Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is designed to protect employees and job applicants from discrimination in the workplace. Specifically, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, age, and other protected characteristics. When Title VII was first established, gender identity was not a common term. Nowadays, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community is tirelessly advocating for equal treatment in workplaces.
According to a recent poll by Gallup, nearly 5.6 percent of adults in the United States are a part of the LGBTQ community. In many workplaces, it can be difficult for LGBTQ people to find jobs, hold onto their jobs, and get the same pay and treatment as employees who are equally qualified. LGBTQ individuals often receive less pay than their colleagues and experience LGBT discrimination and harassment.
Unfair Treatment at Work
The San Francisco LGBT center reported that approximately half of trans people have been denied employment or wrongfully terminated. Furthermore, 75 percent of those surveyed claimed that they had been previously harassed at work. Even though a recent Supreme Court decision and executive order have prohibited companies from discriminating against these individuals, it is still an issue in the United States.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 29 percent of the transgender population are in poverty, and families who are headed by transgender or gay individuals of color are more at risk of socioeconomic disparities. The Center for American Progress reported that 15 percent of the transgender people they surveyed were earning less than $10,000 per year, which is about four times the poverty rate of the general population.
Has the Pandemic Made Matters Worse for the LGBTQ Community?
There have been many stories in the media explaining how the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted LGBTQ workers. Last spring, the Trans Lifeline hotline was getting four to five times more calls about workplace discrimination and unemployment than they had in the past. LGBTQ workers were also more likely to be working in industries that were highly impacted by the virus, such as restaurants, education, retail, food services, and hospitals. These callers were facing unemployment, reduced work hours, and pay cuts at rates that were much higher than the rest of the population.
These problems were the worst for transgender and LGBTQ people of color. LGBTQ families were also more likely to have dealt with one more serious financial problem that impacted their lives. Wage disparities and workplace mistreatment has also led to some of these individuals ending up without jobs, homes, or shelters. Facing these overwhelming obstacles can also lead to mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. Without money and resources, LGBTQ individuals are facing many problems.
Does New Jersey Have Laws Against Workplace Discrimination?
The LGBTQ community has won many rights in the past few years. LGBTQ workers are protected by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJlad). This law prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation, which applies to the following:
- Marital or familial status
- Sexual or affectional orientation
- AIDS or HIV status
- The employee’s intimate relationships
- Gender identity or expression
Workplace discrimination and harassment against employees can be subtle or much more obvious. Aside from being paid less than equally qualified co-workers, some LGBTQ employees are fired, demoted, or transferred without just cause. Others are passed over for promotions, not given well-deserved bonuses, and denied raises, even though it is against the law.
Sexual harassment can include derogatory remarks, written or verbal ridicule, sexual texts and emails, unwanted touching, intimidation, inappropriate jokes, and exclusion from company events, like meetings, gatherings, and workshops. It is also illegal for employers to retaliate against any employees who complain about workplace discrimination and harassment.
How can I File a Discrimination Claim in New Jersey?
A worker can file a discrimination claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR), or they can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is the federal agency. The two cooperate with the claims process, so it is not necessary to file with both if the complainant indicates that they wish to cross-file with the other agency. If the employer has one to 14 employers, it is recommended to file with the DCR. The EEOC enforces a federal law that applies to companies with 15 or more workers.
To file a complaint, there are several DCR offices in New Jersey and one EEOC office. Each can provide details about the filing process. Once filed, status updates can be obtained online. It is important to know that there are deadlines for filing claims, though. For these agencies to act on a complainant’s behalf, the charges of employment discrimination have to be filed within 180 days of the date that the discrimination occurred. In some cases, this is extended to 300 days, so it is important to read and understand all of those details. If the information is hard to understand, an employment lawyer can offer some guidance.
After the charge is filed, the complainant will receive a charge number and a copy of the information. A notice should also be sent out to the employee and employer within 10 days. The EEOC may ask the employer to answer questions and give a written response to the charges. From there, an investigation may be initiated, or the employee and employer may have to undergo a mediation program. In other cases, the claim may be dismissed if it was filed after the deadline or for other reasons.
If an investigation does place, which can take up to six months or longer, the EEOC might begin gathering documents and interviewing witnesses. Depending on their findings, different outcomes could happen:
- The EEOC feels that there was no discrimination and sends the employee a Notice of Right to Sue. This gives the employee permission to file a lawsuit.
- The EEOC feels that discrimination did occur, and they will attempt to work out a voluntary settlement with the employer. If this is not possible, the case will go to EEOC’s legal staff for further evaluation. From there, the EEOC may file a lawsuit or give the employee a Notice of Right to Sue.
The mediation process can take about half as long, but these are not always successful.
Why Should I Contact an Employment Lawyer?
Proving discrimination can be difficult without the help of a lawyer. A lawyer can help their client gather necessary evidence for a lawsuit, such as recorded conversations and witness testimonies. A lawyer can also help with paperwork and make sure everything is filed in a timely manner. Some compensation may be owed to the worker, and a lawyer will ensure their client receives entitled damages as well.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Provide Legal Help to Clients Facing LGBTQ Discrimination
The LGBTQ community is still facing mistreatment and discrimination in the workplace. If you believe you are the victim of workplace discrimination, a Cherry Hill employment lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help you. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 215-569-1999. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel.