Suffolk County Lawmakers Announce New Laws Created to Promote Diversity and Inclusion

By: Miya Jones
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Amidst one of the largest social justice movements in history, Suffolk County lawmakers and community leaders gathered for a press conference to announce and listen to new diversity initiatives.

One law broadened protection from discrimination based hair texture, protective styles or religious garments in the workplace and went into effect July 23. Another law, coined the “Ban the Box” law, went into effect yesterday and this legislation gets rid of the box potential employees have to check to inform employers if they’ve been in trouble with the law. A resolution became official on July 21, which would require all county employees to take diversity and inclusion training.

Also on July 21, a resolution was passed requiring the Suffolk County Board of Elections to publish translated election notices in the Spanish-language newspaper with the highest circulation rate in Suffolk County. Along with this, another resolution would require all vital documents provided by a county agency that engages in direct public services be translated into the six most common non-English languages. It is also mandatory that correctional facilities in the county adhere to this requirement for those incarcerated.

To tackle the eye-catching findings of racial bias uncovered during Newsday’s Long Island Divided investigation, a Fair Housing Task force has been created and will be headed by Legislator Samuel Gonzalez.

Legislator Samuel Gonzalez ?: @thats_samlaw

There is also a law on the table that will be discussed in public hearing on Sept. 9 that aims to deter individuals from making false criminal allegations based on bias. County lawmakers stressed that these initiatives are a bi-partisan effort to embrace the diversity on Long Island.

“Our residents come from many backgrounds, practice many religions and speak many languages, contributing to our county’s rich cultural experience,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco. “As elected representatives, we are committed to fighting for fairness, and that includes dismantling systemic racism and making sure that Suffolk County government is working for everyone. Fair hiring practices coupled with fair housing initiatives will help ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to work and live in Suffolk County.”

Richberg explained why all these initiatives for diversity and inclusion are important.

Babylon resident, millennial and Activist Jennifer Leveque, who created Next Gen Long Island on Instagram, said these initiatives are “necessary” and are making progress but wished she could have attended the press conference to hear these initiatives. She feels this is another example of lawmakers missing the mark in trying to reach out and inform the next generation on Long Island, especially as more millennials and Get Z’ers, who comprise the most diverse generations in American history, are taking an interest in social justice and local government.

“The Suffolk County Legislature recently completed the summer page legislator internship delivered virtually for the first time,” said Leveque. “This is an opportunity made available for high school graduates and college undergraduates. There’s also a Next Generation Advisory Council for Suffolk residents in their 20s and 30s. I have seen another great attempt by Legislator Jason Richberg who has called on young leaders ages 18-30 to serve on the 15th Legislative District’s Young Adult Advisory Council. This is a great start, but there isn’t enough internet presence about it for someone who is actually interested.”

Leveque believes that the best way to involve the next generation in local government is by increasing online visibility.

“If county and town governments are looking to intentionally engage the youth, I would say they need to meet us where we are,” said Leveque. “For a lot of us young professionals and young business owners, we no longer rely on television, radio or print as our main source of information.”

We will continue to keep you up to date on new laws and initiatives coming from the Suffolk County government.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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