Under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), businesses can face hefty fines – even up to $250,000 – for failing to use people’s preferred gender pronouns.
Under “Failing to Use an Individual’s Preferred Name or Pronoun” – a section of the New York Commission on Human Rights’ Legal Guidance Enforcement – it points out that some people prefer gender pronouns that are neither male nor female – or, gender-neutral pronouns: “Some transgender and gender non-conforming people prefer to use pronouns other than he/him/his or she/her/hers, such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir.”
“Ze” is a gender-neutral nominative case pronoun pronounced like “zee.” “Hir” is ze’s objective case counterpart pronounced like “hear.” The possessive form is “hirs,” pronounced like “hears.”
The New York Commission on Human Rights lists these as examples of violations of the NYCHRL:
- “Intentional or repeated refusal to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun or title. For example, repeatedly calling a transgender woman “him” or “Mr.” after she has made clear which pronouns and title she uses.
- Refusal to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun, or title because they do not conform to gender stereotypes. For example, calling a woman “Mr.” because her appearance is aligned with traditional gender-based stereotypes of masculinity.
- Conditioning an individual’s use of their preferred name on obtaining a court-ordered name change or providing identification in that name. For example, a covered entity may not refuse to call a transgender woman her preferred name, Jane, because her identification says that her first name is John.
- Requiring an individual to provide information about their medical history or proof of having undergone particular medical procedures in order to use their preferred name, pronoun, or title.”
To avoid penalties, the New York Commission on Human Rights advises businesses to adopt policies requiring that employees ask everyone for his/her/hirs name and preferred gender pronoun. Under the “Penalties in Administrative Actions” section, it reads:
“The Commission can impose civil penalties up to $125,000 for violations, and up to $250,000 for violations that are the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct. The amount of a civil penalty will be guided by the following factors, among others:
* The severity of the particular violation;
* The existence of previous or subsequent violations;
* The employer’s size, considering both the total number of employees and its revenue; and
* The employer’s actual or constructive knowledge of the NYCHRL.
These penalties are in addition to the other remedies available to people who successfully resolve or prevail on claims under the NYCHRL, including, but not limited to, back and front pay, along with other compensatory and punitive damages. The Commission may consider the lack of an adequate anti-discrimination policy as a factor in determining liability, assessing damages, and mandating certain affirmative remedies.”
The New York City Human Rights Law is found in Title 8 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York.