There are a number of federal and state laws that may apply when someone has been wrongfully fired based on discrimination. An increasing number of these laws, either explicitly or implicitly, have now been applied to employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

If you have been unfairly fired because of your sexual orientation, these laws provide you with recourse, often in the form of an employment discrimination lawsuit. The New York personal injury lawyers at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green are fighting alongside the residents of NYC for workplace justice, especially when it comes to employees being unlawfully terminated because of gender, race, or sexual orientation.

What kind of sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited?

When it comes to employment, any time your employer – or potential employer – treats you differently because of your actual or perceived sexual orientation, they could be breaking the law. This goes regardless of whether the perception is accurate, or whether the discrimination is on-the-job or during the hiring process. It can take the form of differences in compensation, benefits, job assignments, or any other aspect of the job where you have been treated differently.

State and federal anti-discrimination laws

If you are the victim of employment discrimination, it may trigger claims under both federal and state laws. However, in the case of sexual orientation, things are less clear. For example, the official position of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is that discrimination based on sexual orientation falls under already prohibited gender discrimination, but federal court cases in New York have not fallen completely in line when applying federal laws.

New York State has adopted laws protecting workers from harassment and discrimination, and cities and counties have enacted additional protections. Some of the relevant laws include:

  • New York State Human Rights Law – Similar in content to the federal Civil Rights Act, this state law, as well as the New York City Human Rights Law, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. These laws offer wide protection, applying to non-employee workers like contractors, and including provisions for recovery of punitive damages and attorney fees.
  • The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) – This 2003 state law explicitly prohibits discrimination in New York State in employment and many other arenas because of actual or perceived sexual orientation.
  • Local anti-discrimination laws – Counties and municipalities have enacted laws targeting discrimination based on sexual orientation in many contexts, including employment and hiring.
  • Marriage Equality Act – Known primarily for recognizing the right to same-sex marriage, this law also guarantees those in same-sex marriages are eligible for the same insurance and other employment benefits, as well as take advantage of tax benefits, parental rights, and other benefits available to opposite-sex couples.

NY Laws protecting gender identity

Federal and state laws like SONDA often do not explicitly protect transgender New Yorkers, but they can still apply when the discrimination is based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. If you have faced discriminatory employment practices based on your gender identity, it is especially important to speak with an experienced attorney who can determine what laws apply to your situation.

Exceptions to anti-discrimination laws

Not every employer is bound to the protection of New York’s employment discrimination laws. Notable exceptions are religious organizations and their affiliated schools and charities, to the extent that their actions are in line with their stated religious principles.

The network of federal, state, and local protections and exceptions is complex, so you should always discuss your situation with a lawyer to understand your rights.

Options for those who have been fired for sexual orientation

If you have been the target of prohibited workplace discrimination, it is important to formulate a plan before taking action. A claim brought under federal laws must first be filed with the EEOC, and if the agency finds you have a claim, you will have a limited window to sue the employer. If you plan to pursue a claim under state law, you will need to choose whether to file a private lawsuit or a complaint with the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

No matter which route you choose, very important deadlines and filing requirements will apply. Failing to comply with these requirements can jeopardize your rights.

Speak with a civil rights attorney about your case

There is no time to waste if you have been harmed by employment discrimination, so speak with a New York civil rights lawyer at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green as soon as possible. When you speak with a personal injury lawyer, our team will listen with compassion so we can help tell your story.

The attorneys at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green are located in Manhattan and serve clients throughout New York City, including Long Island. Consultations are always free of charge, so call today to schedule yours.