New Jersey Now Prohibits Gender Identity Discrimination
In June 2007, New Jersey amended its Law Against Discrimination (LAD) to cover “gender identity and expression.” The LAD now protects individuals who have or are perceived as having “a gender related identity or expression . . . not stereotypically associated with a person’s assigned sex at birth, including transgender status,” from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation and qualifi cation for loans.
Because the amendment has not been in effect long enough to produce any major decisions, the limits of its protection remain unclear. Employers should exercise caution when implementing policies with implications for gender identity or when making personnel decisions regarding specifi c individuals. The amendment allows an employer to enforce workplace attire and grooming standards as long as employees are permitted “to appear, groom and dress consistent with the employee’s gender identity or expression.” Employers should also revise their handbooks and workplace policies to refl ect the amendment, and take steps to ensure that managers are aware of it.
Only a handful of states have laws prohibiting gender identity discrimination in employment. However, passage of such laws is a growing trend, and gender identity is an issue that employers likely will have to deal with in the future. California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington are among the states that currently treat gender identity as a protected trait, and dozens of cities and municipalities also do so, including New York City. Pending federal legislation will, if passed and signed into law, render gender identity a protected trait at the federal level. Although gender identity disorder is not recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is considered a disability under certain state laws, including the laws of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.