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This blog introduces you to Part V of our ongoing series on what the employment and labor law in New York says about harassment, discrimination, & retaliation in the workplace. Having covered on a myriad of issues, including the applicable laws, coverage (for both employee and employer), and individual liability under the different laws, it is now time to switch gears and explore a new topic. As the title suggests, this blog is concerned with the particular classes that are protected from workplace harassment, discrimination, & retaliation in New York and the laws that have such provisions.

Before we dive in, it is crucial to mention that any information regarding these laws, and as discussed in this blog, was current as of May 15, 2021.

For starters, you might want to know whether there are any particular classes of employees in New York that are protected against unlawful conduct and workplace harassment, discrimination, & retaliation. The answer is “Yes!” As we have mentioned in our past blogs, New York employees are protected against workplace harassment, discrimination, & retaliation pursuant to several laws that include the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) (NYC Administrative Code 8-101 et seq.), the New York Equal Pay Act (N.Y. Lab. Law § 194), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) (N.Y. Exec. Law § 290 et seq.), and the Reproductive Health Discrimination Protection (N.Y. Lab. Law § 203-e).

Protected Classes under Each Law


Closer to home, the NYCHRL is very comprehensive when it comes to protections against workplace-related harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The law protects New York employees, unpaid interns, and applicants from such conduct based on perceived or actual:

Race (encompasses discrimination based on hair).


  • As provided for under NYC Administrative Code § 8- 102, the NYCHRL defines “gender” as gender expression, gender identity, perceived or actual sex, including an individual’s perceived or actual gender-related expression, behavior, appearance, self-image, or other gender-related attributes, irrespective of the sex assigned to that individual at birth.
  • Note that in order to reflect the NYCHRL’s updated definition of gender and to define gender-related terms, the New York City Commission on Human Rights amended its rules, effective March 9, 2019.
  • Within the provisions of the NYCHRL, the gender expression of a person does not need to conform to gender expectations, norms, or stereotypes. As provided for under Rules of the City of New York, tit. 47, § 2-01, “gender expression” is defined by the amended rules as an individual’s gender representation, as expressed through the specific person’s voice, behavior, hairstyle, name, clothing, pronouns, or similar attributes.
  • Moving on, an individual’s gender may be male, female, neither or both (i.e., non-binary). As provided for under the Rules of the City of New York, tit. 47, § 2-01, “gender identity” regards the internal deeply held sense of an individual’s gender, which may be different or the same as the one assigned at birth.


  • As provided for under the Rules of the City of New York, tit. 47, § 2-01, the NYCHRL recognizes that “sex” is a combination of a variety of attributes that include, but not limited to gender identity, breast development, vocal pitch, facial hair, external & internal reproductive organs, hormones, and chromosomes.


  • NOTE: As clearly provided for under NYC Administrative Code § 8- 107, subd.1, the NYCHRL has no age limitation, as compared to the NYSHRL (applies to employees age 18 and over) and the federal ADEA (applies to employees age 40 and over).
  • Color.
  • Disability.
  • National origin.

Sexual orientation.

  • “Sexual orientation,” as defined under the NYCHRL, encompasses a person’s perceived or actual sexual, physical, or romantic attractions to other persons, or lack thereof, based on gender, effective May 11, 2018.
  • As provided for under NYC Administrative Code § 8-102, the definition recognizes the existence of a continuum of sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, pansexuality, homosexuality, asexuality, and bisexuality.
  • Alienage or citizenship status.
  •  Domestic partnership status.
  • Marital status.
  • Religion.

Sexual and reproductive health decisions. “Sexual and reproductive health decisions” were added, effective May 20, 2019, to the list of protected classes under the NYCHRL and defined as any decisions by the employee to receive services that are provided or offered or arranged for persons relating to the reproductive system and its functions. As provided for under NYC Administrative Code § 8-102, sexual and reproductive health decisions encompass, but not limited to:

  • Family planning services and counseling
  • Emergency contraception
  • Fertility-related medical procedures
  • Access to all medically approved birth control supplies and drugs
  • HIV counseling and testing
  • Testing and treatment of sexually transmitted disease
  • Abortion procedures
  • Pregnancy testing
  • Sterilization procedures
  • Status as a victim of stalking, sex offenses, or domestic violence
  • Pregnancy or conditions related to childbirth

Caregiver status. Under the NYCHRL, a “caregiver” is considered to be an individual who provides direct and ongoing care to a care recipient or minor child. As recognized by the law, a care recipient is a person with a disability who:

  • Relies on the caregiver to meet the needs of daily living or for medical care
  • Is an individual or covered relative who resides in the caregiver’s household

NOTE: A “covered relative” encompasses any of these:

  • The parent or child of the caregiver’s domestic partner or spouse
  • A caregiver’s grandparent, child, sibling, parent, domestic partner, spouse, or child
  • Any other individual sharing a familial relationship with the caregiver as the City Commission on Human designates.
  • Consumer credit history.
  • Unemployment status.

Uniformed service. The NYCHRL protects persons from discrimination based on uniformed service, which encompasses:

  • Prior or current service in:
  • The U.S. armed forces
  • The army national guard
  • The commissioned corps of the United States public health services
  • The air national guard
  • The organized militia of New York or any other state territory, or possession of the United States
  • The commissioned corps of the national atmospheric and oceanic administration
  • Any other service designated as uniformed services by 38 U.S.C. § 4303(16)
  • Membership in the U.S. armed forces reserves
  • Being listed on the state retired list or state reserve list of an organized militia for any possession, territory, or state of the United States
  • Salary history.
  • Association or relationship with an individual in one of the protected classes.
  • Prior criminal arrest or prosecution that was terminated favorably for the individual.
  • Prior criminal conviction when such denial is in violation of N.Y. Correct. Law § 752.

Unemployed Persons

As provided for under NYC Administrative Code § 8-107, subd. 21(1)–(2), the NYCHRL also protects unemployed individuals against certain discrimination conduct, especially when it comes to screening and hiring, which we have discussed in a past blog accessible at

New York Equal Pay Act

Based on their status with one or more protected classes, employees are entitled to protections from a differential in the pay rate under the New York Equal Pay Act, effective October 8, 2019. Classes protected under this law include:

  • Race.
  • Age.
  • Sex.
  • Color.
  • Creed.
  • Military status.
  • National origin.
  • Gender expression or identity.
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Predisposing genetic characteristics.
  • Domestic violence victim status.
  • Disability.
  • Marital status.
  • Familial status.
  • Any intern or employee protected from discrimination under N.Y. Exec. Law § 296-c and under N.Y. Exec. Law § 296(a)–(c), respectively.


Employees and unpaid interns in New York are protected from discrimination by the NYSHRL based on:

  • Race.
  • Color.
  • Perceived or actual sexual orientation.
  • Age (with regards to individuals from 18 years and more).
  • Sex (including pregnancy).
  • National origin.
  • Disability.
  • Military status.
  • Prior criminal conviction (specifically when the employer’s use of the conviction information is in violation of N.Y. Correct. Law § 752).
  • Predisposing genetic characteristics.
  • Marital status.
  • Religion.
  • Prior prosecution or criminal arrest (particularly that which was terminated favorably for the individual).
  • Status as a domestic violence victim.
  • Familial status.
  • Gender expression or identity (including an individual’s transgender status). Additions to these factors include:
  • Gender dysphoria – as provided for under 9 NYCRR § 466.13, the State Division of Human Rights adopted regulations prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender dysphoria, transgender status, gender identity.
  • Race-based hair discrimination – as provided for under N.Y. Exec. Law § 292(37), (38), traits historically associated with race, including protective hairstyles (such as twists, locks, and braids) and hair texture are included as part of the NYSHRL’s definition of race, effective July 12, 2019.

Reproductive Health Discrimination Protection

  • As provided for under N.Y. Lab. Law § 203-e(1), employees are protected from discrimination by the New York State Labor Law based on the employee’s or their dependent’s decision making on reproductive health, including, but not limited to the decision to access or use a given medical service, device, or drug.

In a nutshell, if you belong to any of these protected classes, you can bring forth a harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation claim under any of these laws against your employer. As a resilient and dependable legal services firm, we, here at Miletti Law®, would be glad to hold your hand and show you the way. Therefore, if you have any questions and/or comments, please let us know at the Contact Us page! Otherwise, stay tuned for more guidance and counsel and always be #UnusuallyMotivated!

Always rising above the bar,

Isaac T.,

Legal Writer & Author.