Division of Human Rights Publishes Brochure to Combat Discrimination Against Transgender Persons
Published: October 5, 2018
Commissioner Helen Diane Foster today announced publication of a new agency resource to help New Yorkers fight against discrimination based upon gender identity. The brochure, titled “Protections Against Gender Identity Discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law,” details the myriad protections afforded transgender individuals. It will be distributed to LGBTQ centers and gay rights advocates across the state.
“Harassment because of a person’s gender identity or the status of being transgender is sex harassment, plain and simple,” said Commissioner Foster. “All public and private employers, housing providers, businesses, creditors and others should know that discrimination against transgender persons is unlawful and will not be tolerated anywhere in the state of New York.”
State law prohibits sex and disability discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit transactions and in private, non-religious schools. The term “sex,” when used in the Human Rights Law, includes gender identity and the status of being transgender. And in New York, gender dysphoria and related conditions are medical conditions that fall within the definition of a disability in the Human Rights Law.
The State of New York has had a long history of protecting the rights of transgender persons under the provisions of the Human Rights Law. In the 1977 case of Richards v. U.S. Tennis Association, it was recognized that discrimination claims under the Human Rights Law may be brought by individuals alleging sex discrimination because of their gender identities, and it has long been the practice of the Division of Human Rights to accept and process gender identity discrimination complaints on the basis of the protected categories of sex, and where appropriate, disability.
In 2009, it became unlawful to discriminate against transgender state workers. And in 2016, the Division of Human Rights published regulations to clarify that the Human Rights Law protects all transgender individuals across the state from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity.
New York was the first state in the nation to enact an anti-discrimination Human Rights Law. The Law, enacted in 1945, affords every citizen “an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life.” Individuals who feel they have been harassed or discriminated against can file complaints in State court, or with the New York State Division of Human Rights, without charge. Those complaints are promptly investigated at regional offices throughout the state.
If the Division determines there is probable cause to believe harassment or discrimination has occurred, the Commissioner of Human Rights will decide the case after a public hearing, and may award job, housing or other benefits, back and front pay, compensatory damages for mental anguish, civil fines and penalties, and may also require policy changes and training as appropriate.