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Supreme Court Case Focuses on Federal LGBTQ Protections

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | May 4, 2020 |

Since 2013, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has treated LGBT-based job discrimination cases as sex discrimination. However, at the beginning of the current term of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Justices heard arguments on three cases that could have far-reaching consequences for millions of gay and transgender workers across the nation.

The cases originated in New York, Georgia, and Michigan. Two involve gay men who were fired, Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., No. 17-1618, and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623, and one involves a transgender woman, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 18-107. The question considered by the Supreme Court is whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status. A ruling in the affirmative would provide basic protections to these individuals, protections that other groups have long taken for granted. On the other hand, a ruling against the plaintiffs could leave millions vulnerable in more than half of U.S. states.

State laws protect LGBTQ employees in New Jersey

AP reports that 28 states have no protections in place prohibiting discrimination against gay and transgender workers, and only 21 states have their own laws prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  According to UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, about half of the nation’s estimated 8.1 million LGBT employees live in states where job discrimination laws don’t cover them.  However, New Jersey has some of the strongest laws in the nation protecting LGBTQ individuals, and the Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq., explicitly prevents discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and gender identity or expression, among many other categories.

What type of discrimination is illegal under New Jersey laws?

New Jersey law protects everyone’s rights not to be treated differently based on their sexual orientation, or their “perceived” sexual orientation, which is where someone who is not LGBTQ is perceived or portrayed to be a member of a sexual minority.  The protections extend to:

  • Employment;
  • Access to public places;
  • Housing; and
  • Business transactions.

Under state law, employers cannot discriminate using actions, such as the refusal to hire, terminating employment, harassment, unequal pay, or imposing improper restrictions or conditions on someone based on their sexual orientation.

While New Jersey’s protections are some of the strongest in the nation, unfair and illegal treatment is still possible.  If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace over your sexual orientation, an experienced and compassionate attorney in the Employment Law Group of Cohn Lifland can help protect and enforce your rights.