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LGBTQ Rights in the Workplace

New York State, New York City, and Federal laws applying to the LGBTQ Community

The rights for the LGBTQ community in the workplace vary depending on whether you’re talking about New York City rights, New York State rights, and the federal level. If you are a citizen of New York City, you’re pretty much covered on all fronts. In New York City, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone based on actual OR perceived sexual orientation/gender. This also includes discrimination based on gender identity/expression or being intersex. Places of employment where this applies is pretty much every private and public place of work.  Additionally, the law protects the LGBTQ community against retaliation, discriminatory harassment, and bias-based profiling by law enforcement.

New York State also is very protective of the LGBTQ community. In 2003 the SONDA Act (Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination) took effect. SONDA “prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights.”  Something that is included in SONDA that is not included in every state is “asexuality” protections. Although SONDA originally includes gender identity, Governor David Patterson made an amendment to include gender identity in SONDA in 2009. Another positive point for LGBTQ citizens is that under SONDA, individuals can bring anti-discrimination claims against another or a company under the category of “sex,” which did not exist until 2007. Later in 2019, GENDA (the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) was passed. It was passed to “prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression,” which was not previously covered by SONDA. Gender Expression is defined as “a person’s actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristics regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth.”

Lastly, there are Federal LGBTQ Protections in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees and job applicants from employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national orientation. In 1964, the intended use for this title was to provide equality to women who were looked over for jobs for men. However, many cases have gone to court to argue that it applies to the LGBTQ community too. It wasn’t until the June 2020 Supreme Court Case Bostock v. Clayton County Georgia that the title was extended to protect discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. In the case, Gerald Bostock (an employee of Clayton County, Georgia) was fired and sued the county for discrimination based on his sexual orientation. He argued that the termination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The federal district court dismissed the case, but Bostock appealed to the 11th circuit, which affirmed the district court’s ruling. The case went to the Supreme Court, where they reversed the decision of the 11th circuit in a 6-3 ruling stating that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender” does in fact “violate Title VII.”

The Bell Law Group is very active in the LGBT community.  We are supporters and donors of the LGBT Network and are activists for continued rights and protections of the community.  If you believe you are being discriminated against in the workplace as a result of the your sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, call the Bell Law Group for a free and confidential consultation.  You may be entitled to money damages as well as other injunctive relief.  Call us at 855-JON-BELL.

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