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NYC Litigation Blog

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What Is the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act?

Legislators at the state and federal have long been passing measures in an effort to protect employees across the United States from having to endure discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination based on a protected factor such as race, color, religion, and national origin have a more established presence in U.S. law. More recent legislative measures to combat employment discrimination relate to sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. The State of New York enacted protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation when the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act was passed.

What is the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act?

The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, commonly referred to as “SONDA,” was signed into law by the Governor of New York back in 2002. It became effective as of January 16, 2003. SONDA provided express protections to fight discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals in the areas of employment, housing, education, credit, the exercising of civil rights, and public accommodations.

Essentially, SONDA is responsible for adding “sexual orientation” as a protected characteristic in various areas of New York State laws such as those relating to human rights, civil rights, and education. SONDA defines “sexual orientation as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality, whether actual or perceived.” This means that the law grants protection for those who may have been victims of discrimination based on their actual sexual orientation, or what a perpetrator of discrimination perceived to be their sexual orientation.

SONDA protections extend to a variety of areas, such as:

  • Employment
  • Admission to public accommodations
  • Admission to educational institutions
  • Access to public housing
  • Access to private housing
  • Access to commercial space
  • Ability to obtain credit

In regard to employment, an individual is protected from discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation in all aspects of employment and hiring decisions. Denial of job benefits and advancement opportunities based on sexual orientation are, therefore, illegal. If you feel like you have been the victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation, you have the option of filing a discrimination charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights. You must do so within one year of the most recent discriminatory act. In the alternative, you may file a complaint directly in State court. You must do so within three years of the most recent discriminatory act.

New York City Employment Discrimination Attorney

No one should be subjected to discrimination in the workplace. No one should be denied a job they are qualified for based on something such as their race, religion, or sexual orientation. If you feel as though you may have been the victim of employment discrimination, talk to Attorney Thomas M. Lancia. Attorney Lancia is committed to protecting the rights of his clients and holding the responsible parties accountable for the often painful acts of discrimination they have inflicted on employees. Contact Attorney Lancia today.


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