NYC Announces Stronger Protections for Transgender New Yorkers

New York City’s human rights commission on Monday announced stronger protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people, in an effort to strengthen the rights of those in a community that has often been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence, city officials said. 

The commission’s new guidance on gender identity and gender expression protections now provides explicit examples of what is deemed discrimination under the NYC Human Rights Law. The move to detail what is considered discrimination makes NYC’s law one of the toughest in the nation.

“Today’s new guidelines strengthen those laws by ensuring that every transgender and gender non-conforming person in New York receives the dignity and respect they deserve,” Mayor de Blasio said Monday.

“New York has always been a diverse and welcoming city and our laws are designed to protect every New Yorker, regardless of their gender identity,” he said.

There are an estimated 25,200 transgender and gender non-conforming people in New York City.

Although the city council passed the Transgender Civil Rights legislation in 2002, extending non-discrimination protections to transgender people, previous guidelines had never specified the many ways in which those in the trans community can be discriminated against.

A recent survey found that 75 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers have reported being harassed or mistreated in the workplace. Some 20 percent were refused a home and 17 percent more were refused medical care, according to the survey. More than 50 percent said that they had been verbally harassed in public places like restaurants, buses, airports and government buildings.

The new guidelines lay out ways that an employer, landlord or business owner may violate the rights of transgender or gender non-conforming people.

By specifying examples of discrimination, NYC’s law is stronger than those of other large U.S. cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

“New Yorkers should not lose their jobs, be evicted from housing, or be denied basic accommodations sampling for being who they are,” State Senator Daniel Squadron said.

The law forbids failing to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun or title; for example, calling a transgender woman “him” or “Mr.” when she has made clear that she prefers a female title.

The law also forbids denying someone who is transgender the use of single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity. For example, it is illegal to bar a transgender woman from a women’s restroom out of concern it will make others uncomfortable.

Enforcing dress codes that impose different requirements based on sex or gender is also not allowed under the law. Thus, it is illegal to enforce a policy where men must wear ties or women must wear skirts. This means that NYC’s law goes further than even the U.S. courts in protecting the rights of transgender people. Federal courts have upheld employment policies that require women to wear makeup and men to wear ties.

Under the law, failing to provide employee health benefits that cover gender-affirming care or failing to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals undergoing gender transition is also illegal.

Penalties for violating the city’s Human Rights Law can range from $125,000 to $250,000, although there is no limit to the amount of compensatory damages a victim of discrimination can be awarded.

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