Monday, December 28, 2009

E.O. provides anti-discrimination protections for gender identity to New York state employees

Add New York to the short list of states extending anti-discrimination protections based on gender identity or expression. Earlier this month, New York Governor David A. Paterson signed Executive Order No. 33, prohibiting any state agency from discriminating against state employees on the basis of gender identity. This includes, but is not limited to, hiring, terminations, job appointments, promotions, recruitment and compensation.

Currently, 12 states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington), the District of Columbia and many municipalities and counties - including the City of New York - have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression by in employment.“For generations, New York has been a national leader on civil rights, yet the state has lagged far behind in securing basic civil rights for transgender New Yorkers. I am proud to sign this important measure to not only bring workforce protection to the transgender community under the law, but to bring greater equality and civil rights to the State of New York,” Governor Paterson said. “From now on, transgender New Yorkers will be protected from discrimination because of who they are.”A longtime civil rights activist, Governor Paterson has supported the LGBT community throughout his public service career, in addition to his support of marriage equality. Shortly after taking office in 2008, the Governor issued a memorandum directing state agencies to recognize same-sex couples legally married outside of New York to the full extent permitted by law.

Under Executive Order No. 33, “gender identity” is defined as “having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression whether or not gender identity, self-image, appearance behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with sex assigned to that person at birth.” The order defines “state agency” to mean “any department, agency division, commission, bureau or other entity of the State over which the Governor has executive power.”

The E.O. requires all managers, supervisors and employees to make “diligent, good faith efforts” to ensure equal opportunity for all employees. The Office of Employee Relations, working with the Executive Director of the Division of Human Rights, is directed to develop and implement “clear and consistent” guidelines to be implemented by state agencies.

Several state legislators expressed support of the December 16th signing of E.O. 33. New York Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said: “For too long, transgender New Yorkers have been denied the basic rights and legal protections others enjoy. Today, New York joins a proud chorus of states, cities and counties across the country who are standing up for the transgender community by prohibiting baseless and inexcusable discrimination. I applaud Governor Paterson for his leadership on this issue and commitment to the civil rights and equal rights movement.” “Governor Paterson deserves great credit for once again demonstrating his commitment to the entire LGBT community. He has carried the cause of transgender rights very far on his own today by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression for employees of New York State agencies,” said New York Senator Thomas K. Duane. “Now, we must redouble our efforts to pass The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would ban discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people across New York State in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life. I have been pushing for this measure since 2002 when then Senate Minority Leader-Paterson and I fought for its inclusion in The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) and we will not stop working until equal protection under the law is a reality for all New Yorkers.”
New York Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner said: “Discrimination against the transgender community - and against people that may not identify as such, but don’t look the way people expect them to - is unacceptable, but all too common. In this difficult economy, workers have enough problems without having to worry that they could lose their job due to bigotry without legal recourse. I am proud to stand next to Governor Paterson today and be part of this important announcement that protects our state employees. Soon, I hope the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) will pass both houses of the legislature, so that all New Yorkers may enjoy these protections.”

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