New York Lawmakers Extend Legal Protections to Transgender Community

By Douglas Lipsky

After a protracted legislative battle spanning 16 years, the New York state legislature finally passed a bill legislation protecting transgender individuals from discrimination, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The measure, first introduced more than a decade ago, had passed the Democrat-controlled assembly numerous times. Prospects for passing GENDA shifted dramatically with the 2018 midterm elections, which shifted power in Congress as well as the New York state legislature.

With the changing of the guard in the the Senate, lawmakers have finally moved to protect transgender and non-conforming people statewide from discrimination. In the end, GENDA passed the State Assembly and State Senate by 100-40 and 41-19, respectively. Now, employers and employees must be aware of their rights and responsibilities with respect to LGBT discrimination in the workplace.

What is the Scope of GENDA?

While workers in the city have protections under local law, gender identity will be added as a protected class under the New York State Human Rights Law for purposes of housing, employment and public accommodations.

Once Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the measure, it will be unlawful for landlords and employers to discriminate against people based on their gender identity and gender expression. Gov. Cuomo, who commended the bill’s passing, previously signed an executive order barring discrimination gender identity in 2015.

Also included  in GENDA is a provision expanding New York’s hate crimes law to include crimes committed against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Finally, lawmakers also passed a bill banning licensed therapists from engaging in conversion therapy to change the sexual orientation of minors in their care, which many believe is a form of child abuse (14 other states have previously passed similar legislation).

Why This Matters

The issue of whether sexual orientation and gender identity was pushed to the forefront after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adopted the position during the Obama Administration that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers. The Republican controlled senate in New York repeatedly decline to act on the measure, and GENDA continues to have detractors.

Nonetheless, GENDA will provide express protections against discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression, and hate crimes as well. Despite these protections being codified under New York State law, transgender individuals may continue to experience discrimination and harassment. The best way to enforce your rights, is by consulting with an experienced LGBT discrimination attorney.


About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.