HAUPPAUGUE, NY-September 25, 2014—County Executive Bellone was joined by human rights advocates for a bill signing to codify the recently approved amendments to Suffolk County’s Human Rights Law. The approved amendments will provide consistency between Suffolk County local law and New York State Human Rights Law and will include a process for administrative hearings in the County on all founded complaints of discrimination.
“As we continue to ensure Suffolk County is a welcoming and inclusive area for all, we must ensure that all residents’ human rights are protected,” said County Executive Bellone. “I applaud Presiding Officer Gregory and all of the members of the Suffolk County Legislature for their unanimous approval of the amendments to the Suffolk County Human Rights Law. The approved amendments will put the County on parity with adopted New York State Human Rights Laws and ensure protection for all citizens.”
Highlights of the proposed amendments:
· Military Status-protected category in all sections of the law (housing, employment, public accommodations and credit),
· Prohibits discrimination against people of disabilities based on their use of a guide dog, hearing dog or service dog.
· Adds protected status for: victims of domestic violence in employment, and familial status in employment,
· Employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy related conditions,
· Prohibits fire departments and companies from discriminatory practices based on a limited number of protected categories,
· Adds coverage for Domestic Workers.
· Adds lawful source of income as a protected category,
· Addresses post-acquisition harassment,
· Defines unlawful discriminatory practices for Real Estate Brokers and Real Estate Sales Persons.
· Removes age as a protected category,
· Requires reasonable accommodations be made for people with disabilities.
· Prohibits discrimination based on group identity.
Jurisdiction and Procedures-Complaint and Hearing Procedures:
· Provides mechanism for imposing and collecting fines and penalties,
· Simplifies the structure of the civil fines and penalties which can be imposed in all cases where probable cause is found,
· Revision and addition of definitions included in Local Law.
“We are grateful for the strong commitment shown by our County Executive Steve Bellone to the principles of equality, respect and dignity, and commend him for introducing this legislation, which will ensure meaningful protection for those who live and work in our County, stated Jennifer Blaske, Executive Director of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission. “We are also thankful for the strong support of our County legislature, who surely demonstrated their commitment to these principles by voting unanimously to approve this legislation.”
Statements of Support:
Frank Sprouse-Guzmán, member of Make the Road New York, stated, “"My job as a real estate agent is to connect a tenant who is ready, willing and able to rent with a homeowner who needs a tenant. By having a strong law that protects more individuals against discrimination, I will be able to serve more tenants and homeowners in my community which will be good for business and in turn good for our Economy."
Reina Schiffrin, President/CEO, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic stated, “I applaud County Executive Steve Bellone for moving Suffolk County forward to protect all residents. It’s so gratifying to see Suffolk County step ahead of New York State when it comes to protections for transgender people, pregnant and parenting workers, and lower income residents.”
V. Elaine Gross, President, ERASE Racism, stated –The signing of this amended Human Rights Law, offering expanded protections against discrimination, is applauded by ERASE Racism. Among its many provisions, home-seekers in Suffolk County can no longer be denied housing because of their source of income. This is a “win” for fair housing.
“Concerned residents that understand the importance of equal treatment and opportunity to access housing have cause to celebrate the amended law as a means to promote fair housing so everyone may live in vigorous, well integrated, accessible communities. Too commonly, Long Islanders go home to racially or ethnically segregated neighborhoods; we look to enforcement of the amended law to foster racial, cultural and economic diversity, the hallmark of a truly healthy society.”
Rosemary Dehlow, Chief Program Officer for Community Housing Innovations, said: "The County Executive and the Suffolk County Legislature deserves great praise for taking a giant step towards eliminating housing discrimination in the county."
Amol Sinha, Director of the Suffolk County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union stated, "This is a step forward for all Suffolk County residents, and we applaud the County legislature and the County Executive for their action," said. "These changes will promote equality, preserve dignity, and help ensure that all community members are treated fairly, regardless of identity."