Written by attorney Vincent Peter White

How to File a New York State Division of Human Rights Complaint

If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, age, marital status, domestic violence victim status, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics or prior arrest or conviction record, or if you believe you have been retaliated against for opposing unlawful discriminatory practices, you may be able to file a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights. The New York State Human Rights Law forbids discrimination in employment, apprenticeship and training; purchase and rental of housing and commercial space; places of public accommodation, resort and amusement; non-sectarian; tax-exempt educational institutions; and all credit transactions.

How to File a Complaint:

  1. You can download a complaint form. Once completed, signed and notarized you can mail the complaint form to the nearest regional office of the Division of Human Rights. There is no filing fee. You may retain private counsel, but it is not necessary. You may file a complaint within one year of the unlawful act of discrimination. You should provide the following in your complaint: a. Have names, titles, addresses, and phone numbers of all persons alleged to have discriminated against you. b. Provide photocopies of any documentation that supports the allegations made in your complaint. c. If possible, supply the correct names and addresses of any witnesses to the alleged act(s) of discrimination. Investigative Procedure: The regional office will: 1. Receive your complaint of discrimination and notify the respondent(s). (A respondent is a person or entity about whose action you complain). If you are unable to file, a complaint will be prepared and forwarded to you for your review and notarized signature.

  2. Resolve questionable issues of jurisdiction. 3. Forward, upon your request, a copy of your complaint will sent complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 4. Investigate through appropriate methods (written inquiry, field investigation, investigatory conference, etc.) 5. Determine whether or not, there is probable cause to believe that an act of discrimination has occurred, and will notify you and the respondent(s) in writing. Procedure Following an Investigation: If there is a finding of no probable cause, or lack of jurisdiction, the matter is dismissed and the complainant may appeal to the State Supreme Court within 60 days. Public Hearing: 1. A Notice of Hearing will be issued. The case may be adjourned only for a good cause. You may utilize a division attorney or be represented by your own private counsel. 2. An Administrative Law Judge presides over the hearing. It may last one or more days. 3. A Recommended Order is prepared and sent to the parties for comment. 4. A Commissioner's Order either dismisses the complaint or finds discrimination. In the latter case, the Commissioner may order the respondent to cease and desist and take appropriate action. The Division may order damages and/or back pay. The Order may be appealed by either party to the State Supreme Court within 60 days. Within one year, the Compliance Investigation Unit investigates whether the respondent has complied with the provisions of the Order.

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