In one of my proudest moments as NYC Human Rights Commissioner, the Commission successfully obtained commitments from the leaders of a high-profile industry to boost their minority ranks and make their firms more reflective of the City’s rich diversity.
Under groundbreaking agreements negotiated in September 2006, the CEOs of 16 of the City’s largest advertising agencies agreed to diversify their workforce, particularly in the creative and managerial positions. The agreements require the agencies to establish recruitment and retention goals and to report to the Commission annually whether they have met their goals. The agreements also require that each agency issue an annual report specifying the race, title, and salary of each employee hired and promoted.
These groundbreaking agreements underscore the Commission’s commitment to ensuring a diverse NYC workforce—agreements that are good for the industry, the City, and the nation.
I commend these 16 industry leaders for committing themselves to an enhanced equal employment program that will yield lasting results. The transparency created in the agreements will also help ensure their success.
In addition to taking on larger issues that have a far-reaching effect, the Commission also continues to assist individuals with issues of discrimination. Our focus on pre-complaint intervention has proven highly successful and the number of complaints we resolved with this process dramatically increased during 2006. Such pre-complaint interventions assure a speedy resolution without the need to file a complaint, thus avoiding lengthy and costly litigation.
Today, approximately 90% of the Commission’s total caseload is less than one year old. At the beginning of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, only 14% of the total cases were under a year.
As part of our aggressive equal access and disability efforts, we surveyed Brighton Beach, an area with a large number of elderly and disabled individuals, and found that a high percentage of the old residential buildings are inaccessible to those with disabilities. We met many individuals who have been prisoners in their own apartments for years because of a few steps at their building entrance or in their lobby. In the last few months of 2006, the Commission successfully negotiated modifications for 23 buildings, making those locations accessible to over 3,500 residents. We will maintain our presence in that community until all the multiple-dwelling buildings are made accessible under the Human Rights Law.
With a continued focus on education, our Human Rights Specialists teach students about the Human Rights Law, Sexual Harassment, and Conflict Resolution. We are now in our fourth year training high school students to become peer mediators. This program provides students with a way to address and resolve their disputes before they escalate. The program has proven to be highly effective in reducing violence in the schools. In December, we held a unique conference at the downtown offices of JPMorgan Chase for 200 New York City high school students who are practicing peer mediators in their schools. The conference, Are We Cool?, built upon their mediation and conflict resolution skills.
Throughout most of 2006, we reached millions of New Yorkers and visitors daily with a message of welcome and unity through our multi-lingual One City poster campaign. The posters were displayed at City bus shelters, phone kiosks, and on NYC sanitation trucks and street sweepers—taking our message to all 6,300 “curb miles” of City streets.
We also worked closely with the media, frequently highlighting the Commission’s high profile cases. Additionally, the relationships we have built with a number of ethnic and community press members helped us reach many of the City’s diverse communities.
I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish this year. Our plans for 2007 include a new testing program in employment for race discrimination that is already underway. Based on a Princeton University study that the Commission assisted with as reported in the 2005 Annual Report, we are measuring the role that race plays in obtaining entry-level employment in the City. Unlike the previous study where no formal complaints were filed, the Commission is filing charges against any employer found discriminating. We are also stepping up our proactive testing in housing to uncover discriminatory practices by real estate agents, building owners, and managers.
I am grateful to Mayor Bloomberg for the opportunity to continue to promote and protect the civil rights of all New Yorkers.