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Sexual Orientation Discrimination

It’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against any current or potential employee on the basis of that employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants or employees based on sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, and gender identity, along with certain other protected characteristics. A recent Supreme Court decision clarified that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Protection From Discriminatory Adverse Employment Actions

Firing, demoting, failing to hire, or taking other adverse employment actions against an individual because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex. Title VII, enacted in 1964, prohibits discrimination by an employer against an employee based on certain “protected characteristics,” including race, national origin, religion, and sex. It is the law for most employers in both the private and public sectors that have 15 or more employees as well as the federal government, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia140 S.Ct. 1731 (2020), made explicitly clear that discrimination based on a worker’s sexual orientation or transgender status falls under the umbrella of illegal discrimination “based on sex” that Title VII forbids. This ruling means an employer may not use a worker or applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis for taking adverse employment action against them—even if it’s not the only reason or even the primary reason.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII, has made it a top priority to investigate claims against employers on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals experiencing discrimination. If the EEOC determines that an employer has illegally discriminated against a complainant, it may issue fines, penalties, or other consequences to an employer, some of which may not be available in a lawsuit. Victims of discrimination may wish to file a complaint with this agency in addition to or instead of pursuing litigation (filing a lawsuit in court).

Protection for LGBTQ+ Employees in New Jersey

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) already explicitly bans workplace discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, along with other protected characteristics. Its protections also extend beyond the workplace, helping LGBTQ+ individuals combat discrimination in housing, places of public accommodation, credit transactions, and business contracts.

Protection from Harassment

It is generally unlawful for anyone in the workplace to harass an employee based on their gender, sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender expression, including a worker’s supervisors, coworkers, or clients. Illegal harassment is conduct that is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment action (like termination or demotion). If the harassing conduct is intentional, extreme, and outrageous, it may also constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Don’t Wait – Contact an Attorney Today

Victims of discrimination in New Jersey can file employment-related claims with two separate government agencies: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for federal discrimination claims and the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR) for state-law based discrimination claims. Instead of or in addition to filing a claim with these agencies, a victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity may file a lawsuit in state or federal court. An experienced attorney will help you choose which venue and strategy is most appropriate for your situation.

If you believe you may have experienced discrimination on the basis of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or other protected characteristic, you should consult an experienced discrimination attorney. The deadlines to initiate a claim to recover compensation for discrimination vary widely depending on the circumstances of your case, so don’t wait—contact us today.