In October 2015, Governor Cuomo became the first executive in the nation to issue state-wide regulations prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender identity, transgender status or gender dysphoria
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the New York State Division of Human Rights has adopted new regulations that ban discrimination and harassment against transgender people. The regulations are effective today, and affirm that transgender individuals are protected under the state’s Human Rights Law. All public and private employers, housing providers, businesses, creditors and others should know that discrimination against transgender persons is unlawful and will not be tolerated anywhere in the state of New York.
These regulations were first introduced by Governor Cuomo in October – marking the first time that any Governor has issued statewide regulations to prohibit harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender identity, transgender status or gender dysphoria.
“Today we are sending the message loud and clear that New York will not stand for discrimination against transgender people,” said Governor Cuomo. “It is intolerable to allow harassment or discrimination against anyone, and the transgender community has been subjected to a second-class status for far too long. This is an issue of basic justice and I am proud that New York is continuing to lead the way forward.”
The state of New York has had a long history of protecting the rights of transgender persons under the provisions of the Human Rights Law. New York was the first state in the nation to enact an anti-discrimination Human Rights Law. The Law, enacted in 1945, affords every citizen “an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life.” Individuals who feel they have been harassed or discriminated against can file complaints in state court, or with the New York State Division of Human Rights, without charge. Those complaints are promptly investigated at regional offices throughout the state.
Under state law, the Division has the statutory authority to promulgate regulations interpreting the Human Rights Law. The regulations confirm that the Division of Human Rights will accept and process Human Rights Law complaints alleging discrimination because of gender identity, on the basis of the protected categories of both sex and disability, and provide important information to all New Yorkers regarding unlawful discrimination against transgender individuals.
If the Division determines there is probable cause to believe harassment or discrimination has occurred, the Commissioner of Human Rights will decide the case after a public hearing, and may award job, housing or other benefits, back and front pay, compensatory damages for mental anguish, civil fines and penalties, and may also require policy changes and training as appropriate. Civil fines and penalties can be up to $50,000 or up to $100,000 if the discrimination is found be "willful, wanton or malicious" and, unlike under federal law, compensatory damages to individuals are not capped.