Notes from the Field: Caroline Berens '18

Caroline Berens '18 interned with the New York State Division of Human Rights for the Summer 2017 term. The following is an excerpt from her internship report.

This summer, I interned at the New York State Division of Human Rights in its regional office in Brooklyn. The Division’s primary role is investigating complaints of discrimination that New York citizens file regarding either employment or housing. The Brooklyn office only dealt with employment discrimination, which meant that I investigated complaints of people who said they had been discriminated against when applying for a job, while working at a job, or after being terminated from a job. The discrimination clause of the New York Human Rights Law covers various protected classes, such as gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

The first step of my investigative process was reading through the complaint form filed, the response of the respondent to this complaint, and--if it had been submitted already-–the complainant’s rebuttal to this response. After assessing these documents, I would decide on the best next course of action, which could be interviewing the complainant, speaking to the respondent’s attorney, or asking the respondent for more information. Once I received this additional information, I would write a Federal Investigative Report About Basis of Discrimination--FIRABOD for short--of either probable cause or no probable cause. On occasion, I would work on intake with people coming in to file complaints, which would entail explaining the Human Rights Law and discussing their complaint with them.

The work was relevant to my professional pursuits in that it was legally based. Although the agency is not a law firm, many of the human rights specialists and regional directors did attend law school, as the work is based on the New York Human Rights Law. The extent to which I enjoyed the investigative work I did helped inform whether or not I want to go to law school, as that is something I have been contemplating for a while. It was also relevant to my academic pursuits, as I am a government major and psychology minor at Dartmouth; a state agency combating discrimination invokes both fields. I valued the experience I had there and would definitely be interested in working for a public policy organization in the future, especially one involving civil rights. I am so grateful for the grant I received from the Rockefeller Center that allowed me to have this opportunity during the summer!