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Report: Enforcement of NYC's Anti-Discrimination Laws Facing Challenges

The Gothamist published a report about staff shortages in the New York City agency responsible for investigating and enforcing the city's anti-discrimination laws. As a result, the agency is allegedly closing cases without fully investigating them. The City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has around 70% fewer staff attorneys than it did in 2017, and attorneys handle most of the investigative work. The shortage is due to attrition and cuts to the CCHR's budget. The agency oversees employment and housing discrimination issues, including landlords who deny housing to individuals receiving government assistance, a practice illegal in the city. The agency is empowered to conduct outreach and pressure brokers and landlords to comply with the law before administrative action. It is the primary recourse for these low-income individuals.

CCHR data shows that 56% of its cases in the last year were closed without the commission making probable cause determinations. Former staffers interviewed by the Gothamist assert that administratively closing cases is necessary to clear case backlogs. One staffer alleged the agency receives pressure from the mayor to move cases quickly to improve performance data used in his biannual management report. The agency referred just four cases in 2022 for enforcement in administrative hearings, down from 13 and 20 in the prior two years.

Staffers who spoke to the Gothamist believe the agency prioritizes employment discrimination because damages and penalties are higher than in housing discrimination. Employment discrimination protections have increased since 2022, with the city adding salary transparency requirements, bans on discrimination by weight and height, and new A.I. restrictions when used to hire. Thus, the limited staff has an increased workload.