In The News

Law for Transgender Workers Adds to Employers' Risk

By Will Bredderman
February 5, 2019
Crain's New York

photo of attorney Eve Klein
Eve I. Klein

A new state law shielding transgender and gender-nonconforming employees from bias and discrimination should inspire business owners to make some changes of their own, experts say.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act earlier this month, adding the minority group to the list of protected classes in New York. ...

But one attorney Crain's consulted warned that city employers can expect the state Division of Human Rights to enforce the legislation vigorously.

"When something is new, it gets highlighted in the agency for enforcement," said Eve Klein, head of the labor, employment benefits and immigration practice group at Duane Morris. "The governor has indicated he wants to be really active here."

In a letter, Klein urged her private-sector clients to review their internal policies to make sure they are up to legal standards. This includes providing a variety of gender options on employee forms, respecting and using each employee's preferred pronoun and eliminating separate dress codes with differing standards for men and women.

For instance, a workplace that allows women to wear skirts or high heels must permit every person on its payroll to do so.

But the most contentious territory, as it is in North Carolina and other states, is the bathroom, Klein said. The attorney recalled three cases among her clients in which female employees complained after an individual who appeared male attempted to use the ladies' room.

To circumvent controversy, Klein recommends that building owners and employers convert their current accommodations to gender-neutral, single-occupancy facilities by either installing floor-to-ceiling stall walls or removing urinals entirely—or both.

But Klein said it is more important that managers and executives create an internal culture of tolerance and awareness of modern mores.

"Training is important. A lot of people would be shocked, even today, if they heard that someone who looks like a man can come into a ladies' room," Klein said. "They need to be taught the way it is and explain why that is the right thing to do." ...

The full article can be found on Crain's New York's website.