yorkers. We will not only protect the hard fought victories for human rights that we’ve won in the past, but we will push forward to make our human rights policies even stronger and better.”

“Landlords and who discriminate against people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or whether they have a housing voucher violate our basic sense of right and wrong, make our housing crisis worse, segregate our city, and break NYC’s Human Rights Law. Unfortunately, in recent years, we’ve done almost nothing about it. Today’s legislation will help us get back on track,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Matched-pair testing is one of the strongest, pro-active ways to go after those landlords and employers who repeatedly discriminate against New Yorkers. With systematic testing, increased funding and staff levels, more accountability, and an updated Human Rights Law, NYC can renew its effort to combat discrimination and insure equal justice under the law. Thanks to Speaker Mark-Viverito’s leadership in the Council, and under the new leadership of Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, we are making real progress toward a New York City that upholds everyone’s human rights.”

“I’m proud to have sponsored Intros 421 and 690. Intro 421 will shed much-needed light on the investigations that the Human Rights Commission initiates by requiring the Commission to include those investigations in its annual report. Intro 690 will go a long way toward making the Commission a more pro-active agency that is able to root out discrimination in an area that affects most New Yorkers – employment,” said Council Member Darlene Mealy. “The bill will create an official testing program that will allow the Commission to use a fuller range of its authority, and will encourage more robust enforcement of our City’s strong Human Rights Law. I congratulate my colleague, Council Member Brad Lander, on Intro 689 which creates a housing testing program that will be administered alongside the employment testing program created by 690. I’m grateful to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her support for this legislation, and her commitment to the civil rights of all New Yorkers. I look forward to voting on these bills with my colleagues, and I strongly urge the Council to pass these important pieces of legislation.”