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Philadelphia Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination Lawyers

Sexual orientation discrimination involves treating an employee differently solely based on his or her sexual orientation, whether homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. It is not relevant whether your employer’s perception of your sexual orientation is correct. If your employer believes or perceives you as having a certain sexual orientation, and treats you differently or discriminates against you because of it, then your employer may be violating the law.

Likewise, if your employer treats you differently based on your “gender identity”, then you are the victim of discrimination in your workplace. “Gender identity” is an individual’s self-conception as being male or female, as opposed to the gender “assigned” at birth based on physical or genetic characteristics. While most persons’ gender identity and biological characteristics are the same, a transgender person’s gender identity does not match his or her “assigned sex.” Transgender individuals include transsexuals, transvestites and androgynes.

Transgender does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation and individuals may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual. However, there is a general misconception that transgender persons are always homosexual and they can also experience discrimination based on this erroneous belief. As in sexual orientation discrimination, the employer’s perceptions and discriminatory practices based on those perceptions are at the center of a gender identity discrimination claim.

Presently, although there are comprehensive federal protections against discrimination in public and private workplaces based on race, sex, national origin, age, religion, pregnancy status, and disability, these same protections are not afforded to sexual orientation and gender identity. Therefore, private sector employers are not subject to any federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Fortunately, a growing number of federal, state and local laws have been passed or are now under consideration that prohibit discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity in various aspects of the employment process, including but not limited to recruitment, hiring, firing, promotions, benefits, compensation, job training, job assignments, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

Sidney L. Gold, a prominent Pennsylvania employment attorney, vehemently advocates for individuals suffering discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and he possesses the knowledge and experience to guide you through the complex legal and jurisdictional issues.

Federal Law and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Transgender Discrimination

At this time, no federal law exists to prevent discrimination in the workplace by private employers based on sexual orientation or gender discrimination. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 (ENDA) has been introduced in Congress to ban discrimination based on these categories. The bill is pending but its passage is said to be a priority of President Barack Obama. ENDA would prohibit employers from discriminating when hiring, firing, promoting or compensating an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, until ENDA is passed, there is no federal protection against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in the private sector workplace.

If you work for the federal government, however, you are protected from sexual orientation discrimination. Executive Order 13087, amending Executive Order 11478, provides a uniform policy for the federal government to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Executive Order 11478 originally stated that the policy of the U.S. government is to provide equal opportunity in federal employment for all persons, to prohibit discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or age and to promote equal employment opportunity through a continuing affirmative program in each department and agency. Executive Order 13087 added “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes.

Transgender Americans have found protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects against sex discrimination in the workplace. In the landmark case of Schroer v. Library of Congress, a federal judge ruled in favor of a transgender employee when a job offer was rescinded because the employer learned she was transitioning from male to female. In its decision, the court found that discriminating against someone for changing genders is sex discrimination under federal law. For more information on this groundbreaking case, contact Sidney L. Gold and Associates.

More recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a landmark ruling that is expected to have significant impact on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination actions.  According to the ruling, employers who discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of gender identity can now be found in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pursuant to the law’s prohibition of sex discrimination in employment.  Read more.

State and Municipal Ordinances Prohibiting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Transgender Discrimination

Many U.S. states, including New Jersey and Delaware, have laws that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in both private and public workplaces. Additionally, a few of the remaining states, such as Pennsylvania, prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in only public workplaces, such as state departments or agencies. If you are not protected under the laws of your employer’s state, you may find recourse under the employer’s city or county government. Approximately 29 local governments covering about half of Pennsylvania’s population have passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in all workplaces: Allegheny County, Allentown, Bethlehem, Cheltenham Township, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Easton, Erie County, Harrisburg, Hatboro, Haverford, Jenkintown, Lancaster, Lansdowne, Lower Merion Township, New Hope, Newtown, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton, Springfield, State College, Susquehanna Township, Swarthmore, Upper Merion Township, West Chester, Whitemarsh Township and York (as of February 2012).

In addition to protecting workers from sexual orientation discrimination, some state and local governments also specifically prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity. In 2006, New Jersey expanded the existing prohibitions in its Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to make it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, to discharge, or to otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of their gender identity or expression. The statute defines “gender identity or expression” as “having or being perceived as having a gender related identity or expression whether or not stereotypically associated with a person’s assigned sex at birth.” The amendment, which codified the 2001 New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division ruling in Enriquez v. West Jersey Health Systems, treats gender identity or expression as separate from sexual orientation, which is also a protected characteristic under the LAD.

At any given time, many municipal and county governments in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are in the process of reviewing and possibly adopting such ordinances to protect against sexual orientation discrimination. If you are experiencing disparate treatment at your place of employment based on your sexual orientation or gender identity in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cherry Hill, Camden, Wilmington or any other Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware city, contact Sidney L. Gold and Associates and his team of experienced New Jersey employment lawyers to learn more about your rights and remedies.

Along with all possible sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination claims under federal, state or local protections, you may also have recourse against your employer and co-workers under other examples of discrimination in the workplace, employment law or workplace torts:

Examples of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Illustrations of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination include, but certainly are not limited to:

  • You are not allowed to obtain benefits for your same-sex partner because your company’s health insurance plan only covers benefits for spouses and families of married heterosexual employees.
  • If your boss believes you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight, and fires you because of that, it is illegal whether or not you are actually gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight.
  • You are treated differently once your employer learned that you were homosexual, bisexual or transgender.
  • You are constantly harassed by comments or jokes about your appearance and attire, mannerisms or sexual activity, which affects your ability to perform your job.
  • Your employer treats you differently from others who do not have your sexual orientation.
  • Your employer denies you benefits or rewards, or you suffer harsher treatment from management, based on your sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • You were fired after disclosing intentions of having a sex change operation.
  • You were sanctioned at work for wearing clothing compatible with your gender identity.

If you believe you are the victim of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in the workplace, call the Philadelphia employment law firm of Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. today for a free assessment of your discrimination claim with a qualified PA employment attorney. We understand the rights and remedies afforded to you under the federal laws, as well as the state and local protections available in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Our NJ employment lawyers will work tirelessly to ensure that the wrongs suffered by you are remedied and you are compensated to the full extent provided for under the law.