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No protection for LGBT employees, says DOJ brief

While New Jersey law prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation, this protection may not be available in all states. On July 26, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in a discrimination case in New York arguing that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not include a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The case involves a sky diving instructor who says he was fired because of his sexual orientation. The man has since died in an accident and been replaced in the lawsuit by his executors. The District Court said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was not sex discrimination, and the executors are now appealing that decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

. The brief says that the court should restore precedent. It also argues that since Congress has not taken steps to ensure that discrimination based on sexual orientation falls under sex discrimination, courts should follow this lead. One spokeswoman for the department said that 10 appeals courts have reached a similar ruling and that this is the department's longstanding position. However, LGBT groups said the brief was an attack on their rights.

Another form of workplace discrimination is race discrimination, and unlike discrimination based on sexual orientation, race discrimination is explicitly prohibited by Title VII. Employees who believe they are subject to a hostile work environment because of their race or who face actions such as termination or denial of promotion because of race might want to talk to an attorney. It may be possible to find a remedy in the workplace by going through a supervisor or human resources.

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