Everyone deserves a workplace free from discrimination and harassment and fair and equal employment opportunities. While the world has come a long way and the negative stigmas attached to specific groups of individuals have significantly dissipated, they still remain. Workplace discrimination can take many shapes and forms. If you work in New Jersey and believe you have been the target of unfair discrimination based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, contact LGBT attorneys in NJ today.
LGBT Discrimination Law
While openly and outright bashing of LGBT individuals does unfortunately still occur, most often and especially in the workplace, it comes in more subtle words and conduct. Because of this, it is imperative to have certain protections in place.
Federal vs. State Protections
Many employee protections are provided through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex, and national origin. However, this federal law still does not offer protection to employees based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is intended to end this type of discrimination on the federal level, but it still needs to be passed into law.
Each state approaches LGBT discrimination differently. Some states offer no protection, some minimal protection, and some significant protection.
New Jersey Law
New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) is a comprehensive civil rights statute that
prevents, among other types of discrimination, workplace harassment and workplace discrimination in any job-related action based on race, sex, age, religion, national origin, disability, or genetic information. Although initially passed in the 1940’s, NJLAD has evolved with the times.
The NJLAD protects people in most work-related situations. It applies regardless of the number of employees the business has (as opposed to workers’ comp and other protections, which may apply only if a certain number of employees are employed). The NJLAD protections extend beyond just private employers and apply to:
- Government employers,
- Employment agencies,
- Labor unions, and
- Certain business transactions.
The NJLAD further protects against discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and credit and contracting.
NJLAD & LGBT
NJLAD makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a worker based on their sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, gender role, or transgender status. To receive the benefit of protection under NJLAD, you do not necessarily need to identify as LGBT; if discrimination is based on the perception that you are LGBT, you have protection under NJLAD.
In New Jersey, you have the right to be free from discrimination, harassment, abuse, and humiliation in your workplace. If your employer participates in such behavior or knowingly allows it, they can and should be held accountable.
NJLAD Provides Other Protections
NJLAD prevents more than just harassment in the workplace and makes it illegal to be wrongfully terminated or demoted based on your sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, gender role, and transgender status.
Common Workplace Discrimination Claims
If you have experienced any of the following based on your LGBT status, you may have a workplace discrimination claim:
- You were terminated or laid off,
- You were demoted,
- You were not hired or passed over for a job or promotion,
- Your position was eliminated,
- You are underpaid compared to co-workers in similar situations,
- You were harassed,
- You were forced to resign or quit, or
- You were denied reasonable accommodations.
The above list is not exhaustive, so you may have experienced employment discrimination even if you do not see your situation here.
Filing a Successful Discrimination Claim
To prevail on a workplace discrimination claim, employees must satisfy several elements, some of which may be specific to the type of discrimination. However, in general, to be successful in a discrimination claim, you must show the following:
- You were satisfactorily performing your job and meeting all required expectations;
- Your employer discriminated against you; and
- You were singled out based solely on your membership in the LGBT-protected class.
Often, proving this is easier said than done simply because there usually isn’t “smoking gun” evidence that your employer acted with discriminatory intent.
Your employer is not likely to put in writing, “I am firing you because you are part of the LGBT community.” Instead, they will provide other reasonings and rationale, which will likely not be in writing. Although you can show discriminatory intent with direct evidence such as memos or other correspondence, often your attorney will use a combination of indirect or circumstantial evidence. Usually, it takes robust investigative work to gather the evidence you need. Examples of this evidence may include:
- Communication and correspondence (e.g., internal memos, emails, and text messages),
- Phone conversations and voicemails,
- Witness statements, and
- A pattern of employer behavior (e.g., previous employee testimony that they were also fired, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against because they were LGBT).
Because of these claims’ complexity and challenging nature, it is imperative to have experienced and knowledgeable counsel to advocate on your behalf and provide the necessary resources to investigate your employer’s actions thoroughly.
What Compensation Is Available in an LGBT Workplace Discrimination Claim?
The compensation you may be entitled to will depend on your case’s specific facts and circumstances. However, if you show that unlawful discrimination occurred, you are generally entitled to damages. These may include:
- Compensation for lost wages, including loss of health and other benefits;
- Compensation for non-economic damages such as emotional distress and mental anguish; and
- Your attorney fees and costs of filing suit.
When you meet with our LGBT attorneys in NJ, we will provide a better understanding of what you can expect.
New Jersey LGBT Discrimination Lawyers
At O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, our attorneys have helped individuals throughout the state recover the compensation they deserve for workplace discrimination. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated or passed over for a promotion based on your LGBT status, contact us to schedule a free initial consultation today.