Sex Discrimination, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation

Working Women of New York: Know Your Rights on Sex Discrimination

Two weeks ago, ABB launched The Working Woman’s Pocket Guide. The guide provides a user-friendly way for women in New York to understand their rights in the workplace, from sexual harassment to equal pay to paid family leave to healthcare coverage, and much more. For the next few weeks, we’re going to bring the guide to you, breaking down each section.

Today, we are spotlighting your rights if you believe you are being discriminated against in the workplace because of your sex or gender.

If you work in New York, you are legally protected from discrimination based on your sex pursuant to federal, state, and local laws.

What is sex discrimination?

Sex discrimination in the workplace is when your employer treats you less favorably than other employees because of your sex or gender. Sexual discrimination includes pregnancy discriminationsexual harassmentsex stereotyping, and pay and benefits discrimination.

Am I covered?

If you work for, or are applying to work for, an employer in New York State who has four or more employees, then you are covered by sex discrimination laws.

What are some examples of sex discrimination in the workplace?

For sex discrimination to be illegal, your employer’s behavior has to have some kind of negative effect on the “terms or conditions” of your employment. This can include not being hired, being demoted or fired, changes to your job role and responsibilities, changes to your schedule or job location, changes to your pay, or failure to get a promotion because of your sex.

For example:

  • It could mean your boss doesn’t hire you because, despite your excellent qualifications, some company clients are more comfortable dealing with men.
  • It could mean your employer doesn’t promote you because they assume you’re about to get pregnant or that a woman wouldn’t want to do a particular job.
  • It could mean your boss pays a man with similar training and work experience more than you.

Do I also have protections if I’m discriminated against based on my sexual orientation?

Yes, you have a separate legal right not to be discriminated against based on your sexual orientation. Sexual orientation discrimination is when your employer treats you less favorably than other employees because of your actual or perceived sexual orientation.

What happens if my employer punishes me for reporting sex discrimination or opposing their discriminatory practices?

It is illegal for your employer to punish you or retaliate against you for reporting sex discrimination (either to your employer or to a government agency) or opposing your employer’s discriminatory practices.

For example, your employer cannot:

  • Fire or demote you.
  • Cut your hours or pay.
  • Force you to take a leave.
  • Reassign you to a different job, shift, or location.
  • Issue a disciplinary write-up.
  • Take away job responsibilities from you.

Do I have additional rights if I work in New York City?

Yes, in New York City, there are explicit protections stating employers cannot discriminate against you based on your gender identity. This means they cannot treat you less favorably than other employees because of your actual or perceived gender identity.

  • Note:  New York State has also issued regulations making it clear that employers cannot discriminate against you based on your actual or perceived gender identity.

A couple additional notes:

  • These laws apply to you regardless of your immigration or citizenship status.
  • The information listed in this section does not constitute legal advice. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney about your individual circumstances if you have questions or think your rights as a worker have been violated. 

To view a .pdf version of the Working Woman’s Pocket Guide, click here.

If you believe you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about your rights, we are here to help. A Better Balance’s free, confidential legal hotline can help you understand your workplace rights. We offer services in English and Spanish. Call us at (212) 430–5982.

This blog post is part of an ongoing series.