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U.S. Supreme Court Says that LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace Violates Federal Law. What Does That Mean for New Jersey Workers?

In a highly anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which is the federal law that bans certain forms of discrimination, applies to LGBT workers. Because of New Jersey’s strong and progressive laws regarding workplace discrimination, LGBT workers have been protected by the Law Against Discrimination for many years. This latest development, however, may give certain worker important additional options. This expanded array of available legal options is yet another good reason to retain an experienced New Jersey employment attorney for your case and ensure you’re benefiting from the best insight and in-depth knowledge of the law and its latest evolutions.

The Supreme Court case was actually a consolidation of three cases from the lower courts. In one, a county government employee in Georgia was fired shortly after he joined a softball league for gay men. In a second, a skydiving instructor in New York was fired shortly after his employer discovered he was gay. In Michigan, a funeral home fired a trans woman who after six years on the job, announced her intention to begin, as part of her transition, dressing in accordance with the employer’s rules for female attire.

All of these situations, according to the high court, represented impermissible forms of sex discrimination under Title VII. The majority opinion stated that an “employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

The ruling, while undeniably instilling a sense of satisfaction (or at least relief) among the LGBT community, will likely have a lesser practical impact for most New Jersey LGBT workers than LGBT workers in many other states. Prior to the new Supreme Court ruling, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity was actually legal in a majority of states. In New Jersey, though, employment discrimination based on sexual orientation has been a violation of the Law Against Discrimination since 1991. The Law Against Discrimination has similarly barred gender identity discrimination since 2006.

Now you may assert a Title VII claim or a state claim in your LGBT discrimination case

Going forward, this new ruling means that you may be able to pursue your workplace sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination case under either federal law (Title VII) or state law (LAD.) There are, however, differences between the two. For example, you don’t have to bring a claim before the Division on Civil Rights prior to initiating a Law Against Discrimination action; whereas with a Title VII action, you do have to complete that administrative step first.

Additionally, Title VII law puts a cap on the amount damages a worker can recover in a workplace discrimination lawsuit. The Law Against Discrimination does not have a similar damages limit.

These are just a few of the differences. Each law and each type of lawsuit is different in varying ways. Matching the facts of your discrimination or harassment matter with the best legal vehicle for getting you the compensation you deserve is where the knowledge and skill of an experienced attorney comes into play. For that type of reliable and effective advice and advocacy, count on the diligent New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our team has been helping countless LGBT people (and others harmed by workplace discrimination and harassment) to use the legal system and get positive results.

Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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