Sexual orientation discrimination is forbidden in most NY businesses

On Behalf of | Jul 8, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination

Employees in New York has very specific protections that are built into state law. These rights exist on top of federal protections. One area of state employment law that’s going through a lot of changes involves the protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

At present, most employers can’t discriminate against employees based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. They also can’t discriminate against applicants and workers because of how they express their identity in their work life. All employees should understand their rights accordingly.

New York’s laws and their impacts

The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) require employers in New York to avoid sexual orientation discrimination throughout the hiring, employment and termination processes. These laws protect the actual and perceived sexual orientation.

Comprehensive protections include those for individuals who are transgender. In New York, employers must abide by a person’s gender identity. For example, if someone assigned female at birth legally changes their name to a traditionally male name and has a male gender identity, the employer must abide by that. This includes updating employment records, using the restroom that coordinates with their gender identity and allowing that employee to follow the dress code for males.

Employers must establish suitable policies

To maintain a discrimination-free workplace, employers should adopt comprehensive policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Management and administrators should uphold the company’s policies and procedures

Regular training sessions that educate employees about sexual orientation issues, unconscious bias, and the importance of diversity can also significantly contribute to a more inclusive environment. Employers should also have clear procedures for reporting and addressing complaints. The policies must ensure confidentiality and protection from retaliation for those who come forward. If companies fail to take these actions, those harmed as a result may be in a strong position to seek legal recourse.

Employees who believe that they’re being discriminated against at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity should take appropriate steps to address the issue. This might include taking legal action, which may be more effective and less stressful if they have a legal representative to help them through the process.

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