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.”