New York's transgender community scored a major victory Aug. 9 when the New York State Supreme Court found transgendered people are protected under the same laws that outlaw religious and racial discrimination.
The issue reached the court when high-class New York City restaurant Equus terminated employee Eric Buffong. Born Erica Buffong, Buffong accused his employer of discrimination due to his transgender status. According to Buffong, restaurant employees began ridiculing and taunting him after they discovered an old yearbook picture of him when he was female. Buffong also alleges that employees changed his name on the schedule from "Eric" to "Erica."
Unlike the New York City Human Rights Law, which specifically includes transgendered people, the New York State legislature had not adopted proposed language that included the specific term. However, New York Supreme Court Justice Joan B. Lefkowitz ruled that the plaintiff's claim falls within the liberal interpretation of the Human Rights law, which will allow Buffong to continue with his $3 million suit against his former employer.
"Case law supports the view that a transgendered person states a claim pursuant to New York State's Human Rights Law on the grounds that the word 'sex' in the statute covers transsexuals," Lefkowitz wrote.