Those with different gender identities face high levels of unemployment, lower incomes and lower rates of high school completion than cisgender counterparts
ALBANY — Transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary people face “pervasive” employment discrimination across New York, a new study by the state Department of Labor found.
The Transgender Employment Study, commissioned through legislation signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in August 2022, was a “first-of-its-kind” look into the experiences of those with different gender identities in the workplace, Hochul’s office said.
The study found that those groups experienced higher rates of unemployment than their cisgender counterparts. The group also experienced lower incomes than cisgender workers with the same degrees, the study found.
Respondents also said that they experienced “genuine fear for safety in the workplace,” with those also identifying as people of color experiencing greater employment disparities.
Robert Vitelli, chief executive officer of the LGBT Network in Queens and Long Island, said the study’s results are not surprising, but that having data will be a major step in addressing the underlying issues.
“This is what we’ve been hearing,” Vitelli said. “The little bit of data that does exist is often just national, so to have something that is definitely more local and specific to New York state is huge.”
Vitelli, whose network works with companies to administer programs to educate employers about transgender inclusion, believes that having the study results will help workplaces see how much training and work needs to be done.
“I think specific to transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary communities, it’s always the same question — pronouns. So what does this mean? What does gender queer mean?” Vitelli said. “We’re just trying to get people to understand what the words mean, and how sexual orientation is different from gender identity.”
Hochul said that the results from the study would allow leaders to take action to remedy identified issues.
“As the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, New York state has maintained a deep commitment to providing greater respect, stronger protections, and better opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community,” Hochul said. “New York remains committed to providing an open and affirming workplace for all workers, and my administration will continue to provide the resources and protections needed for every New Yorker to live free from discrimination.”
New York amended the state’s Human Rights Law with the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which was signed into law in January 2019 by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. It prohibits discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of gender identity and expression.
The bill was passed in the Democrat-led Assembly for 11 consecutive years prior to its enactment, though it stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate until Democrats regained control of that chamber in 2018.
Hochul’s office said that as of October the state Division of Human Rights had received more than 1,200 complaints since the implementation of the 2019 non-discrimination act. The brunt of those complaints related to gender identity discrimination or harassment allegations, with 65 percent of them relating to employment discrimination.
New York also amended additional laws in 2021 intended to strengthen the rights of trans people, including passing the Gender Recognition Act — aimed at simplifying name change and gender marker processes — and repealing a criminal anti-loitering law, commonly called the “Walking While Trans” ban.
The study also found that there is a “lack of cultural competency” across New York on issues of gender identity and expression. It revealed that while New York’s laws include gender identity as a protected class, many employers and employees are not aware of those legal rights.