New York employers should take note that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed and settled its first transgender discrimination lawsuit. In April 2015, the EEOC brought the suit against Lakeland Eye Clinic in Florida (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/4-13-15.cfm) but avoided trial by negotiating a pre-litigation settlement for $150,000 during its conciliation process.
The issue being litigated involved discrimination based on sex, alleging that the company fired its Director of Hearing Services after the employee began to present as a women, transitioning from male to female. The employee had performed at her job satisfactorily throughout her tenure as director, and the lawsuit alleged that she was fired because she became transgender and the company claimed this change did not conform with the employer's gender-based stereotypes. However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees against sex discrimination. The EEOC commended Lakeland Eye Clinic for settling the dispute and agreeing to provide its managers and employees with training that educated them against transgender discrimination.
At the federal level, this is a landmark case that sets a precedent for other transgender anti-discrimination cases brought before the EEOC.
At a state level, New York has had laws in place since 2002, under The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) (http://www.ag.ny.gov/civil-rights/sonda-brochure), which prohibit discrimination in employment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, and this also extends to transgender issues.
If you are a business owner and have questions or disputes involving sexual orientation discrimination, Stephen Hans & Associates (http://www.hansassociates.com/) can help. Our firm provides representation to companies involved in anti-discrimination litigation and brings decades of experience to every case we handle.