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Community and Civil Rights Organizations Celebrate Suffolk County Legislature's Vote to Strengthen Human Rights Law

LongIsland.com

Legislation Will Expand Protections for Veterans, Domestic Violence Survivors, Pregnant Women, Renters, and more.

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Hauppauge, NY - September 9, 2014 - Today, community and civil rights organizations from across Long Island celebrated the Suffolk County Legislature's passage of HR 1620, a bill to amend the County's Human Rights Law to expand protections for all residents. The amendments expand protections for veterans, domestic violence survivors, pregnant women, renters, and more, while aligning the county's law more closely with state law (see bottom for details).
 
The bill, introduced by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, passed the legislature by a vote of 18 to 0. Organizations representing affected residents, joined together in the Housing for All Coalition, responded quickly in support:
 
Concepción Saenz, a member of Make the Road New York and Central Islip resident, said, "Tonight we thank the legislature for voting for this bill. We are excited that the amended law, once signed, will protect many against discrimination in their workplace and in housing, including pregnant women, the elderly, and the disabled."
 
V. Elaine Gross, President of ERASE Racism, said, "ERASE Racism is pleased that Suffolk County residents will now be protected from housing discrimination because of a person's source of income. I commend County Executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Legislature for strengthening the human rights law in furtherance of fair housing choice."
 
Reina Schiffrin, President/CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, said, "Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic applauds the Suffolk County Legislature for approving new amendments to the Human Rights law. The approval of new protections for pregnant and parenting workers, nursing moms, domestic workers, and survivors of domestic violence, as well as protecting all people no matter their gender identity or income level, demonstrate that the legislators have a deep understanding of the daily struggles of their constituents, and are committed to helping the most vulnerable."
 
Jack Finkenberg, a member of New York Communities for Change, stated, "I'm very pleased that this bill has passed. These changes go a long way in providing equal treatment for residents of Suffolk County in seeking employment and housing."
 
Gwen O'Shea, President/CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said, "In 2014, discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. With this vote, Suffolk County has taken an important step by putting the strength of the law behind what we all know to be right and delivering a message to the residents, the state and the nation that Suffolk County prioritizes protections for vulnerable populations."
 
Long Island Housing Services' Executive Director Michelle Santantonio, said, "These amendments are very welcome, long overdue changes to the local law. Once signed, the law will provide for much needed protections for Suffolk's residents, many of whom are extremely vulnerable to discrimination based on source of income, disability, race, color, national origin, familial status, gender and marital status."
 
Martha Maffei, Executive Director of SEPA Mujer, a Latina immigrant rights organization located in Central Islip, said, "Working with vulnerable populations, such as immigrant women, we see the realities of the different forms of discrimination they encounter on the basis of being pregnant, employment, and certainly as survivors of domestic violence. We are hopeful this will lead to change in Suffolk County."
 
Alexander Roberts, executive director of Community Housing Innovations, Inc., said, "The new law goes a long way to address discrimination based on source of income, which is good news for taxpayers because it will reduce the number and costs of homeless families."
 
Highlights of the proposed amendments:
  • Adds military Status-protected category in all sections of the law (housing, employment, public accommodations and credit).
  • Prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities based on their use of a guide dog, hearing dog or service dog.
  • Prohibits discrimination based upon gender identity.
Employment
  • Adds protected status for: victims of domestic violence in employment, and familial status in employment.
  • Employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy related conditions.
  • Prohibits fire departments and companies from discriminatory practices based on a limited number of protected categories.
  • Adds coverage for Domestic Workers.
Housing
  • Adds lawful source of income as a protected category.
  • Addresses harassment of residents after acquiring a property ("post-acquisition harassment").
  • Defines unlawful discriminatory practices for Real Estate Brokers and Real Estate Sales Persons.
Public Accommodations
  • Requires reasonable accommodations be made for people with disabilities.
Credit
  • Prohibits discrimination based on group identity.
Jurisdiction and Procedures-Complaint and Hearing Procedures
  • Provides mechanism for imposing and collecting fines and penalties.
  • Simplifies the structure of the civil fines and penalties which can be imposed in all cases where probable cause is found.
  • Revision and addition of definitions included in Local Law.