Sexual Orientation Discrimination

New York State Investigates Boy Scout’s Hiring Practices

Posted in Sexual Orientation Discrimination on May 21, 2015

Boyscout Uniform & US FlagNew York State Investigates Boy Scout’s Hiring Practices

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on whether bans on gay marriage are constitutional has dominated recent headlines, but gay marriage is just one of the important equality issues that LGBT individuals face.  Employment rights are equally important to ensuring that LGBT individuals have the same opportunities for a fulfilling career and quality of life as their heterosexual peers.  Unfortunately, attempts to pass federal laws that would protect LGBT employees from unfair discrimination in the workplace have fallen flat.

New York’s Anti Discrimination Protections

Fortunately, laws in New York State protect these employees.  In the early 2000s, New York passed two pieces of legislation that began providing protections.  The first, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), added sexual orientation as a prohibited basis for discrimination.  The second legislative enactment was an amendment that expanded gender discrimination laws to cover gender expression and identity thereby covering transsexuals.  New York City also has its own laws that protect LGBT employees, and in fact was a leader in establishing that type of law, enacting its laws over 25 years ago.

There are many examples of the New York State and City laws used to protect the employment rights of LGBT individuals, even in cases against large, well-known employers.  In one notable New York City case, Polster v. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a lesbian employee succeeded in a claim against her employer after being subject to relentless harassment and ultimately fired.

Boy Scouts’ Potentially Illegal Discrimination

Recently, news broke that the New York Attorney General’s office is investigating whether the Boy Scouts of America engaged in discriminatory practices against a prospective employee.  The way the issue arose is somewhat unique.  Pascal Tessier was the first openly gay youth to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout under the Boy Scouts’ new policy of allowing gay youth to join its organization.  Tessier, however, recently turned 18 and is prohibited from joining the Scouts as an adult.  They still prohibit adult gay members.

Here’s where the employment issue arises:  Tessier was hired as a summer camp employee by Greater New York Councils.  To work at these camps, membership in the Scouts is required.  As an openly gay adult, Tessier will be unable to obtain membership in the Boy Scouts.  Thus, even though the Boy Scouts may not state “no gays” in their job postings, the policy of requiring adult membership in the Scouts, which gays cannot obtain, has the same effect. Furthermore, if this is an accurate description of the Scouts’ hiring policies, this would likely be in violation of anti-discrimination laws in New York

Tessier has not yet been denied employment – and hopefully won’t be.  New York has recognized that the Boy Scouts’ hiring practices are worth investigating, presumptively because of situations like this.  The investigation is ongoing.

Protecting Your Rights to Be Free From Discrimination

Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or another basis is unfair, unjust, and illegal.  It can be a difficult experience, but it’s not one you need to go through alone.  The experienced employment law attorneys at Joseph & Norinsberg can help you understand and vindicate your rights under the law.  Call us today at (212) JUSTICE or e-mail us at

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