Articles Posted in Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity Discrimination

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In April, we discussed incidences of workers enduring harassment and/or discrimination based on current events. That topic has again risen to the forefront in the wake of the 2022 monkeypox outbreak. Regardless of terrorism at home, war abroad, or a disease outbreak, there’s never a valid reason to discriminate against somebody at work because of their national origin, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. If that has happened to you, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer to discuss what steps you can take.

Back in the early 2000s, many people of Middle Eastern ethnicity and/or of the Islamic faith experienced discrimination and harassment in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. More recently, Chinese and other East Asian people encountered mistreatment when the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage across the United States. People of Russian ancestry encountered issues after the events in Ukraine flared up into war.

Now, there’s another current event and another group being targeted. Monkeypox began to break out overseas in May. In June, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that, of those studied, 95% got monkeypox through sex, and 98% of those with the disease were gay or bisexual men, leading some people to consider monkeypox a “gay disease” and engage in harassment and discrimination against LGBT+ people. In an effort to combat this, the Attorney General’s Office announced the release of a FAQ document related to monkeypox.

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When one endures a hostile work environment, it may occur for many different reasons. It may be due to your race/color, your gender, your religion, your disability, your ethnicity/nationality, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, or some other basis. Other times, you may be a member of more than one of those protected groups and the harassment you receive may be based upon the combination (or “intersection”) of those groups. Either way, it’s illegal and an experienced New Jersey hostile work environment lawyer can help you in pursuing your legal options.

As an example of this, there’s B.R., who worked as a detective for the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office in South Jersey. B.R. was a woman and also homosexual. As a lesbian, she allegedly endured a hostile work environment that included an array of humiliating actions and comments perpetrated by the county prosecutor and others in the office.

After B.R.’s sexual orientation became known at work, the harassment began. First, there were the slurs, with a fellow detective allegedly calling her the misogynistic “C-word” epithet. Then there was the homophobic rhetoric, with the same detective allegedly commenting that he’d prefer that his child “die from an overdose than be gay,” as well as comparing B.R. to a pedophile by suggesting that, if same-sex marriage was legal, child marriage should be a legal option for pedophiles.

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Workers can face workplace discrimination at any step in the employment process, from the application process all the way to termination. As one recent action between the Division on Civil Rights and a major accounting and professional services firm demonstrates, we do mean any step, including training sessions. It’s a reminder that, wherever you are in your employment path, if you believe you were the target of discrimination, you should definitely take the time to get in touch with an experienced New Jersey gender discrimination lawyer.

Back in 2018, a HuffPost report covered the training women workers at the accounting firm received in a one-and-one-half-day leadership seminar. According to the report, the seminar instructed attendees not to “flaunt” their bodies because showing too much skin makes men less likely to focus. The seminar also encouraged women to maintain appearances that “signal fitness and wellness.”

Additionally, according to the report, the seminar paid particular attention to discussing the supposed differences between the masculine and the feminine, along with encouraging the women to hone their feminine characteristics and avoid displaying masculine traits. One attendee told HuffPost that the seminar taught that “women will be penalized, by both men and women, if they don’t adhere to feminine characteristics or if they display more masculine traits. And that if you want to be successful, you have to keep this in mind.”

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It’s now been more than one year since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, which declared that federal law – specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that, if you’ve suffered that kind of harm in New Jersey, you could have two possible options: a federal Title VII claim and a New Jersey Law Against Discrimination claim. When it comes time to determine the best way to proceed with your sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination case, be sure to look to an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer for the advice you need.

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the high court’s ruling in the Bostock case (as well as the mid-point of Pride Month,) the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a guidance document that laid out elements of the EEOC’s positions on gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.

At the outset, the document reminds employers and employees about who isn’t covered by Title VII. If you work for a private employer, or for a state or local government, and your employer employs fewer than 15 people, then Title VII does not apply, and your employer is not at risk of potential federal liability for gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination.

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This spring there are multiple events that may hold substantial significance to trans people. As nj.com reported, March 31 marked the International Transgender Day of Visibility, which represented a day to highlight the contributions of trans people, while also putting a spotlight on the challenges they still face. Also, this June will mark the one-year anniversary of the important U.S. Supreme Court case that declared gender identity discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace to be violations of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.

So, what does gender identity discrimination in the workplace look like? It actually can take many forms. The most obvious, of course, occurs when an employer refuses to hire you because you are trans, or when an employer fires you, demotes you, reduces your hours, or otherwise punishes you on the job once your employer becomes aware you are trans or are transitioning.

It also can take the form of an employer who refuses to accommodate your gender identity. This can include refusing to allow you to use the restroom facility that conforms to your gender identity, not updating your employment forms to indicate your gender identity, or a supervisor’s insistence on “deadnaming” you. (This is the act of addressing a trans person by the name that person had before transitioning.)

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Sometimes, the alleged facts that support a worker’s employment discrimination lawsuit show blatant discrimination. An executive manager, who emails his HR director with instructions to fire a pregnant receptionist because she’s a “liability” and also instructs the HR director not to bring any more pregnant employees onboard, would likely be proof of clear pregnancy discrimination. Many times, the proof upon which you must rely involves actions that are much more subtle, making success more challenging but far from impossible. Whether your case involves blatant discrimination or subtle discrimination, an experienced New Jersey employment attorney can help you enhance your chances of a successful result.

J.L. was someone who allegedly faced workplace discrimination on multiple fronts – both as a gay man and as a foster parent. As this blog reported two years ago, J.L., a social worker for a South Jersey school district, allegedly was the target of an extensive wave of disparaging remarks and more from coworkers due to his status as a single gay man and a foster parent.

According to the lawsuit, which the social worker and the school district settled in October after J.L. began pursuing foster parenting, coworkers began telling him things regarding how he didn’t need foster kids, but rather needed “to find a woman and have kids with a woman” or to “just get another pet.”

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Transgender people are one group that experiences a very high degree of discrimination at work. A 2015 report revealed that 27% have been denied a promotion, not been hired or been fired just in the preceding year. Fortunately, here in New Jersey, the law has strong protections against workplace discrimination based on gender identity and/or expression so, if you’ve lost a job, lost a promotion, been denied employment or otherwise been harmed in the workplace because you are trans, you should contact a New Jersey employment attorney promptly.

For some trans people, the potential for discrimination is even greater than most other trans individuals. S.S., a process assistant at Amazon’s South Corporate Center in Ewing, was one of those people. S.S. was a trans man and, as of June 2019, also was pregnant, according to a nj.com report.

Being trans and being pregnant can be an especially difficult and even dangerous time for some workers. S.S. had disclosed his pregnancy to his employer, but those whom he told did not keep it confidential, according to his lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, S.S. allegedly began experiencing harassment. A co-worker allegedly questioned S.S.’s use of the men’s restroom, stating “Aren’t you pregnant?” Managers allegedly began criticizing his work more and, when he complained about the harassment, human resources allegedly placed him on leave, according to the report.

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As all of America has come to re-assess the way in which minorities and other marginalized people are treated, many have concluded that it is not enough merely to refrain from engaging in harmful biased behavior; one must also be an active participant in stamping out such bigotry. However, what about at your workplace? If a coworker or supervisor is using offensive language that dehumanizes a group, what are your options? Are your options fewer if you’re not a member of that group? Fortunately, whether you are a member of the targeted group or are just an ally, you have some clear rights in New Jersey, so be sure to reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney right away if you are punished at work for speaking up.

Let’s use an example from current events, reported by the New York Times, as a starting point. Very recently, an announcer for a Major League Baseball team, during a moment that was supposed to be off-air but was inadvertently broadcast, used an offensive anti-gay slur. He was later suspended by the TV network that employed him. Even though the slur may have occurred in a moment the announcer believed was off-air, it was undeniably said at the announcer’s workplace while he was “on the job,” and was clearly audible by fellow broadcasters and members of the network’s broadcast production team.

Lots of New Jersey workers can probably relate to having to put up with supervisors or coworkers who regularly shower the workplace with racist, anti-LGBT, anti-woman or other slurs and epithets. But do you really have to “put up with it”?

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A recent survey completed by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and Taft Communications revealed several interesting insights but one undeniably regrettable trend. The survey’s findings suggest that people are reportedly hearing more offensive comments at work. From a legal perspective, an offensive comment may not always be enough to establish a winning Law Against Discrimination case, but it can be an integral ingredient and, sometimes, just a single slur may be all the proof you need to win your case. A knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney can help you analyze the facts of your case and determine what evidence you need to succeed.

The annual “State of Diversity Survey” asked workers how often they heard comments “that could be seen as offensive to racial and ethnic minorities; women; Muslims; Jews;” and LGBTQ+ people. Specifically, the survey asked workers, “have you overheard things at work that might be considered offensive to certain groups” during the past year?

The number of respondents, in all categories, who reported hearing these offensive comments either “occasionally” or “very often” was at the highest levels since the poll launched, and every category had a marked increase from last year. Workers who heard comments potentially offensive to racial and ethnic minorities rose 12% from last year to 28%. Respondents reported hearing misogynistic comments (up 10% to 24%), homophobic comments (up 11% to 23%), Islamophobic comments (up 13% to 23%) and anti-Semitic comments (up 10% to 20%), all of which were the highest levels ever recorded in the survey, which began in 2016.

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The new U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County is rightly considered as a landmark in discrimination law, establishing conclusively that anti-LGBT+ discrimination is illegal discrimination under federal law. While most New Jersey workers were already protected from workplace sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination under long-standing protections written into New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, not all were. The new ruling offers some very significant help for some other workers in the Garden State… and that number could grow in the not-too-distant future. If you have been the victim of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination at work, be sure to consult an experienced New Jersey employment attorney to find out about your options under state or federal law (or both.)

Employment discrimination because a person is gay, lesbian or bisexual has been a violation of the Law Against Discrimination for nearly three decades. Workplace discrimination against trans people has been against the law in New Jersey since 2006. Not all Garden State workers, however, are covered by the Law Against Discrimination’s protections. For those people, the new federal ruling could have profound impacts.

The ruling in the Bostock case makes it clear that discrimination against LGBT+ workers is discrimination “because of sex,” which is barred under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act. This development in federal law is a huge benefit for federal workers here in New Jersey. The law says that, if you are a federal government worker, you are only allowed to pursue discrimination claims based on federal law, not state law. The Law Against Discrimination’s protection would do nothing for a trans person who’s a federal worker in Newark. The ruling in the Bostock case, however, would give that person a very viable claim of discrimination in violation of Title VII.

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