Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Announces Agreement With City Of Niagara Falls To Reform Its Employment Practices

 

BUFFALO, N.Y. (November 16, 2009) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his Office has entered into an agreement with the City of Niagara Falls to reform the city’s employment policies and further equal employment opportunities for all residents.

The agreement arises out of the Attorney General’s investigation into the employment policies and procedures of the City after receiving complaints that the City failed to properly address complaints of discrimination and harassment in public employment, fostering racial tension.

The complaints initially were raised at a community forum the Attorney General’s Office held with City residents, advocates, and elected officials. Over of the course of several months, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an extensive investigation, including a review of City records and policies, interviews with several high level City officials, and meetings with advocacy groups and residents regarding complaints, resulting in an agreement to reform the City’s policies.

“Every employer has the obligation to maintain a fair and effective system for addressing and preventing incidents of discrimination and harassment,” said Attorney General Cuomo.  “Government employers are not exempt. Without effective measures for curbing and preventing discrimination, real and perceived incidents of bias can create workplace tension and fester into a crisis of mistrust and hostility. As public servants, government officials have a special responsibility to ensure equal opportunity and I applaud the City of Niagara Falls for adopting these new reforms.”

The agreement requires the City to reform its policies to ensure compliance with discrimination laws and promote equal employment opportunities.  Specifically, the City must:

  • Hire an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Compliance officer to oversee compliance with discrimination laws and promote equal employment opportunities;
  • Revise its discrimination and harassment policy to include stricter reporting requirements, targeted timelines for addressing complaints, and oversight and review by the EEO officer;
  • Train supervisors and employees on discrimination laws and the new discrimination and harassment policies and procedures;
  • Create and implement an equal employment opportunity plan to conduct targeted education, outreach and recruitment to ensure equal employment opportunities for all City residents; and
  • Conduct, under the supervision of the EEO Officer, an independent review of all discrimination complaints filed since the January 1, 2008 to ensure all claims have been addressed properly and in accordance with the law.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster lauded the agreement, stating, “When I ran for office, I made a commitment that I would lead a city that served all of its residents. Part of that commitment is to ensure equal opportunity for all and address any concerns about unfair treatment.  I am grateful that the Attorney General conducted this investigation and pleased that we have reached an agreement to make the reforms that are necessary to best serve the City.”

Bill Bradberry, President of the Niagara Falls Branch of the NAACP and Chairman of the Niagara Falls Human Rights Commission, stated, “I applaud the Attorney General for his active involvement in addressing long-standing concerns of employment discrimination and harassment in Niagara Falls.  This agreement will create transparency and accountability to the residents of the City and will help combat a history of inequality in public employment.”

This case is being handled by Bureau Chief for Civil Rights Alphonso B. David, Counsel for Civil Rights Spencer Freedman, and Assistant Attorney General Kayla Gassmann of the Civil Rights Bureau.

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