Last week, New York’s Governor Cuomo signed into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The new law, which had languished in the New York legislature for nearly 16 years, will go into effect in 30 days. GENDA makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression in employment, housing, education or public accommodations. A number of cities and counties in New York, including New York City, Albany, Binghamton and Westchester County (among others) have already enacted legislation with these protections, as have many other states, including Connecticut. Most observers credit the passage of GENDA to the new democratic majority in the state’s Senate.
GENDA defines the legally protected characteristic as “a person’s actual or perceived identity, appearance, behavior, expression or other gender related characteristic…” and includes the status of being transgender. Other legal protections in the legislation include amendments to New York’s criminal law on hate crimes to include offenses motivated by gender identity or expression. New York employers should review their non-discrimination policy statements, including any anti-harassment policies, to incorporate these protections.