New York City Commission on Human Rights.

The New York Commission on Human Rights is an administrative agency which enforces the New York City Human Rights Law. 

The New York City Commission on Human Rights has its origins in the administrative of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia. The precursor of the current law was enacted in 1965, and there have been extensive revisions of the law since then, expanding the scope of its coverage. 

In particular, the law was strengthened in 2005 by The Local Civil Rights Restoration Act of 2005, which made clear that the similarly worded state and federal civil rights law are a "floor" rather than a "ceiling." This has meant, in the world of the courts, that the New York City Human Rights is to be interpreted more liberally than the other civil rights laws, including Federal Law and other New York State Law. 

Thus, the New York City Human Rights Law is one of the best laws in the county for the protection of employee rights, protecting employees against discrimination. 

  • More types of employee discrimination are included. In addition to the more mainstream types of discrimination covered by other laws, discrimination based on unemployment status, domestic violence status, and credit history are covered.

  • More types of employers are covered. If there are at least four employees, then the employer is a covered employer.

  • More expansive remedies. The monetary amounts for pain and suffering damages and punitive damages are not capped by the statute.

How do you bring a claim under the New York City Human Rights Law?

  • You can file directly with the Commission within one year of the discriminatory act. The Commission will make an investigation to see if there is “probable cause” for your complaint, meaning that there is some merit to your claim. If the Commission finds no “probable cause,” then your complaint is dismissed from the Commission. You can challenge this decision in an Article 78 proceeding in Supreme Court, within four months of the decision, but the chances of having the decision overturned are small. If the Commission does find “probable cause,” then documents will be exchanged between you and the employer, and depositions will be taken, in a way similar to a court proceeding. The case will then be assigned for trial at another City agency, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. A decision of the Administrative Law Judge can be appealed to the New York Supreme Court in an Article 78 proceeding, but the appeal is limited to the court record made at the administrative proceeding. The standard of review will be “substantial evidence,” which means that a good deal of deference will be given to the administrative law judge. 


  • You can file in court within three years of the discriminatory act, so you have more time than filing directly with the Commission. If you are in court, you don’t have to wait to see if the Commission finds “probable cause” before your case can proceed. The case will then proceed to the discovery stage, where the parties will exchange documents and the depositions will be taken. Unlike a complaint filed with the Commission, your case would be tried to a jury, and juries are often more likely to make a large damage award than an administrative law judge. However, if some of your case relies on hearsay or there are other evidentiary issues, the Commission may be a better place because the rules of evidence are relaxed at an administrative hearing. If you have a fairly technical case or one where there may not be very large damages, the Commission might be a better venue for your case. Each case needs to be individually evaluated. 

Contact us online or call us at (212) 949-1001 if you are considering filing, or have filed, a compliant of discrimination against your employer with the New York City Human Rights Commission, so that we can review options for filing a complaint in court.

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