Understanding Your Rights: What Are the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Laws in New York?

Navigating the legal landscape can be challenging, mainly concerning personal rights and protections. How are individuals protected under New York’s sexual orientation discrimination laws in employment, housing, and public accommodations? This article will provide a comprehensive overview of federal and state legal protections, detailing the scope and enforcement mechanisms that safeguard individuals against discrimination based on their sexual orientation in New York.

The Legal Landscape: Federal and State Protections

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has affirmed that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace is prohibited under federal law, specifically under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This decision ensures that employees across the United States, including those in New York, are protected against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

In addition to federal protections, New York State provides robust safeguards through the New York State Human Rights Law. This law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other characteristics.

Key Provisions in New York Law

New York has been at the forefront of protecting LGBTQ+ rights. The state’s legal framework includes several provisions that reinforce and expand upon federal protections:

  1.  Comprehensive Coverage: The New York State Human Rights Law covers employers of all sizes. This is particularly important as the federal Title VII applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. In New York, even employees of smaller businesses receive protection from discrimination.
  2.  Explicit Protections: New York law explicitly lists sexual orientation as a protected characteristic. This clarity ensures that there is no ambiguity about the illegality of discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation.
  3.  Public Accommodations: Beyond employment, discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited in public accommodations, such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation services. This broad coverage ensures a wider sphere of protection for individuals.
  4.  Harassment Protections: New York law recognizes and addresses sexual orientation harassment in the workplace. It obliges employers to create a safe environment free from harassment, and victims have the right to seek legal remedies.

Recent Developments and Enforcement

The Division of Human Rights enforces the New York State Human Rights Law. It allows individuals to file complaints if they are discriminated against. The process includes investigation, mediation, and the potential for legal proceedings if a violation is found.

Additionally, New York City offers further protections. The New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the nation. It applies to many areas of public life and includes strong protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Practical Steps for Individuals

For individuals who believe they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation in New York, there are several steps they can take:

  • Document the Incident: Keep detailed records of any incidents of discrimination, including dates, times, locations, and the names of any witnesses.
  • Report Internally: If possible, report the discrimination to your employer according to the procedures outlined in your employee handbook.
  • File a Complaint: You can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is important to note that there are time limits for filing these complaints, typically within one year of the incident.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consulting with an attorney specializing in discrimination law can guide the best action and help ensure your rights are fully protected.


The combination of federal and state laws in New York provides substantial protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. These laws prohibit such discrimination in various spheres of public life and provide mechanisms for enforcement and redress. Understanding these protections empowers individuals to stand against discrimination and fosters a more inclusive society.

Legal Guidance

If you believe you have been discriminated against, contact the experienced Civil Rights Law Firm of Figeroux and Associates today. Call 855-768-8875 or visit www.askthelawyer.us to schedule an appointment.

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