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Workplace conditions are improving for transgender workers

The Civil Rights Act protects workers in New York and around the country against gender-based discrimination. However, the landmark 1964 law did not specifically address the issue of transgender individuals, and the courts have been inconsistent when tasked with determining whether or not Title VII protections apply to them. While the courts and legislators continue to debate the issue, the business community seems to be more than willing to move forward in this area. Indications that things are improving in the workplace for transgender individuals include improvements in the Corporate Equality Index. The CEI is a ranking of Fortune 500 company policies for LGBT workers that is released each year by the Human Rights Campaign. Only 3 percent of the companies included in the index had nondiscrimination policies that addressed gender identity in 2002, but that figure has since risen to 83 percent. The 2018 CEI also reveals that most of America's largest employers now offer their workers transgender-inclusive health insurance plans.

Large corporations are also more likely to make public statements in support of their transgender workers when their rights are questioned by lawmakers. Companies including Apple, Coca-Cola and JP Morgan Chase acted quickly in October when President Trump said that he planned to redefine gender as strictly male or female. However, studies suggest that much still needs to be done. The data shows that transgender workers earn less money, are more likely to be laid off and find obtaining work more difficult.

Attorneys with experience in employment discrimination litigation could encourage employers to settle claims made by transgender workers discretely. This may be especially true in states like New York that have regulations in place to protect transgender workers. Transgender rights have become a hot-button political issue in recent years, and companies that are publicly accused of discriminating against workers based purely on their gender identities could see their reputations tarnished and their bottom lines affected.

Source: The New York State Division of Human Rights, Governor Cuomo Announces New Regulations Protecting Transgender New Yorkers from Discrimination, Press release, Jan. 20, 2016

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