In New York State, as an aggrieved employee you have the right file a discrimination complaint with several administrative agencies – the New York State administrative agency, which is known as the New York State Division of Human Rights (“SDHR”) or the Federal counterpart, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). If you work in New York City, you also have the option to file a discrimination complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights (“CCHR”). These agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process and investigate claims. There is no requirement to file a complaint with each agency as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the complaint with the other agencies.
The New York State and New York City anti-discrimination statutes (New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law, respectively) cover some smaller employers that are not covered by Federal law. Therefore, if your workplace has between 4 and 14 employees, you can file with the CCHR (if you live in New York City) or SDHR, as the EEOC enforces Federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees; otherwise, as explained below, you can file with the EEOC.
You should remember that filing with the SDHR or CCHR is not a prerequisite or condition to filing a discrimination cause of action in New York State Court, unlike discrimination actions in Federal Court, which require going filing a charge with the EEOC, and then receiving a 90-day Right to Sue Letter.
Now for the potential titanic pitfall when filing with the SDHR or CCHR – you can be barred from pursuing your New York State discrimination claim, unless your case is dismissed for reasons of “administrative convenience.” This is what is defined as an “election of remedies.” The failure to have your case dismissed based on administrative convenience and/or the receipt of a no probable cause determination can be a death knell to your discrimination claim and can severely hurt your chances at obtaining a proper remedy at law against your employer.
Fortunately, filing with the EEOC first and cross-filing with the SDHR or CCHR is not considered an election of remedies, and does not prevent you from further pursuing your New York State discrimination claim. The most prudent thing you can do prior to approaching the SDHR or CCHR is to contact an employment attorney well versed in the intricacies of discrimination law. The employment attorneys of Risman & Risman, P.C. have a long-standing history of assisting aggrieved employees in discrimination claims.
As always, if you believe you or your family member was and/or has been discriminated against in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the employment discrimination attorneys of Risman & Risman, P.C. at (212) 233-6400 or contact us online.