A substance abuse center that refused to serve transgender people is one of four facing action in New York over discriminatory policies.
The NYC Commission on Human Rights this week filed four complaints against substance abuse centers across the City for discriminatory policies involving the intake of transgender patients.
The complaints, filed on behalf of the City, come after the Commission investigated reports of discrimination from advocates.
Following tips from the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, the Commission began testing substance abuse centers for discriminatory practices.
The Commission’s testers approached more than a dozen substance abuse centers citywide to inquire whether the centers accepted transgender patients for treatment and where those patients would be housed.
The Commission found that one center outright refused to accept transgender patients, telling a Commission tester that “no, we don’t [accept transgender patients].”
Representatives at other centers told Commission testers that transgender women would be housed according to their gender assigned at birth, in violation of gender identity protections under the NYC Human Rights Law.
One representative said that “people with moving male parts would be housed with men,” while another said “it depends on how far along the person is in the process.” Representatives also said that they perform physical examinations on transgender patients to determine whether they are on hormone medication or have had surgery.
It has been illegal in New York City to discriminate against individuals based on their gender identity since 2002, when the New York City Council passed legislation to include gender identity as a protected class under the NYC Human Rights Law.
The rehab centres could face fines of up to $250,000 over discriminatory practises.
Noah Lewis of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund had made the tip, after hearing of transgender people being turned away from the centers.
He said: “People seeking drug treatment are being turned away simply because they’re transgender. That’s unacceptable.
“Transgender people are disproportionately discriminated against in their daily lives, at their jobs, in restaurants, and on the street. Enough is enough. No one seeking treatment for drug use should be met with discrimination or harassment, and I’m glad the Commission is taking action so that people seeking treatment can get the help they need.”
The centers include Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (Brooklyn), Addicts Rehabilitation Center (Manhattan), Promesa Residential Health Care Facility (Bronx), and the Thomas and Marie White Health Center (Queens).
The Commission’s complaints, filed by its Law Enforcement Bureau, charge the centers with gender identity discrimination for refusing to accept transgender patients and for discriminatory housing policies, including assigning rooms based on a patient’s gender assigned at birth rather than their gender identity, subjecting patients to physical examinations, and forcing transgender patients into separate rooms.
The substance abuse centers involved in these investigations have been notified of the alleged violations and the Commission continues the investigations.
New York’s First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the city’s mental health and substance misuse efforts, said: “The last thing New Yorkers battling addiction, depression, or any mental health challenges need is discrimination and harassment at the door.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals deserve to be treated with respect and dignity when receiving health services, just like anyone else. I am proud to live in a city that fights for transgender rights and look forward to further strengthening anti-discrimination protections for all New Yorkers.”
The Deputy Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Hollis V. Pfitsch. said: “At a time when the federal government is rolling back LGBTQ protections, New York City is doubling down on its efforts to make sure everyone is treated equally and with respect.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have been targets of bias and discrimination for far too long. The Commission fights to protect every person regardless of their gender identity in New York City and will hold accountable anyone who discriminates against another person for being who they are. In New York City, everyone has the right to be themselves without hatred, violence, or discrimination.”
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said: “New York City welcomes all genders, gender identities, and gender expression — this includes health care facilities.
“I applaud the Commission on Human Rights’ efforts to redress these facilities and ensure that those who need help can get it without being discriminated against.”