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Protection from Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Discrimination in the Workplace: State Governments Lead the Way

July 2nd, 2012

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, American employees were granted federal protection from job discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, or disability. As social awareness has improved over the years, amendments have been made to the laws to continue to protect individuals from workplace discrimination. Unfortunately, gay and transgender individuals remain unprotected by federal laws against employment discrimination. In fact, 90% of gay and transgender individuals have reportedly faced discrimination in the workforce based on their sexual orientation or gender identification.

A current bill under consideration by the U.S. federal government, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), would provide workplace discrimination protection to gay and transgender people on the federal level, but the bill has been denied Congressional approval since it was first introduced in 1994. In response to the lack of congressional support for the bill, individual states have begun enacting laws and policies banning this type of discrimination, but progress has been slow. At the present time, only 16 states have enacted laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification. While this affords some protection on the state level, federal protection remains doubtful, but hopeful.

The employment discrimination attorneys at Sidney L. Gold & Associates take job discrimination against gay and transgender people seriously. We believe that everyone is entitled to the right to work and provide for themselves and their families financially. We applaud those states that have taken the initiative to set their own anti-discrimination laws and fully support the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Variations in State Laws Lead to Ambiguous Interpretations of Anti-Discrimination Protections

While individual state laws and policies offer gay and transgender individuals some protection against job discrimination, it is difficult to set a national precedent without federal support. Discrimination in the workplace takes many forms, including refusal to grant interviews, denial of promotions, wrongful termination, unequal compensation, and even verbal or physical harassment.  Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would help define national standards and policies which states could then model. Presently, Pennsylvania and its neighboring states of Delaware and New Jersey have laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification, as specified below:

  • Pennsylvania:  In 1975, the state of Pennsylvania was first in the tri-state area to make it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. In 2006, the law was amended, making it illegal to discriminate against any state employee on the basis of gender identification.
  • Delaware:  In July, 2009, Delaware expanded its Discrimination in Employment Act to make it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation was defined in Delaware to include heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. In August of that same year, an amendment was made that included gender identification protection to state employees.
  • New Jersey:  Laws against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation have been in place in New Jersey since 1992. A gender identification statute was added to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination in 2006. New Jersey defines sexual orientation to include male and female heterosexuality as well as homosexuality and bisexuality. Gender identification refers to an individual’s real or perceived gender expression that may be different from that present at birth.

Philadelphia Employment Attorneys Fight Sexual Orientation & Gender Identification Discrimination in the Workplace

The Philadelphia employment attorneys at Sidney L. Gold & Associates are experienced in all areas of employment discrimination law, including those relating to sexual orientation and transgender discrimination.  Serving clients throughout the Pennsylvania and New Jersey region, the attorneys at Sidney L. Gold & Associates use their knowledge and skill to defend employees against unfair treatment in the workplace.  If you have been a victim of employment discrimination based on your sexual orientation or gender identification, we can help.  Call our Philadelphia discrimination attorneys at 215-569-1999 for a consultation or contact us online.

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