Did BET discriminate against host based on gender performance?

Although there are considerable federal protections that most New Yorkers can rely upon to combat sex discrimination in the workplace, gender identity and gender performance is a much more complex topic. Sex, which is determined biologically, need not align with gender, which is an identity. For celebrity and host B. Scott, who identifies as gender nonconforming, his biological sex — male — and how he presents himself — with long hair, makeup, high heels and feminine clothing — are very different. Whether gender presentation is protected under federal law is a nuanced issue, but it is clear that it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of his or her gender identity in New York City.

Though there is no ban on gender identity discrimination throughout the state, the Williams Institute reports that there are many local governments and cities that have regulated against such discrimination.

For Scott, he has accused Black Entertainment Television of discriminating against him based on his gender expression, gender identity and his sexual orientation. He had been hired by the television company to host a red carpet event prior to the 2013 BET Awards in June, but Scott says BET told him he had to remove his heels and his makeup. Though he changed, he was never put back on the air.

It seems that this discrimination had long been planned after a set of emails was recently leaked. In them, the music programming president apparently wrote that Scott needed to be tamed down in his appearance. Following the event, the president allegedly wrote that the company needed to spin the story to say Scott was late and that it wouldn’t make sense to have him appear on live television.

Scott says these emails are evidence of gender identity discrimination.

Source: The Huffington Post, “BET Emails About Host B. Scott Suggest Network Didn’t Want Him ‘Looking Like A Woman’,” Cavan Sieczkowski, Jan. 9, 2014

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