The first step in the process is Intake. Individuals who believe that they have been discriminated against may telephone, write, email, or come into our office and speak to an investigator about their situation. An extensive intake interview is conducted to obtain all the pertinent facts, explain our process and advise the complainant of available options.
The Commission always encourages early and ongoing settlement efforts, which benefits both parties.
Often, a situation arises that is not within our area of jurisdiction. In those situations, our staff members carefully evaluate the information and make appropriate referrals to other agencies that can better serve the individual’s immediate needs.
In other instances, the problem can be resolved without the need for a formal complaint. We have the flexibility to attempt to clarify the situation and/or to settle the matter by sending a letter of inquiry to the respondent and subsequent conversations with both parties.
When the situation has not been resolved or when the circumstances dictate, the intake investigator will draft a formal complaint for the complainant’s notarized signature. Depending upon the circumstances of the complaint, these formal charges may be filed under local, state, and/or federal law. The complaint is served on the respondent.
RESPONDENT’S ANSWER and COMPLAINANT’S REBUTTAL
The respondent’s answer is usually sent to the complainant, along with a request for a written rebuttal. The complainant may submit a rebuttal in writing or meet with the investigator to give a verbal rebuttal. The rebuttal process can also be undertaken by telephone or by e-mail.
Every complainant is offered the opportunity to show that the alleged discriminatory basis was the reason for the respondent’s actions. However, the Commission ultimately determines the level of investigation necessary to address the issues raised.
The investigation includes securing relevant documents and obtaining other pertinent data necessary to address the charges. Relevant witnesses are contacted and interviewed about the circumstances surrounding the complaint. Their statements can be a valuable tool in ascertaining the validity of a charge.
When the investigation is completed, the information that has been gathered is carefully analyzed and documented, and the investigator prepares an investigative report along with recommended findings.
The executive director reviews the file and the investigative report, and if she agrees with the findings, she signs off on the report. The Commission’s recommended findings are then submitted to the NY State Division of Human Rights. If the State Division concurs with our “no probable cause” finding, then the case is closed. If they concur with a “probable cause” finding, the case is scheduled for a formal public hearing before an administrative law judge. The administrative law judge has the authority to compel the respondent to make restitution to the complainant, in whatever amount the judge deems appropriate.
However, in housing cases filed under the county’s local law, the Commission issues the final determination. Where probable cause has been determined, a hearing before an administrative law judge will be held at the county level.
If it is determined that there is no probable cause to believe that an unlawful act of discrimination has occurred, then the complaint is dismissed and the complainant is provided with information explaining the timeframes and process for filing an appeal.