New York City Employment Discrimination — The Law in Practice

New York City has robust anti-employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation laws on the books. But NYC was not always so friendly to claimants. This article briefly reviews the history and evolution of the Big Apple’s journey to ensuring fair treatment for city workers.

Mayor LaGuardia forms the Mayor’s Committee on Unity via an executive order, in part to address citizen concerns following 1943 race riots. LaGuardia’s committee lacks enforcement powers. Despite this, he manages to make some progress, settling disputes in Harlem and Coney Island, and being instrumental in passing a Fair Educational Practices Act.

New York City Mayor Wagner eliminates the committee and replaces it with a more empowered Commission on Intergroup Relations, also known as COIR. The Commission is established by Local Law 55 to collect and investigate all manner of discrimination complaints. COIR also takes an active role in studying and resolving employment discrimination matters.

Sharkey-Brown-Isaacs Law passes, expanding the power of COIR to investigate housing discrimination.

COIR renamed as the Commission on Human Rights.

New laws extend and expand Commission’s power.

1980s and 1990s
Human Rights Law amended multiple times to add protection for people with mental disabilities, people of alien status, victims of bias-related sexual harassment, individuals of different sexual orientation, and individuals who are retaliated against for complaining about New York City employment discrimination.

First decade of 2000s
City Human Rights Law again experiences numerous changes. Domestic violence victims become a protective class, the legal definition of “gender” changes to protect individuals of different gender identities, and victims of domestic violence, stalking and sex offences get guaranteed workplace rights.

Mayor Bloomberg enacts Local Law 85, which strengthens the NYC employment discrimination laws by eliminating requirement that victims of retaliation must suffer adverse effects in order to file legal action.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of New York City harassment, retaliation, or employment discrimination, you may benefit greatly from a free consultation with the trial-proven lawyers of Joseph & Kirschenbaum. Read more about our services and approach at

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