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New York City Aims to Strengthen Its Enforcement of Human Rights Law; Paired Testing Employment Discrimination Investigations on the Way

Mayor de Blasio recently signed a series of bills that, among other things, require the New York City Human Rights Commission – the agency responsible for enforcing the New York City Human Rights Law – to conduct employment discrimination investigations using the paired testing method.  This is the Commission’s version of a sting operation.

These new laws are the result of a deep concern among council members over the Commission's weak enforcement efforts; as Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put it: “It’s time for us to put teeth into a commission that been ineffective for far too long.”  That the Commission’s budget and staffing levels have been continually slashed year after year is largely responsible for the low level of enforcement activity.  But now, the City Council, partnering with the Mayor, is seeking to chart a new course.  It started by passing a bill that will require the Commission to investigate employment discrimination through a paired testing method.

Specifically, the Commission must send out “matched pairs of testers” to apply for the same job using “similar” credentials but who will have at least one different distinguishing protected character (i.e. different races, genders, etc.).  The law requires the Commission to conduct at least five investigations with the first starting on or before October 1, 2015.  Then, by March 1, 2017, the law requires the Commission to report back to the City Council about what it found.  It also requires any findings of actual or perceived discrimination to then be referred to the Commission’s law enforcement bureau.  The Commission may target local employers, labor organizations, employment agencies or any employee or agent of thereof.

The City Council packaged this bill with two others: one extending the testing program to housing discrimination investigations and one that would require the Commission to report certain on certain enforcement activity.

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