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Legal Information: New York

Workplace Protections

November 9, 2020

If I feel that my employer did discriminate against me because I am a domestic violence victim, what can I do?

If you believe you have been the subject of employment discrimination based on your status as a victim of domestic violence, you can file a complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights. The NYS Division of Human rights is a state agency created to enforce the human rights laws of New York by reviewing complaints of discrimination and prosecuting violators.1

You can file a complaint at the nearest regional office of the NYS Division of Human Rights. The headquarters is located in the Bronx, but there are many regional offices located throughout the state. Click here to find the office nearest you.

You can also download the form to file a complaint here. Once you download the form, here are the steps you can take:

  1. Fill out the form and sign it in front of a notary.
  2. Mail the form to the nearest regional office of the NYS Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR). You can find the address of the one nearest you by clicking here.
  3. In addition to the complaint form, you should be prepared to supply the office with the names and addresses of the employer and any witnesses, as well as any documents that support your claim.
  4. You must file the complaint within one year of the unlawful discrimination.
  5. The regional office will review your complaint and notify the employer about your complaint.
  6. The regional office will investigate your claim to determine if there is enough proof to believe that an act of discrimination has occurred, and will notify you and the employer of their decision in writing. Additionally, the office will send a copy of your complaint, upon your request, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC enforces the federal laws that forbid workplace discrimination.
  7. If the NYSDHR decides that there is not enough proof of discrimination, they will dismiss your claim. You may appeal this dismissal in the state supreme court within 60 days.
  8. If the NYSDHR finds that there is evidence of discrimination, a hearing will be held. An NYSDHR attorney or agent will be assigned to assist you throughout the hearing process and will present the case to the judge on your behalf, free of charge.
  9. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will make a decision and a “recommended order” will be sent to you and the employer. You will each have an opportunity to review and object to the order.
  10. The commissioner of the NYS Division of Human Rights will review the “recommended order” and any objections that are filed to it and will issue a final “commissioner’s order.”
  11. If the judge and commissioner find that discrimination has occurred, they may order the employer to hire you or give you your job back. They may also order the employer to pay you damages and/or back pay.
  12. If after the hearing, the judge and commissioner find that discrimination has not occurred, they will dismiss your complaint. You may appeal the dismissal in the state supreme court within 60 days.1

Note: There is no filing fee to file this complaint.1

You may also want to consider suing the employer in civil court for this discrimination. We strongly suggest that you talk to an attorney who specializes in civil rights law or employment law to discuss whether or not you have a good case against your employer and to figure out what the possible outcome of a lawsuit may be. You may be able to find an attorney through the Bar Association’s Legal Referral Service which you can find on our NY Finding a Lawyer page.

1 Adapted from the NYS Division of Human Rights website