New York Passes Bill Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Gender Identity or Expression

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 17, 2019

New York's legislature has passed a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression and also categorize criminal offenses involving gender identity or expression as hate crimes subject to enhanced penalties.

New York already prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on gender identity under an Executive Order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and subsequent state regulations.

However, the new bill passed this week - the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) - would amend the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and other statutes to enshrine those protections into the law itself, making them more resistant to legal challenge.

If signed, GENDA would define gender identity or expression as "a person's actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristic regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth, including, but not limited to, the status of being transgender."

Cuomo is expected to sign the bill, which was included in his 2019 agenda. "This is an issue of basic fairness, and today marks an historic day for those in the LGBTQ community who fought tirelessly for the passage of this bill," he said in a statement.

If GENDA is signed into law, the discrimination prohibitions would take effect 30 days after the signing and the hate crimes provisions would take effect November 1.

New York would then join several other states and localities that already recognize gender identity as a protected class.

Employers should take steps to prohibit discrimination against individuals identifying as transgender (as well as those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual), such as:

  • Developing, implementing and enforcing anti-discrimination policies;
  • Training employees and supervisors; and
  • Providing reasonable accommodations.