FAQs for Complainants
Q. I AM NOT SURE IF I HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST. WHO CAN I CONTACT TO GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE SPECIFICS OF MY SITUATION?
A. If you have any questions about your situation or the filing process, you should review carefully the information in our booklet and on our website - www.dhr.ny.gov. If you still have questions, you can call or visit the Bronx office or one of the Division’s regional offices. A staff member will be happy to answer your questions. Remember, the staff member cannot and will not provide legal advice, and this consultation does not constitute filing a complaint.
Q. DO I NEED AN ATTORNEY TO FILE A COMPLAINT IN THE DIVISION?
A. No. The Human Rights Law was designed as an alternative to the court system, and, thus, parties need not have a lawyer to file a complaint or to participate in the hearing process. The Division, however, has an interest in vindicating the human rights of New Yorkers, and, thus, a member of the Division staff will assist Complainants throughout the hearing process, free of charge.
Q. WHAT KIND OF ACCOMMODATION MUST AN EMPLOYER PROVIDE IF I HAVE A DISABILITY OR A PREGNANCY-RELATED CONDITION?
A. If you need an accommodation because of your disability or pregnancy-related condition to complete the essential tasks of your job in a reasonable manner, your employer is required to provide an accommodation, if it is reasonable under the particular circumstances and does not cause an undue hardship to the employer.
You may be required to provide medical documentation of your need, which must be kept confidential by your employer.
Q. WHAT KIND OF ACCOMMODATION MUST A LANDLORD PROVIDE IF I HAVE A DISABILITY?
A. If you require a reasonable modification to your housing unit because of your disability, the housing provider is required to permit you to make such modification. However, you are responsible for the cost of the modification, and, in the case of rentals, the cost to return the unit to its original condition upon leaving. A housing provider must also make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, and services to enable a person with a disability to use and enjoy the premises.
Q. CAN I BE FIRED BY MY EMPLOYER OR EVICTED BY MY LANDLORD FOR FILING A COMPLAINT?
A. No. Retaliating against individuals who complain of any unlawful acts of discrimination, or who testify or assist in any proceeding under the Law, is unlawful. If you suspect that anyone has engaged in such retaliatory conduct against you, please contact the Division and ask whether such conduct gives rise to a separate complaint of discrimination.
Q. WHAT IS DISCRIMINATION IN CREDIT?
A. There are many ways that an individual may be discriminated against in the area of credit, including the denial of credit based on one of the traits or characteristics outlined at the beginning of this booklet, or the granting of credit on less favorable terms based on one of these same traits or characteristics. Because these acts can be subtle, individuals who believe that they have been the subject of such discrimination should contact the Division for consultation.
Q. CAN I FILE A COMPLAINT WITH BOTH A FEDERAL AGENCY AND THE DIVISION?
A. The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (better known as the EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws in the area of employment. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws related to housing. The Division enforces the New York State Human Rights Law, which only applies to New York State and goes beyond employment and housing into areas such as public accommodations, lending, and education. Although the federal laws and the Human Rights Law offer slightly different protections in the area of employment and housing, some complaints of employment discrimination and/or housing discrimination may be covered by both federal law and the state law. If this is true in your situation, you can protect all your rights by filing one complaint with the Division.
FAQs for Respondents
The New York State Human Rights Law and the Division’s Rules of Practice outline the policies and procedures that govern hearings administered by the New York State Division of Human Rights. The Law and the Rules are available on the Division’s website at www.dhr.ny.gov/law. Parties may consult with their own attorneys on questions about and interpretations of the Law and/or the Rules. The following are general responses to frequently asked questions. The responses are not legal advice, and should be used for informational purposes only.
Before the Public Hearing
I recently received a “Determination After Investigation” letter from the Division, stating that there is probable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred in my case and that the case will be scheduled for a public hearing. What does this mean and when will the case be scheduled for a hearing?
Where the Division finds probable cause after investigation, the Human Rights Law requires that the entire case be heard at a public hearing before an administrative law judge, where all relevant evidence is presented and the testimony of witnesses is taken under oath and subject to cross-examination. You will receive written notice from the Division of the hearing date, time, and location of the hearing. The hearing usually is scheduled to occur 4 to 6 weeks from the date of the written notice. Prior to receiving this notice, you may receive notice of a Pre-Hearing Settlement Conference, where your case will come before an Administrative Law Judge for the purpose of exploring settlement.
Do we pick the dates for the hearing?
No. The Division selects dates for a public hearing, and notifies the parties in writing through the notice of hearing.
What do I bring to the hearing, such as documents, witnesses, etc.?
The parties should identify and bring all documents and witnesses relevant to their claims and/or defenses. The parties should review the notice of hearing, which is issued via mail.
Now that the case is scheduled for a hearing, what happens next?
The case proceeds to a public hearing on the scheduled date. The Complainant may consult with his or her own attorney. If Complainant does not have an attorney, please wait to be contacted by a Division attorney, who will present the case in support of the complaint. Further, the parties should review the notice of hearing, which is issued via mail.
When should an answer be filed and can it be faxed?
An answer should be served by the respondent(s) on all parties and the Administrative Law Judge at least two (2) business days before the public hearing. This is a statutory requirement. All formal papers, including but not limited to the answer, must be submitted via personal service, mail, or fax (with an original to follow) for proper docketing and timely filing. Formal papers submitted via electronic mail are deemed courtesy copies and do not constitute proper service.
What should I do if I have a conflict with the hearing date that is scheduled?
You should submit, as early as possible, a written request for an adjournment of the hearing, stating the basis for your request, to all parties and the Administrative Law Judge.
On what basis will the judge grant an adjournment? Will I receive a letter with new dates?
Adjournment of a public hearing is granted only for actual engagement before a higher tribunal on the specific dates of the public hearing, or for other good cause shown as determined by the Division. If a case is adjourned, the Division will schedule a new hearing date.
What happens if I do not appear for the hearing?
A complainant’s failure to appear at a public hearing may result in a dismissal of a complaint, and a respondent’s failure to appear may result in a default finding against a respondent.
How long is the hearing?
Public hearings are generally scheduled for two (2) days.
Can I speak with the Judge?
Ex parte communication (i.e., by only one party) with the judge assigned to the case is strictly prohibited. The parties may jointly request a conference with a judge through the Office of Administrative Law Judges.
I have more questions. Where can I call for more information?
If necessary, call (718) 741-8400. We do request that you call only if the situation is urgent. Please do not call to ask the status of your case; the Division will contact you at the appropriate time. Frequent telephone contact can interfere with the prompt processing of your hearing. Please do not call your regional office; they will not have information on the hearing process.