An attractive element of filing a workplace discrimination or harassment complaint in New York is the option of settling the matter confidentially. Victims (and even employers) wishing to avoid the spotlight in such cases appreciated the ability to resolve the complaint outside of public scrutiny.
In New York, the State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) changed how it handles workplace discrimination and harassment complaints.
In short, the NYSDHR, under the New York State Human Rights Law, will no longer approve requests to discontinue a complaint solely because the involved parties reached a private settlement.
What does this mean for harassment and discrimination victims?
An individual can no longer count on anonymity if they choose to accept a private settlement and discontinue the complaint.
Beginning this month, the NYSDHR now requires the legal representative for complainants to provide a written statement describing why it should cease the proceedings. Unlike in years past, the NYSDHR will no longer allow for a discontinuance because the parties reached a private settlement.
Victims of discrimination and harassment in the workplace can still accept a settlement offer, but the complaint will still move forward through official channels.
Options for resolving the matter include:
- Continue your complaint through the NYSDHR’s public hearing process.
- Settle the matter publicly through an order issued by an NYSDHR commissioner.
The main difference for victims is that the settlement details will be a matter of public record, removing the previous confidentiality of both victims and employers.
Some argue that confidential, private settlements should be a matter between the parties involved. Others say public visibility is important.
For now, the application of the New York Human Rights Law allowing for settlements to be public record will stand. Those who have specific questions about the new rule or how it may relate to individual circumstances should reach out to employment law advocate.