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Changes at DHR & to the NYS Human Rights Law - 2021

Changes at DHR & to the NYS Human Rights Law - 2021

Discontinuance of Private Settlements

For complaints filed on or after October 12, 2021, the Division will no longer issue Commissioner’s Orders discontinuing complaints after private settlements.

This change is being made in the public interest for increased transparency and good governance regarding settlements. Oftentimes, when a complainant retains private counsel and the matter settles, the parties enter into private settlements - meaning the terms of the settlement are not disclosed in a written agreement available to either the Division or the public.  Nearly half of all post-probable cause settlements are private settlements without any public record of the terms of the settlement. The Division has a vested interest in the ultimate resolution of all cases -- even cases with private counsel -- to ensure that the terms of any settlement comply with our basic standards and do not violate public policy.  The Division’s interest in each case is apparent in the fact that all cases – regardless of whether there is private counsel or a Division-assigned attorney – are brought in the name of the Division.

After a probable cause determination, a complainant’s attorney will be required to state in writing why they are seeking a discontinuance and, if the reason is private settlement, the discontinuance will not be granted.  Parties will be encouraged to either settle the matter through an Order after stipulation that indicates the terms of the settlement or to proceed through the agency’s public hearing process.  This requirement has always applied to matters where the complainant is assisted by a Division attorney, and now it applies in all instances.

These changes will ensure that New Yorkers have greater insight into the results of our complaints and that the Division can monitor all settlements to ensure they are consistent with the intent of the Human Rights Law.

Notice of Tenant's Rights to Reasonable Accommodation

Executive Law Section 170-d requires housing providers to notify tenants and prospective tenants of their rights to reasonable accommodation for disability.  DHR adopted accompanying regulations 9 NYCRR 466.15, entitled “Provision of notice by housing providers of tenants’ rights to reasonable modifications and accommodations for persons with disabilities.” 

This regulation clarifies tenants’ rights to reasonable modifications and accommodations under the Human Rights Law and provides clear guidelines for housing providers to comply with the requirements of Executive Law section 170-d and the Human Rights Law disability and reasonable accommodation provisions. 

A copy of the sample notice included in the regulation can be downloaded at the link below 

Protections for Domestic Workers

On December 31, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law Chapter 830 of the Laws of New York, amending the Human Rights Law to expand protections for individuals employed as domestic workers. Prior to this amendment, domestic workers were only covered by the Human Rights Law’s anti-discrimination protections in certain circumstances. Now, domestic workers are considered “employees” for all purposes under the Human Rights Law and have the full protections of the Law's employment provisions. Learn more.

Simplifying Filing a Complaint

On July 16, 2021, Senate Bill No. 7105 was signed into law. This legislation will permit greater flexibility for people filing discrimination complaints with the Division of Human Rights. Previously, under the Human Rights Law, a complaint had to be verified by oath before a notary public or other authorized person in order to commence administrative procedures with the Division. HRL § 297(1) now provides that a written complaint may be made, signed and filed under oath or by declaration. This means that a Division complaint can either be sworn to before a notary public or, alternatively, signed with a declaration that the complaint is true under penalty of perjury. This legislation, which was proposed by the Division and is effective immediately, will simplify procedures for people who are seeking to file discrimination complaints with the Division and provide greater access to the Division’s services.

Strengthening Fair Housing Laws

On July 16, 2021, Senate Bill No. 6886 was signed into law. This legislation proposed by the Division, to strengthen provisions of the Human Rights Law that prohibit housing discrimination.

Previously, owner-occupied two-unit dwellings were entirely exempt from the Human Rights Law, including provisions that make it unlawful to refuse to rent housing accommodations because of membership in a protected class, to discriminate in the terms, conditions or privileges of the rental of housing accommodation based on membership in a protected class, or to make discriminatory advertising or inquiries.

Effective immediately, there is no longer an exemption from the prohibitions against discriminatory advertising and inquiries for the rental of a unit in an owner-occupied two-unit dwelling. The legislation further provides that engaging in discriminatory advertising or inquiries will cause an owner of such property to lose the exemption to the portions of the Human Rights Law that prohibit rental discrimination or discrimination in the terms and conditions of such rental. Thus, not only will such owner be liable under the advertising provisions of the Human Rights Law, but the Human Rights Law now applies in full force to such property whenever the advertising and inquiries provision is violated.

Notice of Source of Income Protections

On July 16, 2021, Assembly Bill No. 3112B was signed into law. This legislation directs the Division to promulgate regulations requiring entities authorized to administer any public housing program or assistance to provide written notice to prospective tenants, and to individuals who have applied for and are eligible to receive housing assistance, of their rights related to source of income discrimination.

This law will strengthen the housing provisions of the Human Rights Law, which were amended in 2019 to prohibit housing discrimination based on lawful source of income. The required written notice will assure that housing assistance recipients are aware of their rights under the HRL to utilize their vouchers and other assistance without discrimination and will inform those individuals how they may make a complaint if they believe they have been subject to discrimination. This law became effective on September 14, 2021.