Is discrimination based on an employee’s gender identity unlawful in New York?

The year 2019 is thus far promising to be one of legislative reform and progression in the state of New York.  With the Democrats now in control of three chambers of the state government, several major laws have already achieved passage, while other laws are anticipated to be adopted shortly.  Several of the new laws impact the field of employment law, making it critical that New York City employers and employees alike closely follow the newly passed and pending proposals.  


The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act will go into effect on February 24.  The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate based on gender identity or expression.  Part of the law specifically makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees due to their gender identity or expression.  New York employers will want to review and update their company policies to reflect this new law, while employers should be aware that their gender identity is now protected legally in the workplace.

Discrimination Based on Family Planning 

Additionally, both houses of the Legislature have passed a law that would ban employment discrimination based on an employee’s reproductive health decisions. The law is currently awaiting delivery to the Governor. Per the law, employers cannot discriminate against employees for accessing reproductive health services like birth control drugs, pregnancy testing, fertility-related medical procedures, sexually transmitted disease protections, and more.


Salary History

On the Governor’s Executive Budget Proposal is a law that would prevent employers from asking potential employees about their salary history or use salary history as a factor in deciding whether to make an employment offer.  This ban currently exists in a few local areas, like New York City, but the proposal would make it effective statewide.

Broadening the Definition of Workplace Harassment 

Included within the Governor’s Executive Budget Proposal is language aimed at strengthening protections for employees against workplace harassment.  The law would eliminate the requirement that harassment is severe and pervasive in order to be actionable.  Once implemented, this change to the law could greatly expand the scope of potential harassment claims. Employees and employers should be aware of these coming legal changes and take steps to protect themselves.