NYCLU and ACLU Urge NY City Council to Adopt Innovative Law to Eliminate Discriminatory City Policies

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
April 8, 2005 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union testified today at the New York City Council’s first hearing on ground-breaking local human rights legislation: the Human Rights Government Audit Law (HUMAN RIGHTS-GOAL).

Introduced by Councilmember Bill Perkins, Human Rights GOAL uses pro-active measures to eliminate discrimination in city employment, service delivery and budget allocations by incorporating standards and tools from the universal human rights system into day-to-day city operations.

“Human Rights GOAL proposes changes in discriminatory practices before the city ends up in court as a defendant in a discrimination lawsuit,” said Robert Perry, Legislative Director of the NYCLU. “It creates public-private working groups charged with evaluating government programs, policies and practices.”

The ACLU said a case that has been tied up in the courts for almost ten years, in which the U.S. Justice Department sued the Board of Education over its discriminatory practices in recruiting and hiring school custodians, might have been avoided had Human Rights-GOAL been in effect. The ACLU Women’s Rights Project is representing more than 20 women and minority custodians who have been awarded settlements from the city to remedy the Board of Education’s systemic race and sex discrimination.

The legislation draws from broad human rights principles, as well as from the two key international human rights treaties that address gender and race discrimination — the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) respectively. It enables the city to tackle harmful policies head-on by requiring city agencies to conduct audits to identify — and then develop and implement action plans to eliminate — gender, race and other forms of discrimination.

Unique to this approach is the public/private nature of implementation called for in Human Rights GOAL. The Human Rights Task Force and Human Rights Advisory Committee through which city agencies are held accountable under this bill are comprised of both public and private citizens reflective of the demographics of the city. This is the first time a City Council bill would mandate the inclusion of community members as equal participants with public administrators in the oversight and compliance of city agencies. A similar and successful law was adopted in San Francisco in April of 1998, and other cities are following suit.

Said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU: “This proposed legislation will help to fulfill the promise of our civil rights laws and recognizes that the city has an affirmative obligation to prevent discrimination and promote equality of opportunity.”

Written testimony submitted by the Women’s Rights Project of the ACLU is available online at: /node/20941.

Written testimony submitted by the New York Civil Liberties Union is available online at: /node/20940.

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