Last week the Supreme Court accepted three cases that ask whether federal anti-discrimination laws protect LGBT people from job discrimination. There is disagreement in lower Federal Courts regarding whether sexual orientation and gender identity are included in Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
While this decision will have consequences for Federal civil rights litigation, New York employers will still be subject to New York State anti-discrimination laws. New York’s Human Rights Law has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation since 2003. With New York’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) becoming effective on February 24, 2019, discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity, expression or transgender status is also prohibited.
No matter the decision from the Supreme Court, New York employers may not engage in discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in New York. Those who do face civil penalties including back pay, front pay and other damages such as pain and suffering.