Commissoner Gatling's Message
the past year, the Commission has assisted many individuals with
issues that were very important in that person’s life. It’s
rare that the Commission is able to work on a case with a wide-reaching
effect that impacts an entire community. 2004 provided us with just
such an opportunity.
Last year, in a landmark case, a Sikh traffic enforcement agent
was told that the turban he wore for religious purposes conflicted
with the NYC Police Department's uniform code. Facing the loss of
his career, he filed a complaint with us. The Commission ordered
the NYPD to grant the Sikh employee a religious accommodation. It
was the first such order in the nation issued to a law enforcement
agency. And, with the resolution of this groundbreaking case, the
NYPD settled a similar case that had been filed in federal court.
Our Law Enforcement Bureau continued to focus on pre-complaint interventions
– resolving issues before a complaint is filed – thus
avoiding the cost and delay of lengthy litigation.
we issued guidelines regarding gender identity discrimination to both
educate the public that an individual's gender identity is now an
area of protection under a 2002 amendment to the Human Rights Law
and to assist employers, housing providers, organizations and service
providers in understanding their responsibilities under the Law.
With a special focus on youth, our Community Relations Bureau increased
the number of schools in our Peer Mediation Training Program. In this
program, Commission staff members train students to mediate their
peers' problems before they escalate. And we published a guide for
the young mediators called Talk It Over.
Our other highlights this year have been many.
The 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education gave
us a wonderful opportunity to teach a diverse group of high school
students about the historic 1954 Supreme Court case. With our partner
the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the students created a huge mural
and performance piece reflecting how the Brown decision still impacts
their lives today.
We coordinated five forums for the Muslim community to familiarize
them with the Human Rights Law, reporting bias, employment discrimination
protections and government services. And to address the growing diversity
on Staten Island, we co-sponsored a picnic and soccer game between
Mexican and Liberian young people to help them learn more about one
another and build friendships.
We are well underway with an investigation into the hiring practices
of New York City's larger advertising agencies. An early assessment
revealed a disappointing number of minorities typically holding lower
level positions. We expect to complete our investigation in 2005.
In another area of employment discrimination, we are assisting Princeton
University with their audit study measuring the impact of race and
criminal records on securing entry-level positions. When completed,
the study will identify various discriminatory practices that employers
use, measure to what extent discrimination exists, and point to employment
areas most receptive to the previously incarcerated.
As an additional response to the discrimination often faced by the
previously incarcerated, we published 100,000 copies of Making
It Happen & Staying Home, our bilingual services guide for
prisoners and the formerly incarcerated. We distributed the pocket-booklet
throughout the state to correctional facilities and organizations
serving this population.
Because a more informed public is often a less discriminatory one,
we also increased our visibility through the media. Throughout 2004,
many of our cases, events, and programs were featured in the City's
daily papers and weekly periodicals, television, and radio, including
community and ethnic press.
My own personal highlight was meeting South African civil rights leader
Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was humbling and inspiring to speak with
a man who played such a prominent role in freeing South Africa from
apartheid. He is an ordinary man who acted in an extraordinary manner.
In 2005, the Commission will mark its 50th anniversary. We have come
a long way since our precursor, the Commission on Intergroup Relations,
was established by law in 1955. Today, our Law is much stronger as
is the Commission charged with its enforcement. With the fortitude
and compassion of Mayor Bloomberg, the Commission continues to promote
and protect the civil rights of all New Yorkers