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What is Transgender Discrimination?

Legal content fact checked by Charles E. Joseph

Your questions about workers’ rights, answered

Transgender discrimination laws protect employees in the workplace.

But what counts as transgender discrimination? Is gender identity a protected class? What about gender expression?

Employers have a responsibility to create a workplace free from discrimination. Refusing to hire job applicants, firing employees, or denying a promotion because of someone’s gender identity or expression violates the law.

Keep reading to learn the definition of transgender discrimination, how to prove trans discrimination, and how to protect your rights\.

Is gender identity a protected class?

Is gender identity a protected class? Yes, under federal law gender identity is a protected class, just like race, age, and disability status. This means employers cannot discriminate against an employee because of his or her gender identity.

The law protects transgender rights and the rights of people who identify as non-binary.

Gender identity discrimination, such as refusing to hire a trans job candidate or not promoting transgender employees, violates the law.

What is gender identity and expression?

Gender identity refers to an individual’s sense of their own gender. It may or may not be the same as their biological gender or their assigned sex at birth. Gender identity includes male, female, and non-binary. Everyone has a gender identity.

Gender expression is an individual’s representation of their gender, which they express through their name, appearance, behavior, and choice of pronouns. Gender expression is a choice that each person makes about how to present themselves.

Some state and local laws provide stronger protections than federal law. The New York City transgender discrimination law protects trans rights. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, employees cannot discriminate against potential hires or current employees because of their gender identity or gender expression.

Victims of discrimination because of gender identity or expression can file a lawsuit to recover damages. 

What are the rights of LGBT employees?

The law protects LGBT employees from discrimination in the workplace. This includes treating a potential hire who identifies as gay or transgender unfavorably because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Workplace discrimination can also mean denying an employee raises or promotions because they identify as LGBTQ.

LGBT employees have a right to work in an environment free of harassment. Creating a hostile work environment also violates the rights of LGBT employees. This can include jokes, comments, or actions that target people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Workplace discrimination laws allow victims of discrimination to file a claim to recover lost wages and receive compensatory and punitive damages.

What defines gender identity?

Gender identity means an individual’s perception of their gender. The New York City Human Rights Law protects against gender identity discrimination as a form of gender discrimination. The law also outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of gender expression and transgender status.

The law also covers both perceived and actual gender identity. This means that an employer cannot refuse to hire someone because the hiring manager assumes they are transgender when the job candidate is not. This is still gender discrimination.

The law also protects against discriminatory harassment of people based on their actual or perceived gender identity.

Is there a fine for not using transgender pronouns in NY?

Can using the wrong pronouns violate gender discrimination laws in NYC? Yes, the New York City Human Rights Law does state that intentionally failing to use an employee’s preferred name, pronoun, or title may violate the law. In order to qualify under the New York City transgender discrimination law, employees must make it clear which pronouns they prefer.

Employers who refuse to let individuals use a bathroom based on that person’s gender identity also may violate the law.

Accidentally using an incorrect pronoun or a single mistake likely does not trigger the law’s protections, but transgender employees can file a complaint if incorrect pronoun usage rises to the level of harassment.

What to do about transgender discrimination in the workplace?

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace because you identify as transgender, you have rights. Transgender discrimination violates NYC laws. You can file a claim with the New York City Commission on Human Rights or in state court. You can also file an EEOC transgender discrimination complaint.

An NYC discrimination lawyer can help pursue your case. Contact Charles Joseph for a free consultation to find out if you have a claim.

Learn more about LGBT rights, discrimination laws, and potential damages.

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