Articles Posted in Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity Discrimination

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One common form of socio-political discussion is to make reference to the current year as a precursor to asserting that we, as a society, should be past certain un-evolved behaviors. Regrettably, the news keeps reminding us that this, too often, isn’t true. One area where the news provided yet another stark reminder of that was the case of the highly offensive and discriminatory anti-LGBT conduct allegedly taking place at one New Jersey police department, as reported by nj.com and other sources.

There are many types of discrimination one can encounter at work. Unfortunately, being a member of certain groups and working in certain professions further increases that risk. Even though, here in 2019, we might like to believe that we’ve moved past that, the opposite is true too many times in too many places. If you’ve suffered as a result of this kind of discrimination or harassment at your job, be sure to fight back with strong representation from a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney.

This blog has discussed previously the disappointing prevalence of anti-LGBT discrimination at New Jersey law enforcement agencies. A settlement reached recently by seven officers at one central New Jersey police department, and reported by nj.com, was just one of the latest examples.

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In a perfect world, discrimination in the workplace would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, employment discrimination remains a reality for lots of people in New Jersey. What’s worse is the extensiveness to which certain groups face this kind of discrimination or harassment simply due to their chosen profession, such as women in STEM careers, where roughly half have experienced discrimination, according to a 2018 report from NBC News. Regrettably, women in STEM are not the only ones who face these sorts of improper hurdles every day on the job. Regardless of your profession, if you’ve been harmed by improper bias at work, contact a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney to discuss your legal options.

In addition to the example of women in STEM careers, another group in New Jersey that appears to be facing substantial problems in terms of employment bias are gay law enforcement officers. Recently, a North Jersey officer found it necessary to litigate based upon the anti-gay bias he was encountering at his job. The officer, J.T., alleged that he was “subject to discrimination and homophobic comments as a police officer in the borough,” according to a NorthJersey.com report.

Unfortunately, J.T. was not alone. In another nearby Bergen County borough, R.D. was allegedly fired in a case of anti-gay bias and retaliation. According to the officer, he objected to a borough councilman’s use of anti-gay slurs in relation to a school board member and, shortly after he complained, the borough trumped up charges against him and fired him, NorthJersey.com reported.

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There’s a lot that goes into producing a successful result in a New Jersey discrimination litigation matter. Certainly, there is the questioning of witnesses and the presentation of persuasive legal arguments at trial, but the work that goes on before your trial is just as important. One of the most important of those pre-trial steps is discovery, which involves obtaining documents and various information from the other side. Sometimes, effective pre-trial actions lay the groundwork for a favorable verdict, while other times, they can produce the possibility of reaching a beneficial settlement and avoiding trial altogether.

Obtaining the information you need in the discovery process involves more than just knowing how to make the right requests; it also involves knowing what to do when the other side rejects your valid request. As you take on this and other parts of your case, make certain you have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney handling your case from the very start.

A case from North Jersey, on which nj.com reported, was an example of the importance of pre-trial efforts. J.T. was a police officer. According to a Law Against Discrimination lawsuit he filed, the officer, who was gay, alleged that he had been the victim of sexual orientation discrimination at work. As a public employee, the officer had multiple options for seeking information that he thought might help his case. In addition to other steps, the officer could seek to lay hands on information using statutory means, such as making an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for disclosure, which is one thing that J.T. did.

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When it comes to negative comments and harsh behavior targeted against you because you are LGBTQ, it is important understand exactly what the breadth of legal protection is in New Jersey when it comes to discrimination law. New Jersey law is clear that LGBTQ people are a protected class and that employment discrimination based upon gender identity or sexual orientation is a violation of the law. What’s more, while it is true that (as New Jersey courts have stated in the past) the Law Against Discrimination isn’t a code for policing general civility or politeness in the workplace, comments made by co-workers or supervisors can very definitely form the foundation of a successful LAD lawsuit when those comments go beyond just being rude and instead display a clear prejudice against you based upon your sexual orientation or gender identity. When that happens and it impacts your ability to do your job to the best of your capabilities, you may be entitled to compensation. In that situation, you should contact a New Jersey discrimination attorney to discover more about your options.

A recently filed lawsuit, as reported by nj.com, provides an example. J.L. was a social worker for a southwestern New Jersey school district. J.L., who was a gay man, reported to the director of special services in the fall of 2016 that he was taking classes to become a foster parent. Allegedly, the director made multiple disparaging comments about J.L.’s participation in the classes and his efforts to become a foster parent.

The numerous comments included things like, “You don’t need foster kids, you need to find a woman and have kids with a woman,” and, “You don’t need kids, just get another pet,” according to the social worker. The social worker was also allegedly told that he did not need children, that he was not a “real parent” and that he did not deserve to be allowed to use family personal days to take his foster kids to their medical appointments, nj.com reported.

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There many different types of ways that LGBT people can suffer discrimination in the workplace. Sometimes, LGBT people suffer employment discrimination simply because of who they are. Other times, though, the discriminatory animus arises not from the employee’s orientation or identity per se, but from the way in which the LGBT employee expresses him or herself. Regardless of whether your discrimination arose directly from your sexual orientation or indirectly based upon others’ perceptions of your gender expression as insufficiently conforming to their gender stereotypes, it is possible that you’ve suffered illegal discrimination. To learn more about your legal options, including going to court and seeking monetary compensation, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

People make all kinds of assumptions and engage in all manner of stereotyping when it comes to gender. Last year, an employee in California won a motion hearing in court and was permitted to proceed to trial on his claim that his employer fired him for being “too gay.” Specifically, the employee alleged that the employer took negative action not because he was homosexual but because he was gay and chose hairstyles and clothing accessories the employer considered insufficiently masculine.

If something of a similar nature happens to you in New Jersey, can you successfully sue your employer? Yes, you quite possibly can. New Jersey’s employment discrimination law forbids workplace discrimination based upon sexual orientation. It also bars employment discrimination based upon gender stereotypes.

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In discrimination cases, you can attempt to prove the existence of discrimination by showing that your employer’s practices and policies disproportionately harmed people of a protected class, which is called “disparate impact.” Alternatively, you can show that the employer treated you, a member of a protected class, less favorably than a comparable co-worker who was not a member of a protected class, which is “disparate treatment.” Each of these techniques requires presenting certain types of evidence to the court. To ensure that your discrimination case is as persuasive as possible, make sure that you have retained a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney to represent you.

One example of a disparate treatment case was a lawsuit filed by an employee named Harold. Harold was a store manager at a pharmacy. At some point while on the job, Harold suspected a photo technician’s daughter of shoplifting. Harold did not report the shoplifting to his supervisors at first. Only when the daughter stole a customer’s wallet did Harold take action, contacting police. This was a failure to follow the company’s “loss prevention” policies. Allegedly due to Harold’s failure to follow those policies, the employer terminated Harold’s employment.

The manager sued his employer for discrimination. According to his claim, the failure to follow the policy was only a pretext for the real reasons he lost his job. Harold, a 61-year-old gay man, asserted that age and sexual orientation discrimination were the real motivators for his firing.

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One of the more frequently discussed issues within federal employment discrimination litigation is that of sexual orientation discrimination. Following two federal appeals court rulings from 2017 that reached opposite conclusions, some hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would step in and resolve the disagreement with finality. The high court recently decided, however, not to take a case that would have done so, leaving the question up to the various lower federal courts. Employees in New Jersey, however, have greater protections thanks to the Law Against Discrimination. If you suffered from discrimination at work because you are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, you should contact a New Jersey LGBT discrimination attorney to discuss your case and find out more about your rights.

The two federal cases were from Indiana and Georgia. Kimberly was a part-time college professor in South Bend, Indiana. The college rejected her six times for full-time positions and eventually terminated her part-time contract. Believing that the college made those decisions because she was openly lesbian, Kimberly sued the college for a violation of federal employment discrimination law (Title VII). The trial court threw out the professor’s case, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals revived it, ruling, for the first time, that sexual orientation discrimination  was a type of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under Title VII.

Jameka, a security officer at a hospital in Savannah, Ga., faced a different problem. Jameka, although a lesbian, “did not broadcast her sexuality.” What was apparent, however, was her appearance:  her hairstyle, her uniform, her shoes, her walk, and her speech all were more stereotypically male than female. Jameka sued for discrimination. In her case, both the trial court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against her, concluding that her case essentially boiled down to a sexual orientation discrimination case, and Title VII did not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.

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A headline-making new federal court ruling regarding discrimination and the rights of transgender people in the workplace may not immediately affect workers in New Jersey, but it could play a role in the not-too-distant future. The ruling, which allowed a trans woman to pursue a disability discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, is not binding in New Jersey federal cases right now, but it could become so if the Third Circuit of Appeals reaches the issue and adopts the lower court’s conclusion.

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A recent case from Paramus, reported by northjersey.com, provides some helpful insight on how an employee may still be entitled to pursue her rights even in what might appear to be challenging conditions. A guidance counselor and basketball coach sued her former employer for sexual orientation discrimination. Even though the employer in this case was a Catholic school, the trial court and the Appellate Division both ruled that the religion exception did not automatically prevent this employee from pursuing her discrimination case.

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The 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.

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