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NYS Study: Transgender Workers Face Widespread Workplace Discrimination, Including Both 'Less Employment' and 'Lower Incomes'

New York City and New York State have been among the most proactive jurisdictions in enacting legislation to protect transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people from discrimination and harassment. Despite these legislative advancements, gender identity and gender expression discrimination and harassment remain pervasively problematic across the state, according to a January report from the New York State Department of Labor. Many workers may not completely know the extent to which the laws here protect them from workplace discrimination and harassment. If you have been harmed at work because you are trans, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or non-binary, you may have recourse available to you under state law, city law, or both. Consulting an experienced New York gender identity/gender expression discrimination lawyer can be vital to understanding your rights and options.

In the summer of 2022, Governor Hochul signed into law a bill that directed the New York State Department of Labor to complete a study of the employment rate of transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary New Yorkers statewide. That law followed in the wake of a flood of gender identity and gender expression discrimination complaints the Division of Human Rights received after the state passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act in 2019. (The DHR received more than 1,200 gender identity discrimination/harassment complaints, with employment discrimination/harassment comprising nearly two-thirds (65%) of them.)

That 2022 legislation was the precursor to the 2023 “TGNCNB Employment Report,” which found the presence of “significant employment barriers” facing TGNCNB people. This group experienced both “less employment” and “lower incomes,” according to the department’s study.

Stark Differences in Income and Employment Loss

For example, from Dec. 9 to Dec. 19, 2022, 22.2% of workers nationwide who identified as trans on the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Bureau “lost employment income in the preceding four weeks.” By comparison, the percentage for non-trans Americans was 11.5%. Limiting the data¬†to New York workers produced an even bigger disparity of 30.3% - 11.9%.

The study also found that many TGNCNB people were relegated to low-paying jobs.

Only 13% of the survey’s cisgender male respondents had an annual income between $1 and $25,000. Standing in sharp contrast, “41% of trans women, 33% of trans men, 37% of [gender non-conforming/non-binary] individuals, and 39% of those with multiple or other genders” who responded to the survey made between $1 and $25,000 annually.

The other end of the income spectrum also revealed a wide gulf. 27% of the cisgender male respondents had an annual income of $100,000+. By comparison, only 8% of trans women, 6% of trans men, 3% of gender non-conforming/genderqueer/non-binary individuals, and 7% of those with multiple or other genders made $100,000 per year.

Real-Life Examples Illustrate the Problem's Pervasiveness

Reports from news outlets further highlight the need for robust protection. Earlier this year, a pizzeria in suburban Buffalo agreed to shell out after settling a lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought against it. The EEOC alleged that one of the pizzeria’s owners of “repeatedly” harassing a trans man who worked at the business. The harassment included declaring the employee to be “not a real man,” asking invasive and inappropriate questions about the state of the trans man’s genitalia and intentionally misgendering the employee by using the pronouns “she” and “her” to refer to the trans man.

More recently, a trans man who worked as a fashion model sued his modeling agency after the agency allegedly “killed” the man’s career after he transitioned. According to the model’s lawsuit, the agency deemed the man’s appearance “insufficiently masculine” to work in men’s fashion.

Any form of workplace discrimination is wrong, but gender identity/gender expression discrimination is often among the most pernicious forms. It frequently includes harassment related to extremely private details about the worker’s sex life and/or intimate body parts, and it often unfairly relegates workers to a life of poverty. If you’ve encountered this type of discrimination on the job, the knowledgeable New York gender identity/gender expression discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help. Our compassionate team understands that your case may be an extremely sensitive matter, and we will work to devise thoughtful plans and solutions that will both vindicate your rights and respect your privacy. Contact us online or at (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.

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