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Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Legal Protections for LGBT People in New Jersey

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.

Jameka took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that court refused to take the case. That leaves all of the lower court decisions in place and means that employees in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin can successfully bring a federal sexual orientation discrimination case under Title VII, while gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual employees in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida would likely not succeed under a similar Title VII claim.

Here in New Jersey, the relevant federal appeals court is the Third Circuit. That court ruled several years ago that sexual orientation is not one of the categories in which an employee can pursue a discrimination claim under Title VII. Fortunately, gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual workers in New Jersey have another pathway to seek justice for workplace discrimination:  state law. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination clearly says that it is unlawful in this state for an employer to refuse to hire, to terminate (‘unless justified by lawful considerations”), or to discriminate in compensation or employment terms or conditions based upon an employee or employment candidate’s “affectional or sexual orientation.” This protection extends both to those who are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, and also to those who (regardless of orientation) are perceived to be homosexual or bisexual.

The hardworking New Jersey sexual orientation discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates have been fighting for many years to help workers harmed by employers who have engaged in illegal discrimination. If you are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, and you believe you’ve suffered from adverse treatment at work as a result of your orientation, contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys to find out how we can help you protect your rights.

More blog posts:

Groundbreaking Federal Court Ruling Could Affect New Jersey Transgender Employees in the Future, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, June 16, 2017

Fired New Jersey Catholic School Counselor Allowed to Continue Pursuit of Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2017

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