New Regulations Extend Employment Protections to Transgender Individuals

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Effective January 20, 2016, The New York State Division of Human Rights adopted new regulations, that ban discrimination and harassment against transgender people and affirm that transgender individuals are protected under New York State’s Human Rights Law. The new regulations expand the definition of “sex” under New York state law to include gender identity and transgender status.  The new regulations apply to both private and public employers of all sizes.

Charges against employers on the basis of gender identity have been increasing. For the first two quarters of fiscal year 2015, EEOC received 505 charges that included allegations of sex discrimination related to sexual orientation and 112 charges that included allegations of sex discrimination based on gender identity/transgender status.

Employers' risks and exposure for non-compliance include damages for back and front pay, compensatory damages for mental anguish, civil fines and penalties, the Commissioner of Human Rights may also award civil fines and penalties of up to $50,000, or up to $100,000 if the discrimination is found to be “willful, wanton or malicious.”

By creating awareness and treating all employees fairly with dignity and respect organizations will:

  • lessen the risk and expense of legal action relative to transgender discrimination claims;
  • be aligned and compliant with federal, state, and local laws as they change and develop over time to become more protective of the civil and human rights of transgender workers.

To avoid risks and exposure, employers should update their EEO policies to address gender identity and conduct anti-harassment/Sexual Harassment  and Anti-Discrimination training for all employees.