New York state and the federal government took steps last week to protect rights for members of the LBGTQ+ community — both those living in long-term care and employed in the workplace at large.

Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) signed into law a measure to ensure their safety in New York. The new LGBTQ+ and HIV long-term care bill of rights prohibits long-term care facilities and their staffs in the state from discriminating against any resident on the basis of a resident’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or HIV status. This prohibition includes denying admission to a long-term facility, transferring or denying a transfer within a facility or to another facility, or discharging or evicting a resident from a facility.

“LGBTQIA + and HIV-positive seniors are among our most vulnerable populations, and today we are taking steps to ensure that all New Yorkers — regardless of who they are, who they love or their HIV status — find safety and support in places where they need it the most,” the governor stated.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal (D) added that that there is a “tsunami” of older LGBTQ+ and HIV people heading into senior living and care, “meaning that long-term care facilities with LGBTQ+ residents need to adjust to this welcome reality.”

Despite advances in LGBTQ+ non-discrimination policies, it is still difficult for many to feel safe in senior living and other long-term care settings, according to a report previously released by LGBTQI+ elder advocacy group SAGE. 

Federal action

The Department of Labor also moved last week to prevent gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace, calling it a safety issue.

“It affects the mental and physical health of workers, disproportionately impacting women, people of color and LGBTQI+ people,” the Labor Department said Wednesday.

The agency encouraged employers to actively address the risks to vulnerable workers by assessing the worksite to determine what safeguards are needed. Protections may include working in teams, providing “panic buttons” and offering appropriate training, according to guidance from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.  

Written policies to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and harassment tailored to their specific workplaces are a good starting point, the Labor Department noted.

Ultimately, it comes down to changing the corporate culture, the agency said.

“Fostering a safe, respectful and equitable workplace culture is paramount to preventing gender-based violence and harassment. Employers can help change workplace culture by increasing diversity and advancing policies that foster a more inclusive workplace,” the DOL said. “Additionally, employers can proactively create a culture of respect.”