NYC Issues Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination Based on Immigration Status

The New York City Commission on Human Rights recently released new legal enforcement guidance that defines discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual immigration status and national origin under the New York City Human Rights Law in public accommodations, employment, and housing.

Discrimination on the basis of immigration status and national origin have been illegal in New York City for decades. The guidance reaffirms these protections and provides specific examples of discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment.

The guidance states that the use of the term “illegal alien,” among others, when used with intent to demean, humiliate, or harass a person, is illegal under the law. Further, the guidance states that harassing or discriminating against someone for their use of another language or their limited English proficiency—or threatening to call ICE on a person based on a discriminatory motive—are considered to be in violation of the law. Fines of up to $250,000 may be assessed for each act of willful discrimination, and damages are available to complainants.

Along with the release of the guidance, the commission announced that it was investigating four discrimination cases in which ICE was used as a threat to intimidate or harass a tenant in housing, one of which was recently reported on in the Wall Street Journal after a finding of discrimination and recommendation from an administrative judge.

“We take immense pride in our city’s diversity and the immigrant communities that call New York City home,” Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson said in a statement. “This new legal enforcement guidance will help ensure that no New Yorker is discriminated against based on their immigration status or national origin."