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Discrimination for gender identity and expression still common

In many ways, our society has become more open about the fact that some people express their gender differently than others. The gender transitions of famous celebrities, as well as many works of art and popular culture that focus on the topic have helped to create greater understanding and tolerance.

However, there is still much work required for true equality. People who have unique or unusual gender identities, as well as those who express gender differently, can still face discrimination in the workplace.

New Jersey state law protects people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. This special law, called the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, specifically protects those whose gender identity or expression differs from the mainstream options. For those denied jobs or career advancement because of their gender expression or identity, it may be possible to push back under state law.

There are more ways than ever for people to define themselves

For much of American history, the people of this country have only had two opposing options for gender, and that was based almost entirely on biological sex characteristics. Having people fit into one category (male or female) was so important that for many years, doctors made decisions and assigned gender to babies born intersex without consulting their parents.

Such an action would be unacceptable today. There are people who, for biological, social or emotional reasons, identify as:

  • male to female transgender
  • female to male transgender
  • intersex
  • gender non-conforming
  • gender fluid
  • non-binary

Everyone in each of these categories is a human with his, her or their own background, needs and hopes. The gender expression or identity of a worker has no bearing on the ability to perform a task or be successful. Sadly, many people in management positions feel uncomfortable with the change in culture since their youth. That could lead to unconscious or even intentional discrimination in the workplace.

You can hold your employer accountable for discrimination

Sometimes, discrimination seems like a minor issue. Maybe human resources contacts you and asks you to better conform to one gender's dress code at work. Perhaps your co-workers make a few jokes at your expense, which management isn't willing to address. In some cases, you could find yourself passed over for promotions and raises, simply because of your gender identity and expression, not your job performance.

If you believe that you've experienced discrimination rooted in your gender identity or expression, you have the right to hold your employer accountable. You can file a discrimination lawsuit if your employer refuses to address issues for you. Taking the time to document each act of discrimination and every attempt to report it can help you build a successful case.

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