Sex-based Employment Discrimination in New York

All states in the US, save for Montana, practice at-will employment, which means that an employer may terminate an employee without having to show just cause, unless it is specifically stated in an employment contract, the employee handbook, or implied by the employer. However, there is a firm exception to at-will employment: discrimination.

An employee cannot be terminated or otherwise singled out because he or she is a member of a statutorily protected class, and that includes gender and gender identity. Sex-based employment discrimination is prohibited under federal laws including the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. These laws specifically target activities such as hiring, promoting, work assigning, evaluating, compensating, disciplining, and terminating employees.

While there are no laws at the federal level expressly forbidding employment discrimination for individuals who have had gender re-assignment or have otherwise chosen not to conform to traditional gender roles, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that this type of sex-based employment discrimination is in violation of Title VII. In other words, an employer cannot decline to hire an otherwise qualified candidate based solely on the fact that Jack is now Jill or vice versa.

New York state laws apply most of these federal mandates, but not all. While it recognizes non-conformist sexual orientation as a protected class, there is no state-wide law that expressly protects transgenders. There are some cities that enforce transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws, specifically New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester and Ithaca, but not others.

If you work in New York City and have experienced sex-based discrimination in the workplace, you should consult with a New York City discrimination lawyer to find out what your legal options are. You will need to file a complaint first with the EEOC for administrative remedies, but even then it would be best to have competent legal representation to cross the Ts and dot the Is.