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New York Human Rights Commission Investigating Women’s Only Workplaces

In this Thursday, May 12, 2016 file photo, signage is seen outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. Ten states sued the federal government Friday, July 8, 2016 over rules requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms conforming to their gender identity, joining a …
AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File

The New York Human Rights Commission is investigating a women’s only workspace startup called The Wing based on its women’s only policies.

The Wing, a women-only coworking space and social club, is currently facing an investigation from the New York Human Rights Commission over its gender-exclusive business practices.

“In NYC, no one should be discriminated against or harassed because of their gender,” the New York City Commission on Human Rights wrote on Twitter. “@NYCCHR uses every resource at our disposal to hold violators accountable and get justice for victims.”

Despite the investigation, The Wing has attracted $32 million in funding from investors such as WeWork, the coworking start-up that has facilities in major cities throughout the United States.

Audrey Gelman, The founder of The Wing, says that investigation does not worry her. She is convinced that the New York Human Rights Commission will rule that, because the organization operates as a private club, they are free to discriminate on the basis of gender.

Quite surprisingly, the Commission reached out to us on the first day of Women’s History Month. That call has resulted in nothing more than an agreement to meet and have a conversation — in fact, we have been assured that the de Blasio Administration fully supports the mission of The Wing and will work with us to see it prosper. Because of the history of women in this country — and even more so in this time we live in — it is important to protect and foster the work of The Wing and similar space that give women a positive and safe space to thrive.

Male organizations like the Boy Scouts and the Knights of Columbus operate on the American right to freedom of association. Private clubs, such as those mentioned, are free to discriminate on the basis of gender. However, some suggest that The Wing may violate discrimination laws because they, unlike the Boy Scouts, offer a specific service. In this case, it’s a coworking space.

Attorney Karen Dunn, who is representing The Wing, says she welcomes the investigation.  “We are looking forward to a productive talk with [the Commission],” Dunn said. “After all, last I checked, human rights included empowering women not taking more away from them. The law recognizes this too and is consistent with The Wing’s values and mission.”

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