This month McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. celebrates Pride Month, a time to recognize the struggle of the LGBTQ+ community to overcome prejudice and discrimination. We acknowledge those who fought, and continue to fight, for full equality. While the LGBTQ+ community has come a long way to achieving full civil rights and equal treatment, there is still much work to be done. There are many organizations who support the LGBTQ+ community and this month we are proud to highlight the National LGBT Bar Association.
What is the National LGBT Bar Association?
The National LGBT Bar Association (“LGBT Bar”) is a group of lawyers, judges, activists and affiliated gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender organizations that was created to promote “justice in and through the legal profession for the LGBTQ+ community in all its diversity.”
The LGBT Bar was formally introduced at the Lesbian & Gay March on Washington in 1987. In 1992, the Association became an official affiliate of the American Bar Association (ABA) and began working with the ABA’s Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities and the ABA’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
What does the LGBT Bar do?
The LGBT Bar provides much needed support to its members in a variety of ways. For example, it assists prospective LGBTQ+ judicial candidates to become judges, ensures law schools employ best practices to make LGBTQ+ students feel safe on campus, and hosts the annual Lavender Law Conference, the largest LGBTQ+ legal conference in the country.
The LGBT Bar also advocates for issues important to the LGBTQ+ community. Right now, the Association is working to pass the Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2021 that would prevent discrimination in jury selection based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The LGBT Bar is also leading the effort to ban LGBTQ+ “panic” defenses which is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction.
The LGBT Bar does not give legal advice or recommend attorneys to individuals but refers them to Lambda Legal. Lambda Legal is a national organization whose primary mission is “the full recognition of civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and everyone living with HIV.” According to the organization, Lambda Legal only accepts “impact cases” meaning those cases the organization believes will have the greatest impact “in protecting and advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ people and those with HIV.”
I believe my employer discriminated against me. Who can I call for help?
If you believe you have been discriminated against due to your LGBTQ+ status or you are suffering in a hostile work environment, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. It is important that you look for a place that has experienced lawyers who specifically handle employment discrimination cases. An experienced and qualified lawyer can advise you of your legal rights and provide you with a strategy to achieve your goals.
For nearly 50 years, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. has represented individuals in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation cases against their employers. Our employment lawyers advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community as well as other protected classes of victims.
If you have been denied a promotion, demoted, given reduced hours, disciplined for no reason, harassed, or taunted by your coworkers, terminated unfairly or more, you may have a claim of discrimination under federal and state laws.
What laws protect me from LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace?
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, employers are prohibited from terminating employees because they are gay or transgender. The Court held that the language “on the basis of sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination of gay and transgender persons. Prior to this ruling, the “basis of sex” language was interpreted to focus solely on gender, meaning male or female.
While this was a groundbreaking ruling, it only applies to discrimination claims in the employment context. That is why LGBTQ+ advocates are seeking passage of the Equality Act, that amends several federal civil rights laws to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in all areas of life including education, housing, and healthcare.
New Jersey Law
In addition to federal law, if you work in New Jersey, the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) offers broad protection from workplace discrimination based on sex, gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation.
Employers cannot discriminate against you based on your LGBTQ+ identity in the following areas:
- Recruitment: job postings, interviews, hiring
- All terms and conditions of employment
Often an employer or supervisor may try to disguise their actions against you as a legitimate business decision. Experienced legal counsel recognizes this tactic as “pretext,” meaning that was not the employer’s true motive. It is up to the employee to prove pretext which is why it is important to obtain qualified legal counsel.
Do these laws also protect me from being harassed on the job?
Yes. Just as the LAD prohibits an employer from discriminating against protected groups in the workplace, it also prohibits employers from creating hostile work environments. If you believe your employer, supervisor or coworker is harassing you because of your LGBTQ+ status, and it is severe or pervasive, they are likely violating the LAD and you should report the conduct immediately.
Employers have an obligation to take all complaints seriously and to remediate all forms of harassment and discrimination. Responsible employers should also have a skilled, neutral investigator conduct a thorough investigation as soon as a complaint is lodged.
I am concerned that I will be fired or retaliated against for submitting a complaint about mistreatment.
While it is completely understandable to be concerned about how your employer will treat you once you complain, the LAD prohibits them from retaliating against you. N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(d). Therefore, if you speak to a supervisor, human resources representative or a state or federal agency about your discrimination or harassment concerns, you are likely protected. If your employer terminates, disciplines, or takes other adverse actions against you after raising a complaint, you may have a retaliation cause of action.
Discrimination and harassment in the workplace are unlawful and should not be tolerated. If you are experiencing this conduct, you could be eligible for back pay and other damages. McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. has years of experience fighting these claims and are here to help. Please call our office in Red Bank, New Jersey at 732-842-6500, our Marlton, New Jersey office at 856-985-9800, or our Newark, New Jersey office at 973-787-9040 to find out more.