Governor Andrew Cuomo Announces Protections for Transgender New Yorkers

Lucie Rivière and Edgar Rivera, Esq.

On October 22, 2015, at the Empire State Pride Agenda’s 25th Anniversary Fall Dinner, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new regulations to protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination in housing, credit lending, education, public accommodations, and employment. In support of the new regulations, Governor Cuomo stated, “In 2015, it is clear that the fair legal interpretation and definition of a person’s sex includes gender identity and gender expression.”

The State of New York has a long history of protecting the rights of transgender persons. In the landmark 1977 case Richards v. U.S. Tennis Association, the New York County Supreme Court first allowed a transgender individual to bring a discrimination claim based on her transgender status pursuant to the New York State Human Right Law (“NYSHRL”). In that case, a professional tennis player, Richards, who had male-to-female sex reassignment surgery brought an action to enjoin the U.S. Tennis Association from requiring her to pass a sex-chromatin test to be eligible to play.  A sex-chromatin test determines whether a second X chromosome is present; therefore, only women biologically born female will pass it.  U.S. Tennis used that test to determine whether an athlete was eligible to participate in the U.S Open tennis tournament. The Supreme Court of New York County held that requiring the plaintiff to pass the sex-chromatin test was “grossly unfair, discriminatory, and inequitable” and a violation of the NYSHRL. However, the court did not state how U.S. Tennis Association violated the NYSHRL; it only stated that the NYSHRL prohibits discrimination for an employer because of “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sex or disability, or marital status” and that that U.S. Tennis, among defendants, violated Richards’ rights. In other words, the court was not clear on how the defendant violated Richard’s rights.

New York State will now join eighteen other states—Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhoda Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, Maine and Vermont—and several localities, including New York City, that have enacted statutes to expressly protect transgendered individuals against discrimination. The new regulations, that included transgendered individuals under the gender category of protection, likely are to be published in the state registry by next week and will be subject to a 45-day comment period before taking effect.

“The scourge of harassment and discrimination against transgender individuals has gone largely unanswered for too long,” Cuomo said. “We will not tolerate discrimination or harassment against transgender people anywhere in the state of New York.”

If you believe your employer discriminated against you because of your gender identity, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.