How Do I File A Claim?
How do I file a state claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights?
You may file a state claim of sexual harassment or discrimination up to one year after the most recent alleged incident occurred by contacting the Division and explaining your case.
How do I contact the New York State Division of Human Rights?
The New York State Division of Human Rights has offices throughout the state of New York in the cities of Albany, Binghamton, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Manhattan, Long Island, Syracuse, Rochester, and Peekskill. You can call the main office in New York City at (718) 741-8400, visit the website or write to them at:
Against whom can I file a claim?
You may file a claim against your employer if it was aware of the sexual harassment or discrimination but did nothing about it, or if it actively participated in the sexual harassment or discrimination against you. Additionally, you may bring claims against individual co-workers who subjected you to sexual harassment.
If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?
If you choose to file a claim with the Division of Human Rights, with your own attorney, or both, it is expected that you have all the names, titles, addresses, and phone numbers of the persons who you feel have discriminated against you. Also, provide any documentation of such discrimination and, if possible, any information on witnesses or individuals who might be able to provide evidence of your discrimination claim.
How long will the process take?
After filing a claim with the Division, it will attempt to negotiate or reconcile with your employer within 180 days. Unfortunately, the process of filing a claim and being awarded the damages you feel you are entitled to is not always an easy or quick process.
Do I need an attorney?
It is not necessary to hire an attorney if you file a claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights. However, you may feel free to hire an attorney outside of the Division should you choose to do so.
Where do I find an attorney?
It is not necessary to contact a lawyer if you choose to file a claim through the New York State Division of Human Rights. However, if you would like to seek outside legal help, the Division may be able to locate a lawyer for you.
What if I can't afford an attorney?
If you cannot afford an attorney you can simply file a claim, free of charge, with the New York State Human Rights Division.
What will my attorney need from me?
Regardless of whether you file a claim with the Division, with your own attorney, or both, it is to be expected that you provide specific information regarding the alleged incidents. Names, numbers, and addresses of your employer and those involved in the incident, along with detailed accounts of the events, including dates and specifics, are usually expected of an employee seeking to file a claim of sexual harassment or discrimination.
Do I have to contact the New York State Division of Human Rights?
You do not have to contact the Division unless you want to file a claim. It is not required that you contact the Division at all. They merely act as an aid in your claim of sexual harassment or discrimination. You may seek an outside attorney at any time during your claim, regardless of whether you file a claim with the Division or not. If you choose to file with the Division, you must do so within one year of the alleged incident. If you choose to bring an independent claim in the courts without the help of the Division, you have up to three years after the alleged incident to file a claim.
Can't I sue my employer directly without going through the New York State Division of Human Rights?
You have the option of directly suing your employer up to three years after the alleged incidence(s) took place. However, you may not file with both the Division and the State court. The Division enforces the New York Human Rights Law and serves mainly to ease the process of investigating sexual harassment or discrimination.
Who will investigate my complaint?
If you choose to file with the Division, an investigator will respond to your claim by performing fact-finding measures. The investigator will use the evidence gathered in the investigation to determine whether there is appropriate jurisdiction and sufficient probable cause to continue with your claim.
What do I do after my initial contact with the New York State Division of Human Rights?
"Based on the allegations in your complaint, an investigator will conduct a fact-finding investigation. Based on the evidence collected during the investigation, the Division makes a determination of whether there is probable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination took place. A determination of no probable cause will result in the dismissal of your case."
What happens after I submit my claim?
After the filing of your complaint, the Division will promptly serve a copy on the employer and all persons it deems to be necessary parties and make prompt investigation in connection to the complaint. Within 180 days after a complaint is filed, the Division will determine whether it has jurisdiction and, if so, whether there is probable cause to believe that the employer has engaged in or is engaging in an unlawful discriminatory practice.
What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the Division finds no probable cause on your claim, it only means that it will not assist you with your claim. By no means are you barred from bringing a claim against your employer, but you must seek outside assistance. If you feel like you have been sexually harassed or discriminated against at work but the Division believes otherwise, don't be discouraged. Contact a lawyer familiar with employment law and explain your case to him or her. You may appeal to the State Supreme Court within 60 days after a finding of no probable cause by the Division.
What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If probable cause is found, the Division will notify you and the employer of the time and place of a public hearing. A successful conciliation or public hearing between you and the employer can serve as the means through which you may be entitled to relief (compensatory damages, back pay, front pay, reinstatement). If the administrative law judge finds that discrimination occurred, the employer will most likely also be required to stop its discriminatory behavior.
Can I sue my employer?
Yes. Under New York State law, you may bring a claim of sexual harassment against your employer and anyone individually responsible for creating a hostile work environment, as long as your supervisor/employer was aware of the harassment and did nothing to correct it or where a supervisor/employer was an active participant in the alleged sexual harassment.
Can I appeal a decision of the Division?
Yes, you may. If you are unsatisfied with the decision on your claim, you may file an appeal with the State Supreme Court within 60 days.
Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?
At your request, and assuming you meet the minimum requirements of federal coverage (ie., your employer employs at least fifteen employees), the Division will send the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) a copy of your complaint. By notifying the EEOC of the alleged discrimination, you are entitled to bring a federal claim of employment discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (). To qualify for federal protection under Title VII, your employer must have at least 15 employees, compared to 4 under New York law.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?
The standards of proof in employment discrimination cases brought under New York Human Rights Law are the same as those established in the United States Supreme Court for cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The main differences between federal and state coverage are 1) that your employer must have 15 or more employees in order to file a Title VII claim and only 4 or more for a state claim; 2) that the statute of limitations is three years for a state claim, while you must file with the EEOC within 180 days of the most recent incident for a federal claim; and 3) that under federal law you can be awarded up to $50,000 in combined compensatory and punitive damages, whereas under New York State law, punitive damages are not available and there is no limit on compensatory damages.
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