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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             
October 19, 2011

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER/CHAIR GATLING AND MOPD COMMISSIONER SAPOLIN MARK NATIONAL DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT AWARENESS MONTH

Commissioners Underscore the Need to Tap the Talents of All New Yorkers and Encourage Individuals With Disabilities to Report Employment Discrimination

The New York City Commission on Human Rights Commissioner/Chair Patricia L. Gatling and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner Matthew Sapolin mark National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), underscoring the need to tap the talents of all New Yorkers and encourage individuals with disabilities to report employment discrimination. Designated by the U.S. Congress each October, NDEAM increases the public's awareness of the contributions and skills of American workers with disabilities and reaffirms a commitment to ensuring equal employment opportunities to all citizens.

"People with disabilities have a right to participate fully in all areas of life, including employment, housing, public accommodations, and are protected from discrimination under the City Human Rights Law," said Commissioner Gatling. "We raise people’s consciousness about equal opportunity and equal access under the Human Rights Law through this national awareness campaign and our citywide public education efforts."

"Since joining this Administration, I have made it a top priority to spread the message that people with disabilities are a valued force in the workplace," said Commissioner Sapolin. "This October, we will continue to follow this Congressional mandate and pledge our resources to ensure that employers realize and take advantage of the potential that lies within all those who seek employment."

The NYC Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) vigorously enforces the City Human Rights Law based on a number of protected classes – including disability -- protecting New Yorkers and visitors from discrimination, and educates them about the law. In employment, the law protects members of the disabled community from discrimination in hiring and firing, work assignments, salary, benefits, promotions, performance evaluations, and discipline.

  • The Commission has the authority to assess fines and obtain cash settlements for those aggrieved by violations of the NYC Human Rights Law. Additional settlements and provisions successfully negotiated by the Commission might also include rehirings, policy changes, and modifications for accessibility. Below are some of the employment disability cases the Commission successfully resolved during 2011.
  • The Commission ordered Respondent employer to pay Complainant $15,000 for failing to provide Complainant with a reasonable accommodation, which would have allowed Complainant to perform the essential functions of his job. Respondent employer also was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 and provide anti-discrimination training to its managerial staff;
  • The Commission ordered Respondent employer to pay Complainant $7,500 for refusing to hire Complainant due to his disability;
  • The Commission ordered Respondent employer to pay Complainant $7,500 for terminating Complainant’s employment due to her disability;
  • The Commission ordered Respondent employer to pay Complainant $6,302.48 in emotional distress damages and back pay, as well as requiring an increase in her salary she would have received but for the illegal discipline motivated by her disability; and
  • The Commission ordered Respondent employer to pay Complainant $15,000 for terminating her employment because of her disability.

Under the law, disability is broadly defined as any physical, medical, mental, or psychological impairment, or a history or record of an impairment. If you have a disability, your employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to enable you to fulfill the requirements of your job. The employer may ask for written documentation from your health care provider to support the request. A prospective employer may not ask a job applicant about the existence, nature or severity of a disability, although you may be asked about your ability to perform specific job functions. The employer may not make medical inquiries or conduct a medical examination of you, the applicant, until a job offer has been made. Medical examinations of employees must be job-related and consistent with the employer’s business needs.

The Commission’s law enforcement and public education disability efforts also include the areas of housing and public accommodations, such as stores, restaurants, museums, doctor’s offices. Additional Commission disability efforts include the following.

  • The Commission’s Equal Access Program educates the public about the Human Rights Law, investigates disability complaints, and negotiates resolutions through a highly successful informal complaint process. The Commission also litigates complaints if intervention fails.
  • The Commission successfully negotiates approximately 200 modifications per year, effecting the lives of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors who benefit from the modifications. Modifications include: interior and exterior ramps, bell and buzzer systems for building entry, handrails, grab bars, removal of cart corrals, widening of store aisles, accessible dressing rooms and bathrooms, and enlarging seating capacity for the disabled and their companions at major NYC entertainment venues.
  • The Commission conducts workshops on disability and equal access throughout the City.
  • The Supreme Court in the Bronx recently upheld a Commission Order against a large housing provider in the Bronx to make a front door accessible to a disabled tenant, stating that a side door entrance did not constitute a reasonable accommodation.
  • The Commission is currently producing 3 short educational films on disability for its website and social media with a grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
  • The Commission is participating in AAPD’s National Disability Mentoring Day, coordinated through the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.
  • In 2007, the Commission played a key role in modifying City beaches, working with NYC Parks & Recreation to install specially designed mats, making the sand and water accessible to the disabled and elderly communities.

Each October, MOPD serves as the local coordinator for the American Association for People With Disabilities’ (AAPD) National Disability Mentoring Day (DMD), which pairs disabled students and job-seeker mentees with potential employer-mentors in a one day job shadowing experience in the field of the mentees’ choice. MOPD works year-round on this endeavor, which has paired hundreds of mentees with mentors. DMD takes place this year on Wednesday, October 19, 2011, and will conclude with a reception hosted by Citigroup.

Some of the DMD endeavors that MOPD has hosted this year include:

  • In partnership with Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey, a DMD Fashion Show on October 11th entitled “From Goodwill to Great” celebrating the power to work, and which showcased people with disabilities modeling various industry business attires.
  • Mentor Disability Etiquette training sessions on Oct 12th and 13th, which were conducted by Nancy Miller, Executive Director of VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Christina Curry, Executive Director of the Harlem Independent Living Center.
  • In partnership with the Commission and Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey, a Job Readiness Workshop on October 19th for jobseekers on interview and resume skills training; equal access and the NYC Human Rights Law; the Social Security Administration’s Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Project; and City Resources.
  • In partnership with Time Warner Cable and Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey, a Customer Service Industry panel for students and job-seekers with disabilities who were interested in this field; and
  • In partnership with the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development and the NYULMC Rusk Institute, a workshop entitled “Using Social Media In Your Job Search.”

Other endeavors launched by MOPD in order to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities include: working closely with Abilities, the nation's oldest 501(c)3 not-for-profit, employment placement service for people with disabilities; working with members of the Global Workforce Diversity group at International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), one of the world’s leading companies specializing in computer technology, to partner with the city on a program for students with disabilities that would focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics; serving on the Business Advisory Board for Bergtraum High School for Business Careers, which provides encouragement and opportunities for the disabled to enter the workforce; and providing outreach and training regarding the city’s "55-a Program", a program that demonstrates the city’s commitment to improving the representation of persons with disabilities within its work force by allowing persons who have been certified as physically or mentally disabled to apply for civil service positions on a non-competitive basis and without the requirement of a written or oral examination.

The NYC Commission on Human Rights enforces the New York City Human Rights Law, one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws in the nation. The law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender (including gender identity and sexual harassment), sexual orientation, disability, marital status, and partnership status. In addition, the Law affords protection against discrimination in employment based on arrest or conviction record and status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking and sex offenses. In housing, the Law affords additional protections based on lawful occupation, family status, and any lawful source of income. The City Human Rights Law also prohibits retaliation and bias-related harassment, (including cyberbullying).

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, established in 1973, serves as a liaison between city government and disabled individuals, as well as organizations dedicated to improving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities.

Contact:

Betsy Herzog / bherzog@cchr.nyc.gov / 212.306.7530 -- 347.723.0938 c
Jason Mischel (Mayors Office for People With Disabilities) 212.788.0273
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