Are gays. lesbians and trans-gender workers protected against discrimination?

Sexual orientation discrimination refers to harassment or differential treatment based on someone’s perceived or actual gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual orientation. Victims of sexual orientation discrimination may notice that they are receiving lower wages than other employees doing the same job, or are passed up for well-deserved promotions for no apparent reason. Even if they are qualified and skilled at their jobs, they may be treated less favorably than straight coworkers.

Differential treatment based on sexual orientation is illegal. The attorneys of Akin Law Group, PLLC are dedicated to protecting New York City employees of all genders and orientations. If you’re suffering at the hands of a colleague, employer or supervisor, we may be able to help you recover monetary damages.

What is sexual orientation discrimination?

Sexual orientation harassment is defined as verbal or physical conduct that is directed at an individual because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, creating a hostile work environment. Sexual orientation harassment may occur in a variety of relationships, including supervisor and employee, employee and employee, and relationships with other individuals who have business with or visit the workplace.

Sexual orientation discrimination can present itself in a number of ways:

  • Being fired after an employer or manager learns about your sexual orientation
  • Being denied employment due to your actual or perceived orientation
  • Derogatory remarks targeted at gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals
  • Being requested not to bring your same-sex partner to a company event while other employees are allowed to bring their different-sex partners

Victims of sexual orientation discrimination experience things like being overlooked for a promotion, being given baseless write-ups or improvement plans, and wrongful termination because the employer or manager dislikes the employee’s sexual orientation. In addition, the employee may face harassment, such as comments and name-calling, based on his or her orientation

If you believe that you have experienced sexual orientation discrimination, you should contact an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. The attorneys at Akin Law Group have extensive courtroom experience and knowledge of city, state, and federal laws. Call the Akin Law Group to set up a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.

Are there laws against Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

While the New York State and New York City laws protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, primitively, federal law provides no specific protection against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Federal law is only limited to considering discrimination based on gender stereotypes as a form of sex discrimination. Thus, it arguably prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals who do not conform to gender stereotypes. As such, it considers employers liable for sex discrimination when they fail to prevent the harassment of an employee based on his or her nonconformance to gender stereotypes.

Sexual orientation is considered a protected characteristic under the New York State Human Rights Law, Civil Rights Law, and Education Law. The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) is a New YorkState law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation in employment, public accommodations, education, housing, credit, and the exercise of civil rights. According to SONDA, sexual orientation refers to “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality, whether actual or perceived.” Due to this definition, the law offers protections to those who are targeted due to either their actual sexual orientation or what their harasser believes to be their orientation.

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) and Administrative Code also protect NYC employees from sexual orientation discrimination. Section 8-107 of the New York City Administrative Code makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice “for an employer to discriminate based on a person’s marital status, partnership status, or sexual orientation.” As such, New York City employees who have faced sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace have unambiguous city and state laws to back them up. Because cases of sexual orientation discrimination primarily involve state and city laws, individuals who choose to take legal action should seek an attorney with extensive experience in New York law.

Does the law prohibit gender identity  discrimination?

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibits discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived gender. The NYCHRL defines a person’s gender as his or her “actual or perceived sex […] gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression,” regardless of the gender assigned at birth (NYCHRL Section 8-102.23). Because of this definition, the NYCHRL’s prohibitions on gender discrimination include a ban on gender identity discrimination. If you have been discriminated against on account of your gender identity, you can file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR).

How to file a discrimination charge

Victims of sexual orientation discrimination can file a discrimination charge with either the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) or the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR). The time limit for filing with either agency is rather short although measured from the last alleged act of discrimination.

If you file with one of the agencies, it will investigate your complaint. If it determines that your complaint has merit, the agency will hold a hearing before an administrative judge. After the hearing, the agency will issue a final decision, stating whether or not a relief will be provided. Under SONDA, victims of sexual orientation discrimination may be awarded damages for their suffering, and lost wages or benefits. The discriminator may be required to hire or reinstate the employee or to alter its policies to provide equal accommodations to all its workers.

Filing a complaint with the NYSDHR or NYCCHR may be a confusing process, but it is crucial to do so with care, as a claim may be dismissed if it is filed incorrectly. As such, it is strongly advised that you consult with an attorney experienced in these specific laws before and during the filing process and throughout the administrative hearing.

Filing a lawsuit for gay, lesbian or sexual orientation discrimination

Another option that you may choose to explore is filing a lawsuit directly in New York State courts. If you choose to pursue this route of action, you have to file your complaint in court within the statutory time period which is measured from the last alleged act of discrimination.

Because sexual orientation discrimination laws involve state and city laws, it is important to find a lawyer familiar with the laws of the State and City of New York. The attorneys at Akin Law Group are well-versed in these laws and regularly represent clients victimized by sexual orientation discrimination. If you feel you may have a case or simply want to inquire about your options, call us today and schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation to discuss the details of your case.

Can you be terminated or face retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint?

Many individuals are held back from making a sexual orientation discrimination complaint because they are afraid that further negative actions will be taken against them at work. However, victims of sexual orientation discrimination should know that the law protects them from retaliation. Even if an individual files a complaint with the NYCCHR or NYSDHR, he or she may remain protected by the law until a final determination is made. If your employer has taken retaliatory actions against you for filing a discrimination complaint, with the employer or with any one of these agencies, you may be eligible for further damages.

Schedule a free and confidential consultation with a compassionate Sexual harassment lawyer.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your actual or perceived sexual orientation, call the Akin Law Group immediately at 212-825-1400 for a free and confidential consultation. Our attorneys can help you better understand your rights, and provide you with suggestions of how to proceed with your case.