New York City Law Blog

Your Civil Rights Are Precious

Is my boss legally obligated to use my preferred pronoun?

  • By
  • Law posted:Uncategorized
  • Date:November 25, 2018

Many transgender or intersex individuals prefer to use names and pronouns that do not match the ones they might have been assigned at birth. Sometimes this can be confusing for others, who may slip up occasionally and use the wrong name or pronoun. But sometimes the stubborn and spiteful will refuse to use those names or pronouns, even when someone has made the preference known. If this refusal is happening to you at work, your employer, supervisor or coworkers who are involved can be held accountable. Think of how you felt when you were a child and someone called you a “boy” or a “girl” when you were the opposite gender. The same is true for people who suffer from gender dysphoria, where they do not identify with the sex that biology assigned them at birth.

There are laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment, the most stringent of them in New York City is the NYC Human Rights Law . This law states that you have the right to use your preferred name, even if it does not match your anatomy, medical history, appearance or identification documents. This law also requires employers to use your preferred name, pronoun and title, such as Mr., Ms. or Mrs., in almost all instances.

According to the NYC Human Rights Law, gender discrimination includes discrimination or harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, transgender status and intersex status. This means that if your boss, or someone else at your work, refuses to use your preferred name or pronoun, it is an act of gender discrimination and can be legally pursued as such.

If you have experienced gender discrimination at work, you have up to one year to file a complaint with the NYC Human Rights Commission’s Law Enforcement Bureau. You also have up to three years to file a complaint in the New York State Supreme Court. The legal consequences for the discrimination will be determined based on the specific circumstances of the incident.

Gender discrimination is a serious problem. No one should experience gender harassment or gender discrimination at work, but unfortunately, it still happens. This is why it is important to be aware of your human rights and the ways you can take action if those rights are violated. I spoke on this to some student journalists in a very illuminating interview that you can see on YourTube: Gender Arrest

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