What do I do if my employee files a claim with the New York Division of Human Rights?

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Scott P. Horton - Employment & Labor - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Scott P. Horton

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After receiving a discrimination claim from the New York Division of Human Rights, you can request an extension of time to submit a response. It may also be a good idea to contact your insurance company to learn more about your policies and coverage. Once you speak with your insurer, you or your attorney should gather evidence and submit a timely and comprehensive response. If further investigation is necessary upon submitting your response, the Division of Human Rights investigator may request additional information. Contacting an experienced employment law attorney after you receive a complaint can increase your understanding of your options and rights under the law and the investigation process.

Request An Extension To Submit A Response

You usually only have two weeks to submit a response to the complaint. In many cases, however, the Division of Human Rights will give you another 15 days. An extension will give you the opportunity to contact the appropriate parties to gather more information and prepare your response.

Determine If You Have Insurance Coverage

After receiving a complaint, you should check to see if you have insurance coverage for the claim. If you have employment practices liability coverage, the insurance company may assign you counsel. You do not necessarily have to work with the attorney you are assigned. Some of these insurance policies have high retainers and deductibles, and not every case is one that you necessarily want to make a claim for. In some cases, the insurance company’s retainer may be $10,000 or more, but the case could settle or be resolved for less. In addition, filing a claim with your carrier may cause your premium to go up. Conducting an internal investigation can help you to determine if you should make a claim with your insurer and retain the counsel you are assigned. Some policies also allow you to work with an attorney of your choice with the insurance covering their fees.

Submit A Comprehensive Response

Your response as an employer is the most important part of the process. The response is your opportunity to provide information and documents that prove your case. Once a Division of Human Rights investigator reviews your response, they will determine if the case should move forward. The more comprehensive your response is the greater chance you may have at having your case dismissed. Your response can include exhibits that include personnel documents, performance reviews, emails, meeting notes with the employee, and even photographs. This evidence will be used to prove you complied with the law. Or, if you do not believe that the case is worth fighting out, you can go into a formal or informal conciliation process.

Understand The Investigation Process

After the Division of Human Rights receives your response, they may decide to conduct further investigation. The investigation may include interviews with other employees and requests for specific records. The investigation process may not be as exhaustive as your internal investigation. If you do not comply with the investigation, the Division of Human Rights may ultimately issue subpoenas and conduct a formal hearing. However, it is almost never in a company’s best interest to ignore or refuse to provide anything to the Division of Human Rights.

An Experienced Employment Law Attorney Can Tell You Your Options

Once you receive a complaint and contact your insurance company, it can be a good idea to contact independent counsel. You want to speak with a lawyer who has experience working with the Division of Human Rights and representing employers in discrimination cases. General practitioners or your business attorney may not have experience in these types of cases and may not fully understand the process. Obtaining legal advice from a lawyer who has a track record of success in this area can help you overcome obstacles and broaden your options.

You do not want to overlook any details in your response or the investigation process. By knowing your rights and obligations under the law, you can ensure your case will be handled properly.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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