Jan 07, 2016

New York City Enacts Expanded Protections for Transgender Individuals and New Protections for Caregivers

On January 5, 2016, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Caregiver Discrimination Bill, prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their actual or perceived status as a caregiver.  The law will become effective April 24, 2016, 120 days after enactment.  The new law will establish caregiver status as a new protected class under the New York City Human Rights Law, and defines “caregiver” as “a person who provides direct and ongoing care for a minor child or care recipient.”

Under the law, a “care recipient” is an individual with a disability “who: (i) is a covered relative, or a person who resides in the caregiver’s household; and (ii) relies on the caregiver for medical care or to meet the needs of daily living.”  The law also defines a “covered relative” as “a caregiver’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild or grandparent, or the child or parent of the caregiver’s spouse or domestic partner, or any other individual in a familial relationship with the caregiver” as provided by the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

In addition, on December 21, 2015, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued new enforcement guidelines, entitled the Legal Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Expression, that prohibit discrimination against transgender individuals.  According to the guidelines, gender discrimination includes discrimination based on “a person’s 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 legal sex assigned to that person at birth.”  The Enforcement Guidance makes clear that, among other things:

  • Employers cannot set different terms and conditions of employment, “refuse to hire, promote or fire an individual because of a person’s gender, including actual or perceived status as a transgender person.”
  • Employers must “use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun and title (e.g., Ms./Mrs.) regardless of the individual’s sex assigned at birth, anatomy, gender, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on the individual’s identification.”
  • Employers must permit transgender employees to use single-sex facilities, such as bathrooms and changing rooms, consistent with their genders and “regardless of their sex assigned at birth, anatomy, medical history, appearance, or the sex indicated on their identification.”
  • Employers cannot “require dress codes or uniforms, or apply grooming or appearance standards, that impose different requirements for individuals based on sex or gender.”
  • Employers must offer benefits equally to all employees regardless of gender and health benefits plans must cover transgender care (transition-related care or gender-affirming care).
  • Employers cannot consider employees’ actual or perceived status as transgender when evaluating requests for accommodations for disability or other requests for changes to the terms and conditions of one’s employment.

New York City employers should review and consider amending their anti-discrimination and equal employment policies and procedures to ensure compliance.

If you have any questions regarding these issues, please contact your labor and employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.

This client alert is intended to inform clients and other interested parties about legal matters of current interest and is not intended as legal advice.

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