May 20, 2009 Employment Discrimination

New York State Assembly passes Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act

The New York State Assembly recently passed a bill, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) (A. 5710/S. 2406) by a vote of 97-38.  The proposed law would amend the New York State Human Rights Law to add “gender identity or expression” as a protected category, barring employers from refusing to hire, employ or discharge such individuals or to discriminate against such individuals in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.  Under the proposed law “gender identity or expression” is defined as “having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.”  The bill would also add gender identity or expression as a protected category under New York State’s hate crimes law.

The New York State Human Rights Law was previously amended in December 2002 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.  (See New York State Enacts Civil Rights Bill Prohibiting Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientationreported on this website in January 2003.)  Although many supporters of that amendment (the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act) believed that it covered discrimination on the basis of an employee’s or applicant’s transgender status, sponsors of GENDA explain that being transgender is not the same as being homosexual and that the new legislation, therefore, brings within the scope of the Human Rights Law forms of discrimination not covered by the 2002 amendment.

The Assembly GENDA legislation, first introduced in 2003, has 70 sponsors in the Assembly, including members of both political parties representing urban, suburban, upstate and rural New York.   The Senate version, S. 2406, identical to the Assembly version, has been referred to the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations.  Please check this website for further developments on this proposed legislation.