Gender Expression Discrimination

Gender Expression Discrimination

New York City Lawyers Helping Employees Mistreated in the Workplace

Gender expression refers to how an individual represents their gender through name, choice of pronouns, haircut, voice, clothes, or any other body characteristic. In some cases, gender expression does not conform to the stereotypes that society has assigned to a gender identity. Under the law, workers should be free to express their gender identities in the way that they see fit. Some individuals identify themselves as gender nonconforming, meaning that they present themselves in a way that is different from traditional gender stereotypes. Gender expression discrimination is prohibited under federal, state, and local laws, and people who suffer from it should consult a sex discrimination lawyer. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City gender expression discrimination attorneys may be able to advise and represent you.

Gender Expression Discrimination

Workplace discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently or adversely due to their membership in a protected class. For example, when a gender nonconforming employee is terminated because they have a feminine appearance but wears men's clothes, and this is not the "conservative" image that the employer wants to present to customers, this may be gender expression discrimination.

Similarly, if a transgender employee prefers to use the pronoun "she" or "they," but the employer refuses to use this pronoun, this may be gender expression discrimination. Additionally, if an employee is terminated because their appearance is androgynous, and the employer believes that customers are bothered by this and refuse to put the employee in a favorable job assignment as a result, the termination may be gender expression discrimination.

Assert Rights Protected by Law

Federal, state, and local laws provide varying degrees of protection related to gender expression on the job. A gender expression discrimination lawyer in New York City can help you determine which laws may apply to your situation. The New York City Human Rights Law provides the greatest degree of protection based on gender expression. Under this law, employers are not allowed to impose dress codes, uniforms, or grooming rules that involve different requirements for employees based on their sex or gender. This is distinct from federal law, which permits different standards based on gender or sex as long as the plaintiff cannot prove that they create an undue burden. For example, courts have allowed a requirement that female bartenders wear makeup.

However, the New York City Human Rights Law provides that if a grooming standard or dress code differentiates based on gender, it may be discriminatory even if certain individuals or entities think that it is harmless. This does not mean that dress codes or grooming standards are not allowed; instead, they may be imposed as long as the requirements are not based on one's gender or sex. These requirements need to be neutral.

In addition to providing a broader degree of protection for gender expression, suing an employer under the New York City Human Rights Law may also yield greater damages. While Title VII, which prohibits gender discrimination, protects only employees who work for companies with 15 or more employees, the New York City Human Rights Law applies to small businesses. Furthermore, there is no cap on damages for a lawsuit brought under the New York City Human Rights Law, while Title VII imposes a cap that is based on the size of the employer.


If you can successfully establish gender expression discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law, you may be able to recover substantial compensatory damages, as well as front pay and back pay. In instances of egregious and intentional gender expression discrimination, you may be able to recover punitive damages as well. These are damages imposed to punish the employer rather than to put a wronged employee back in the position in which they would have been had there been no discrimination.

Consult a Gender Expression Discrimination Attorney in New York City

Gender expression discrimination may be painful and cause significant distress. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced New York City gender expression discrimination lawyers can advise clients on filing internal complaints and bringing a charge or lawsuit afterward if appropriate. Contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 for a free appointment. Our transgender rights lawyers assist employees in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties and in New Jersey.

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