Harassing a Transgender Employee in New York Is Illegal

Genetic identity is a protected class

Recently a situation arose where management and employees were harassing a transgender employee in a New York bar and pizzeria. Employers should be aware that doing so violates federal and New York State discrimination law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a lawsuit against the establishment.

Details of the case that the EEOC brought against the bar and pizzeria

TC Wheelers, Inc.  operates T.C. Wheelers Bar & Pizzeria in Tonawanda, New York. The EEOC claims one of the employers repeatedly harassed Quinn J. Gambino, a transgender male. The harassment included making comments such as stating he wasn’t a real man and asking whether she had female parts. In addition, they intentionally used female pronouns (she and her) when referring to Gambino and allowed employees and customers to do the same. They also denigrated being transgender by saying it was the same as pedophilia.

Gambino, who was employed as a cook complained many times to management. However, management failed to protect the employee. Eventually, to escape the harassment, Gambino resigned.

Prior to filing a lawsuit, the EEOC attempted to reach a settlement through their conciliation process. They are seeking back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages on behalf of Gambino. The EEOC is also seeking injunctive relief to remedy and prevent a future similar reoccurrence.

What laws does harassing a transgender employee violate?

Transgender harassment is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it is a form of sex discrimination, and the Civil Rights Act prohibits sex discrimination. The New York State Human Rights Law also prohibits discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation. In addition, in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination done to them because they are gay or transgender.

As an employer, do you have legal questions about discrimination?

If you have questions or concerns, it is wise to get a legal opinion. You can consult with our attorneys at Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C. We are glad to provide you with experienced legal guidance. Call (718) 275-6500 to arrange an appointment.