Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Federal law does not prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, New York State and New York City do prohibit such discrimination. Under the New York State’s and New York City’s Human Rights Laws, If you work (or apply to work) for a business employing more than 4 people, the employer is prohibited from basing hiring, firing, promotion, benefit, layoff, compensation, training and job assignment decisions on your sexual orientation.

Under the New York State law, sexual orientation is defined as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or asexuality, whether actual or perceived. For employers in New York City, the law includes a prohibition against discrimination based on gender identity, which expands the protection of the state law to transgender individuals.

How do I know if I am a victim of sexual orientation discrimination?

Sexual orientation discrimination can be very subtle, and each situation depends on its unique facts. However, sexual orientation discrimination can include situations like these:

  • You interview for a job, and the interviewer asks about your sexual orientation; you don’t get the job.
  • You have received stellar job performance reviews until your supervisor finds out you are gay. You are soon thereafter told that your position is being eliminated.
  • Your employer knows you are transgender and has told you what a great asset you are to the company, but the employer never gives you opportunities to represent the company in public or with clients because they might be uncomfortable with you.
  • A gay-owned company advertises jobs stating it is an all-gay workplace.
  • Your supervisor makes disparaging remarks about gay, lesbian, or transgender individuals in your presence.
  • You are gay; valuable accounts or clients are being steered toward heterosexual workers.
  • You are transgender and you work in New York City; you are kept out of strategic meetings in favor of non-transgender workers.

I think I have a sexual orientation discrimination problem:

  • Act quickly—there is a limited amount of time for you to take legal action.
  • If you were fired and received severance, check the severance agreement to make sure you didn’t waive your rights to claim discrimination. (Even if you did, the waiver may not be valid).
  • Gather written reviews and other documents proving your performance quality, as well as your employee manual, if published.
  • Get in touch with an experienced employment lawyer.

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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