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Workplace Discrimination Against LGBT People and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination

lgbt-pride-flagThe issue of discrimination against LGBT people is again making legal headlines as a federal appeals court in Atlanta recently ruled that Title VII does not include within it a protection for workers who suffer discrimination based upon their sexual orientation. A federal appeals court in Chicago reached a similar conclusion last year. Fortunately for LGBT people in New Jersey, this state’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) provides clear and unmistakable prohibitions against workplace discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The very recent federal case involved a security guard from Georgia. She dressed (in terms of hairstyle and clothing) in a manner that was generally considered to be stereotypically masculine. She was also a lesbian. She allegedly suffered both discrimination and harassment on the job, up to and including physical battery.

The guard sued on the basis of sexual orientation discrimination, but she lost that claim. The federal trial court and a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals both agreed that the federal law (Title VII) didn’t contain a provision barring discrimination based upon sexual orientation. The case did not entirely end there, as the guard was allowed to continue pursuing a claim that the employer violated Title VII by improperly discriminating against her based upon her appearance that did not conform to traditional gender stereotypes.

A lesbian community college professor in Indiana received a similar outcome. A three-judge panel upheld a trial court ruling for the employer, concluding that the professor’s case was one of sexual orientation discrimination and that Title VII did not allow such cases.

In New Jersey, workers who suffer discrimination on the job have much stronger options for relief available to them. The LAD clearly includes sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination in its prohibitions.

In New Jersey, if you are an LGBT person who is the victim of workplace discrimination based upon your orientation or gender identity, you can bring a LAD case. In pursuing that claim, your case goes forward under a procedure originally crafted by the federal courts. This McDonnell Douglas test, named for the case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, requires the discriminated employee to prove a “prima facie case of discrimination.” In this context, that would mean a worker establishing that she is an LGBT person and that she suffered discrimination based upon her sexual orientation or gender identity.

After that, the burden then shifts to the employer to prove that it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action it took against the employee. If the employer can provide such evidence, then the employee becomes responsible for proving that the employer’s stated reason for acting was really just a pretext for impermissible discrimination.

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination is unmistakable in including prohibitions against employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. If you’re an LGBT person who has suffered discrimination or harassment at work, contact the New Jersey discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys are aware of the very personal nature of these situations and have decades of combined experience representing clients who have faced the same or similar types of mistreatment as you. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to set up a confidential consultation with one of our skilled and experienced attorneys.

More blog posts:

New Jersey Supreme Court Upholds $1.4M Emotional Damage Award in Race Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, March 16, 2017

NJ Supreme Court: Employers Cannot Force Employees to Accept Shortened Period for Pursuing Discrimination Claims, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2017

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