Phillips & Associates

William Phillips and Steven Fingerhut Discuss LGBT+ Inclusivity in the Workplace with Lawyers Monthly

In recognition of Pride Month, Lawyer Monthly magazine recently spoke with William Phillips, the managing partner of Phillips & Associates, and Steven Fingerhut, an associate attorney at Phillips & Associates, regarding the rights of the LGBT+ community in the workplace. Phillips & Associates is an employment discrimination law firm that represents plaintiffs in lawsuits in the New York metro area and in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Laws Protecting LGBT+ Individuals from Discrimination Inclusivity in the Workplace with Lawyers Monthly

The term LGBT+ is used broadly to refer to a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are members of a protected class due to their sexual orientation, whereas transgender people are part of a different protected class based on their gender. The “+” in LGBT+ refers to a wider range of gender and sexuality, including intersex, questioning, and pansexual people.

The extent of protection from discrimination provided to employees who are LGBT+ generally depends on where the person is employed. On the federal level, no law expressly defines a person's gender identity or sexual orientation as a protected characteristic with regard to discrimination in a private work setting. LGBT+ employees have been able to recover damages for discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, however, by arguing that it constitutes discrimination based on sex, which is barred under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Members of the LGBT+ community have effectively asserted gender stereotyping as a basis for gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination claims as well.

In contrast to the federal laws, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) provides broad protections against discrimination, explicitly defining gender identity and sexual orientation as protected categories. Thus, employees pursuing discrimination claims under the NYCHRL do not need to allege that they were adversely treated on the basis of sex but instead can allege discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Actionable Forms of Discrimination Against Members of the LGBT+ Community

Whether harassment or discrimination is actionable depends on which law applies. To prove that an employer should be held liable for a hostile work environment under Title VII, employees must show that they suffered from harassment that was so pervasive or severe that it altered the conditions of the victim’s employment. This is a relatively high burden to meet, although it has been met in many cases. Conversely, under the NYCHRL, any harassment that is more than a petty slight or trivial inconvenience is actionable if it was perpetrated based on an employee’s membership in a protected class. Furthermore, employees are not required to disclose information regarding their gender identity or sexual orientation, and repeated questions regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity may constitute harassment.

Ways for Employers to Be Inclusive to Members of the LGBT+ Community

Generally, employers should emphasize that employees are free to voice complaints regarding harassment or discrimination and that support is available for anyone wishing to discuss a personal or sensitive issue. If LGBT+ employees are discouraged from making a complaint regarding harassment or discrimination, they should reach out to an attorney regarding their options for seeking recourse.

Damages Recoverable for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Typically, victims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity may be entitled to compensation for lost wages or for enduring a hostile work environment. Additionally, under the NYCHRL, employees harmed by discrimination may be able to recover punitive damages. Ultimately, the damages recoverable depend on the unique facts of each case, and anyone harmed by workplace discrimination or harassment should consult an attorney to discuss their rights.

Meet with a Seasoned Employment Discrimination Attorney in New York

The laws prohibiting discrimination continue to evolve, providing increased protections for members of the LGBT+ community. If you identify as LGBT+ and were mistreated by your employer, the attorneys at Phillips & Associates can advocate for you in your pursuit of compensation. You can contact our office at (212) 248-7431 or through the online form to schedule a free and confidential meeting to discuss your case. We represent people in employment discrimination claims in New York City and in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, as well as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
I called at Phillips & Associates seeking for a consultation and I was very pleased with the conversation I had with Eugenio Benvenuto. He was able to answer my questions thoroughly and gave me reassurance. I highly recommend their practice. Giulia
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Hands down the best law firm for labor disputes in NYC. Being in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years I can say that this law firm is the number one choice for workers in the restaurant business that need to sue their company for wrongful termination. A special compliment to my lawyer Brittany Stevens. An amazing person and well prepared experienced lawyer. She was professional and empathetic to my case and worked in a time appropriate manner. She never miss a phone call at any hour of the day.The other associates that assisted Brittany were Yusha Hiraman, Eugenio Benvenuto and Katerina Housos. They were all professional and answered any questions or concerns that I had. Brittany and her team helped me with what I needed, when I needed it. I want to thank them all (especially Brittany), for a job well done. Massimo
★★★★★
Jesse Weinstein handled my discrimination case. He was extremely patient and understanding throughout the process and remained professional and consistent even when I could not. I really felt like he had my back and I didn't have to worry. His expertise, combined with the experience of the Firm, resulted in the best possible outcome of my case. Although I wouldn't wish what I went through on anyone, things do and always will happen and I would highly recommend Jesse and this Firm to anyone facing discrimination or other workplace issues. Karen
★★★★★
I highly recommend Parisis (Gerry) Fillippatos with Phillips & Associates to represent you for employment related matters. He and his team were professional, attentive to every detail and brilliant at identifying the legal grounds to win the case. Parisis's communication and delivery were highly articulate and precise. He is personable and makes you feel comfortable in the maze of legal jargon. Finally, his confidence, perseverance and masterful negotiation skills deliver the win. Anonymous
★★★★★
I had an excellent experience with this team! Thanks, Marjorie, Brittany, and Candy for your great support and prompt answers to all my questions. I highly recommend this firm. This team works very hard and I am extremely happy with the results. Ana