NEW CITY – The Rockland
County Human Rights Commission would have more powers under a local law
proposed by Legislator Alden Wolfe.
The county human rights law would be expanded to include civil rights
protections, penalize those who commit acts of bias, and empower the commission.
Wolfe said the proposal would not supplant existing protections under
state or federal law, but would enhance them.
Under current county law, the commission acts largely in an advisory capacity,
but Wolfe’s plan would give it strong investigatory, adjudicatory
and enforcement authority.
The new law would empower the commission and commissioner to investigate
and prosecute complaints of unlawful discriminatory practices in the areas
of employment, housing, 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; and issue decisions and orders that
a respondent refrain from unlawful discriminatory practice requiring the
respondent 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 and the like,
that are motive by race, religion, ethnicity, income, and sexual orientation.
“On both the national and local level, we’ve all become even
more attuned to acts of hatred, discrimination and division,” Wolfe
said. “It’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another
thing to do something about it. We need to send one clear and unambiguous
message that we are one in Rockland County.”
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