Sunny Mindel / Michael Anton (212) 788-2958
The next bill before me today is Introductory Number 400-A, sponsored by the Public Advocate and Council Member Eldridge along with twenty-four of her colleagues. This legislation would create a new protected class of domestic violence victim within the City's Human Rights Law. The bill would make it unlawful for any employer to fire, refuse to hire, or discriminate against actual or perceived victims of domestic violence. The bill defines a victim of domestic violence as anyone subject to acts or threats of violence, excluding self-defense, by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or roommate. These acts or threats of violence would include, but not be limited to, acts or threats of violence that would constitute a violation of the State Penal Law.
From the outset, combating domestic violence has been a priority for my Administration. Our establishment of the Commission to Combat Family Violence, which coordinates a citywide response to domestic violence by collaborating with City agencies and private organizations, was the first step. My Administration also created the first-of-its-kind, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week toll free domestic violence hotline in June of 1994. We have engaged in numerous public education campaigns to remove the scourge of domestic violence from behind closed doors in order to expose and ultimately eradicate it. Under my Administration all of the City's public hospitals now conduct universal domestic violence screening in their emergency rooms, and each facility has a full time domestic violence coordinator.
Moreover, the NYPD has implemented a comprehensive strategy for domestic violence related crimes, and employs specially trained domestic violence prevention officers and domestic violence investigators. These along with other changes have led to a nearly 62% increase in arrests for domestic violence related crimes from Fiscal Year 1994 to Fiscal Year 2000. During the same period the police increased by 113%, the number of arrests for violations of orders of protection.
I believe that the underlying goal of Introductory Number 400-A is a positive one that would allow victims of domestic violence to achieve economic freedom by ensuring that they will be protected from discrimination at the workplace, thus allowing them to become more productive workers. However, I also believe that certain amendments to this legislation are necessary to clarify the definition of domestic violence victim, and require that proof be provided to employers that an employee fits within that definition. In addition, the bill should also specifically set forth the rules governing leave time for employees to seek remedies in our courts as well as counseling and other services.
Finally, I also believe that all victims of violent crime should be entitled to protection from discrimination in the workplace. We should protect crime victims on the basis of the harm done to them and not simply the status of the criminal. This comprehensive approach will ensure that no employee, including domestic violence victims, suffers at the hands of an employer after having suffered at the hands of an abuser.
With these changes this well-intentioned bill can become an even more effective tool to protect not only domestic violence victims, but all victims of violent crime by providing them security in the workplace. I believe the Council and the Public Advocate supports these amendments and I look forward to working with them to make sure they become law.
For the reasons previously stated, I will now sign the bill.