Wolfe: Laws Will Make A Difference In The Lives Of Those Who Routinely Experience Discrimination
Republican Minority Says No To Measure Aimed At Protecting Veterans, Domestic Violence Victims, Senior Citizens, Immigrants, & Members Of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community
New City, NY (Feb. 6, 2019) – Rockland County legislators voted to adopt a new Human Rights Law and a greatly expanded Fair Housing Law Tuesday.
The Human Rights vote divided along party lines, with the five Republicans present voting against the measure that extends protections to Rockland County veterans, domestic violence victims, senior citizens, immigrants, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, among others.
Ironically, just minutes earlier, all five Republicans voted to support the passage of a human rights resolution for the people of Northern Ireland. All nine Democrats also supported the resolution.
But when it came to the Rockland bill, Republicans went out of their way to connect the law, which seeks to fight discrimination, with issues concerning educational quality and parity in the East Ramapo School District, over which county government has no authority or control.
“I’m thrilled that this law was passed because it is about protecting our veterans, victims of domestic violence, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, senior citizens and others – people who routinely experience discrimination simply because of who they are,” Legislator Alden Wolfe said. “Unfortunately, Republicans decided to put politics over people.”
The vote was 9-5 in favor of the resolution. The Human Rights Law would also create penalties for those committing acts of bias such as the recent spray-painting of swastikas in Kennedy Dells County Park in New City.
The five Republicans also argued that more time was needed to review the law.
This despite the fact that the law has been in the works for 17 months; copies of the proposal were emailed to legislators several times; public hearings were held; and Legislator Wolfe personally requested comment on the law from all 17 legislators, Republicans included. Not a single Republican offered any feedback during all that time. All 17 legislative seats are up for election in November.
Legislators voted 14-0 to adopt an expanded Fair Housing Law that expands protections to vulnerable groups of people.
Both resolutions now head to the desk of Republican County Executive Ed Day, where one or both are expected to be vetoed.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ROCKLAND COUNTY HUMAN RIGHTS LAW & FAIR HOUSING LAW
The new Human Rights Law and the amended Rockland County Fair Housing Law would:
Include protections otherwise not included in state law for immigration or citizenship status, ethnicity, military and veteran status.
Creates a cause of action based on discrimination in employment, public accommodations, extension of credit and housing at the county level for transgender individuals and provides for civil penalties for those that commit acts of bias against trans-gender individuals.
Ban local employers from inquiring about or relying on an applicant’s salary history in determining the salary, benefits and other compensation except in very limited circumstances. This measure is meant to address the gender and racial wage gap that currently exists and bring us closer to pay equity.
Broaden the definition of “victim of domestic violence” to include victims of sexual abuse or stalking, and extend civil rights protections to these victims in employment, places of public accommodation, resort or amusement, housing, and the extension of credit. State law limits the definition to only include those who are victims of an incident considered a family offense under the Family Court Act. The Rockland County Law broadly defines a victim of domestic violence to include a person who has been subject to an act or series of acts that result in the physical, emotional or financial harm to that individual.
Prohibit employers from asking about criminal convictions prior to a first interview or during the job application process. State law includes no such “Ban the Box” prohibitions.
Prohibit source-of-income discrimination – such as has been seen regarding Section 8 vouchers and Social Security income – in the sale, lease and rental of housing accommodations, land or commercial property.
Additionally, the proposed new Human Rights Law would empower the Rockland County Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Commissioner to:
Investigate and process complaints of unlawful discriminatory practices in the areas of employment, public accommodation, and the extension of credit.
Resolve complaints through mediation and dispute resolution.
Make a finding of probable cause that the respondent in an action has engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice.
Refer cases to an administrative law judge for decisions regarding discrimination.
Issue decisions and orders that a person refrain from unlawful discriminatory practice, requiring them to remedy the unlawful discrimination, and pay damages, civil fines, penalties, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
Regarding acts of bias, the proposed law would create civil penalties in cases of bias involving vandalism, defacement, threats, etc. that are motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, income, sexual orientation and so forth. Penalties will be used to further the goals of the law.