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How Disparaging Comments by Co-Workers May Provide You With a Viable Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Discrimination Case in New Jersey

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, 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, reported.

‘Unwelcome homophobic or transphobic comments made by fellow employees’ may trigger employer liability 

Based on all those alleged comments, J.L. recently launched a lawsuit alleging that his employer had committed impermissible discrimination in violation of the LAD. If the comments that you cite in your gender identity/sexual orientation lawsuit demonstrate the speaker’s negative bias toward you was explicitly motivated by your gender identity or sexual orientation, then that can be the basis of a valid claim in court. You simply need proof that the animus was not just directed at you, but directed at you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.

As the Division of Civil Rights explained, “unwelcome homophobic or transphobic comments made by fellow employees against an LGBTQ employee could make an employer liable for ‘hostile work environment’ discrimination if the comments or conduct would not have been made but for the employee’s protected class.”

In New Jersey, the bias must be severe or pervasive, but the courts have concluded that it is possible for even just one anti-LGBTQ slur potentially to be enough to meet that threshold. In J.L.’s case he received comments about how, if he wanted children, he should find a woman and have children with her, which would appear to demonstrate a substantial negative bias against gay people and gay parents by implying that engaging in heterosexual relationships and heterosexual parenting was superior. He was also told that he should just obtain additional pets instead, which also could constitute evidence of bias against LGBT people parenting children, implying that gay people are qualified to care for cats and dogs, but not children.

New Jersey law provides some very clear safeguards against workplace discrimination based upon an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. If you’ve been harmed by bias at work based upon your being an LGBTQ person, you may be entitled to compensation under New Jersey discrimination law. The experienced New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can assist you.

More blog posts:

A Male Principal Called a ‘Brazen Hussy’ by a School Board Members Settles His New Jersey Discrimination Lawsuit for $307K, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Sept. 21, 2018

Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Legal Protections for LGBT People in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Dec. 14, 2017

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