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How To File A Racial Discrimination Complaint?

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

Racial discrimination takes many forms, from blatant acts of bias to subtler forms that create unequal opportunities. In housing, people of color may be denied apartments or face higher rent. In the workplace, they may be passed over for promotions or unfairly targeted for discipline.  

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Why File a Complaint?

Addressing racial discrimination benefits everyone. Filing a formal complaint can:

Hold perpetrators accountable: When you report discrimination, you help enforce fair treatment laws and discourage future discriminatory practices.

Create positive change: Complaints can lead to policy revisions and cultural shifts within institutions, promoting greater equity.

Empower yourself and others: Taking action can be empowering and inspire others to speak up against racial bias.

Understanding Racial Discrimination in NYC

Racial discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity. It can happen intentionally (overt) or unintentionally (covert) and can be deeply ingrained in society’s systems (systemic). Here’s a breakdown to understand it better:

1. Definition:

According to the NYC Human Rights Law, racial discrimination includes:

  • Being denied opportunities (jobs, housing, education) based on race.
  • Being treated differently than others because of race (unequal pay, promotions, resources).
  • Being harassed due to race (offensive jokes, slurs, intimidation).

2. Forms of Racial Discrimination:

  • Overt: Explicit bias, like refusing to rent to someone because of their race.
  • Covert: More subtle actions, like requiring unnecessary qualifications for jobs held by minorities.
  • Systemic: Built-in policies or practices that have a discriminatory impact, even if unintentional.
    • Example: Housing policies that historically excluded minorities from certain neighborhoods, leading to ongoing segregation.

3. Examples in Different Settings:

  • Workplace:
    • Being passed over for promotions despite qualifications.
    • Facing a hostile work environment due to racial slurs or stereotypes.
    • Statistics: Black workers in NYC earn 23% less than white workers
  • Education:
    • Unequal access to advanced courses or resources for students of color.
    • Biased disciplinary actions against minority students.
  • Housing:
    • Denial of rentals or mortgages based on race.
    • Steering applicants of color towards less desirable neighborhoods.
  • Criminal Justice:
    • Stop-and-frisk practices that disproportionately target people of color 

Know Your Rights in NYC: Stopping Discrimination

Discrimination is illegal in New York City, and several laws protect your rights in housing, employment, and public spaces. This guide provides a basic overview. Remember, this is not a substitute for legal advice.

1. Anti-discrimination Laws Protecting You in NYC

  • The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL): This law offers some of the strongest anti-discrimination protections in the country. It covers discrimination based on 16 protected classes, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, and national origin.
  • Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA): This law prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: This federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), and national origin.

2. Your Rights Under These Laws

These laws protect you from discrimination in various situations:

  • Housing: You cannot be denied housing, charged differently, or harassed because of your background.
  • Employment: You have the right to equal opportunity in hiring, promotions, pay, and working conditions.
  • Public Accommodations: You have the right to access and use places like stores, restaurants, and transportation without discrimination.

Discrimination by the Numbers:

  • According to the NYC Commission on Human Rights, in 2022, there were over 12,000 discrimination complaints filed, with the most common complaints being based on race, disability, and national origin.

3. Importance of Documenting Incidents

If you experience discrimination, it’s crucial to document it. Here’s why:

  • Evidence: Documentation strengthens your case if you file a complaint.
  • Memory: Details fade over time. Having a record helps you recall events accurately.
  • Patterns: Documentation helps identify patterns of discrimination.
  • What to Document:
    • Date, time, and location of the incident
    • What happened (be specific)
    • Names of involved individuals
    • Any witnesses (get contact information if possible)

Facing Racial Discrimination in NYC? Here’s How to File a Complaint

Racial discrimination is illegal in New York City, and you have options to fight it. Here’s a guide to filing a complaint with the appropriate agency, depending on where you experienced discrimination:

Workplace Discrimination

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against at work due to your race, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Here’s how:

  • Gather Evidence: Document specific examples of discrimination, including dates, times, and what happened. Keep copies of emails, memos, or any documents that support your claim. Witness statements can also be helpful.
  • File a Charge: You have 180 days to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The easiest way is to file online at EEOC Public Portal.
  • Investigation: The EEOC will investigate your complaint. This may involve contacting your employer and witnesses.
  • Resolution: The EEOC can attempt to mediate a resolution or issue a “right to sue” letter if they find reasonable cause.

Did you know? In the US, a 2020 study by the EEOC found that race was a factor in nearly 33% of workplace discrimination charges.

Housing Discrimination

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against when trying to rent, buy, or live in a home, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

  • Gather Evidence: Similar to workplace discrimination, document specific incidents and keep copies of relevant documents.
  • File a Complaint: You have one year to file a complaint with HUD. You can file online at HUD Fair Housing Assistance Program: or by calling 1-800-669-7773.
  • Investigation: HUD will investigate your complaint and may attempt to reach a conciliation agreement between you and the other party.

What to Expect After Filing a Complaint in NYC

Filing a complaint in NYC can address various issues, from consumer rights violations to noise disturbances. The specific process will vary depending on the agency you filed with, but here’s a general breakdown of what to expect:

1. Timeline for Processing Complaints

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for processing times. It can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the complaint and the agency’s workload.

Here are some resources to estimate processing times for specific agencies:

  • Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP): Aims to resolve most complaints within 90 days [Source:]. You can check the status of your complaint by calling 311.
  • Housing Preservation Department (HPD): Processing times can vary, but you can track your complaint online or by calling 311 [Source:].

2. Possible Outcomes of the Complaint Process

There are several ways your complaint might be resolved:

  • Resolution: The agency may mediate between you and the party you complained about to reach a mutually agreeable solution. This is the most common outcome for DCWP complaints (around 68% in 2022 [Source:]).
  • Investigation: For more complex issues, the agency might investigate your complaint. This may involve gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.
  • Hearing: If mediation fails or an investigation is necessary, you might have a hearing before an administrative judge. The judge will then issue a decision.
  • Dismissal: The agency may dismiss your complaint if they determine it lacks merit or falls outside their jurisdiction.


In conclusion, taking proactive steps to address discrimination, individuals empower themselves and contribute to a more just and equitable world. Seeking support from organizations and legal experts such as a racial discrimination lawyer in NYC can provide invaluable guidance and advocacy throughout the complaint process.

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