Discrimination can unfortunately manifest itself in many different forms in modern society and can range from, among other things, discrimination based upon race, religion, age, familial status and/or disability. Federal, State and local laws have for several decades attempted to redress past wrongs and prevent future discrimination by imposing, often times, severe penalties against those who discriminate against individuals in the workplace, or in the context of public accommodations and landlord/tenant relationships. Recently, New York City has revised its anti-discrimination laws contained within the New York City Human Rights Law, enacting new guidelines with respect to gender-identity discrimination.
Although it has been illegal to discriminate against an individual in New York City based upon gender for several years, the new laws contain a host of new requirements applicable to employers, business owners, landlords, etc. The new regulations cover general discrimination, as well as specific, including the refusal by an employer or business owner to use the personal pronoun of someone’s choice (i.e. ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.’). The rules also declare that persons identifying as “transgender” cannot be denied access to restrooms or locker rooms, where their gender identity belongs. The rules also cover dress codes for employees, so an employer cannot require dresses or makeup for women only, or bar men from having long hair. An employer who fails to provide employee health benefits for gender-affirming care or fails to accommodate people undergoing gender transition, such as medical appointments, could also potentially run afoul of the new law.
With the enactment of these new laws, New York City now has some of the most comprehensive laws protecting transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the country.
The maximum penalty for a “willful and malicious” violation of the new law is $250,000.00.
In order to avoid the imposition of these possibly crippling penalties, employers, business owners providing public accommodations, landlords and even law enforcement officers, should be aware of the new requirements set forth within the Human Rights Law. General awareness, common sense and treating all of our fellow New Yorkers with equal respect, dignity and decency is a good start toward compliance with the new rules and is the best approach to avoid an inadvertent violation and subsequent complaint, which could result in severe and costly administrative and/or legal claims.
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