Yesterday, THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported on the New York City human rights commission's dubious case against seven business owners in the Hasidic community Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The commission alleged that these Jewish stores were guilty of religious and sexual discrimination for posting dress code signs requiring "No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Neckline," and the stores were facing $75,000 in potential fines. The commission had already been slapped down last year by an administrative judge for alleging that the posted dress code was an attempt by the Orthodox Jewish business owners to impose their religion on others—after all, no one disputes that similar dress codes in courtrooms and other private establishments are acceptable.
A new trial against the Jewish business owners was supposed to begin today in which the human rights commission would attempt to present a survey showing that Brooklyn residents found the signs discriminatory. But among THE WEEKLY STANDARD's revelations yesterday was that the human rights commission's key witness slated for this week's trial had a lengthy history of publicly expressing deeply biased opinions about the state of Israel, accusing the Israeli government of apartheid and murdering children, among other accusations. The witness being put forth by the human rights commission likely had questionable motivations for testifying against a community with strong ties to Israel.
Before the trial even began today, the administrative judge informed the human rights commission that their case was remarkably weak and it was in their best interest to settle. The New York human rights commission did reach a settlement with the Jewish businesses’ legal defense team—but considering that the commission was pursuing thousands of dollars in fines and had doggedly insisted on pressing the case for more than a year, it's more of a capitulation than a settlement. The human rights commission agreed to assess no fines and drop the case against the Jewish business owners. For their part, the Jewish business owners agreed that any future dress code signs would make it explicitly clear that the stores did not discriminate against any customers on the basis of religion, gender, or other factors.
It's clear that the New York City Commission on Human Rights' case was starting to be seen as unwarranted embarrassment to the city. Mayor de Blasio was asked about the trial at a press conference this morning. The mayor ducked the question, saying, "We want to respect every community in everything we do." However, if the trial had proceeded, his administration would have likely had to answer for the behavior of the city's human rights commission.
Here is the statement on the settlement from Patricia L. Gatling, chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights:
Today, the NYC Commission on Human Rights settled the cases it had filed in August 2012 against seven businesses on Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn based on gender and religious discrimination — the posting of signs in the store windows that discriminated against women. The NYC Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, such as stores, and the posting of advertisements that express a preference or limitation based on a membership in a protected class. Pursuant to the proposed agreement, representatives from the stores agreed that if they were to post new signs in their windows, they would say that while modest dress is appreciated, all individuals are welcome to enter the stores free from discrimination. The Commission is satisfied that the store owners understand their obligations under the NYC Human Rights Law – the nation’s strongest civil rights law that protects those who live, work in or visit New York City from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.