Discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation is illegal under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The LAD protects transgender identities and gender expressions, in addition to sexualities, under the umbrella of sexual orientation.
New Jersey protects employees from discrimination based on “sexual or affectional orientation.” This means you can’t be discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of what gender(s) you are sexually attracted to, and/or what gender(s) you are romantically attracted to.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) enforces the LAD, and lists the specific “sexual orientations” which are protected:
- Heterosexuality, which is an attraction to people of the opposite gender
- Homosexuality, which is an attraction to people of the same gender
- Bisexuality, which is an attraction to people of both genders
- Transgender, which is a person whose gender identity and/or expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth or;
- Gender Identity or Expression, which is an internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman, or an external showing of one’s gender identity, usually through ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ haircut, attire, voice, or body characteristics
It is illegal for adverse action to be taken against you in the workplace due to any of the above characteristics. These unfair actions could include: “refusal to hire, termination, harassment, [or] unequal salary or unfair treatment in other terms, conditions or privileges of employment,” according to the DCR.
The LAD also prohibits discrimination “on the basis of ‘perceived’ sexual orientation.” One recent case in New Jersey saw this very situation play out when a police officer suffered discrimination based on his supervisor’s false perception of his sexual orientation.
A police officer in Sea Girt claimed he had been denied a promotion because the police chief “falsely believed he was gay” and because the officer “periodically was absent from his job for training and deployment with the U.S. Navy Reserves,” according to NBC New York. NJ.com reports that the chief would use homophobic insults against the officer, as well.
A jury found that the chief had discriminated against the officer based on his anti-military and anti-gay beliefs, describing it as “false sexual orientation discrimination.” The officer received $1.8 million in damages after winning this lawsuit, which he filed in 2014 against the police chief, the police department and the borough.
You can pursue a claim of sexual orientation discrimination through the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (within 180 days since the last act of discrimination) or through a judicial pathway in the Superior Court (within 2 years). No matter which route you follow, you can hire a discrimination attorney to advise and represent you.