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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

NJ gender identity bill

According to Garden State Equality, the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6 to 0 on Monday, November 13, with one abstention, to approve a bill to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. The abstention was Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth). The Committee includes Sen. Tom Kean Junior (R-Union), who voted in favor. The bill now goes to the Assembly Judiciary Committee and then to a vote of the full Assembly and full Senate. The bill would add a citizen's 'gender identity or expression' as a basis for protection under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

According to the latest statewide poll on the issue, 70 percent of New Jersey supports the bill, with only 19 percent opposed.

Interestingly, the HRC employer database does not indicate that NJ has a court ruling protecting gender identity, although it does if you know where to look: Enriquez v. West Jersey Health Systems. It also doesn't show that NJ has an employer policy protecting state employees, though this is more understandable as the policy is impossible to find. Thus, the importance of the bill is that now both employers and transgender employees will be able to find the law easily and read it with clarity.

I came across the state policy by accident. As a NJ state employee, I get a memo every year from Personnel requiring me to sign a statement that I had received and read the state anti-discrimination policy for public employees. Who reads these things? I do. Last year, I read it and saw to my astonishment that that it included gender identity. I did a little digging, and found that a new policy was issued on June 3, 2005 by the New Jersey Department of Personnel Division of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action. It was issued on an interim basis, pending the adoption of rule amendments to the NJ Administrative Code (4A:7-1.1, 3.1 and 3.2), and it's already included on the NJ public employee complaint form. This Interim policy, however, can be undone with the stroke of a bureaucratic pen, and I'm guessing that the rule amendment to the Administrative Code is on hold pending the action on the legislative bill referenced above. Thus, the fight in the Senate and Assembly to pass the bill would seem to be key.

If you'd like to send a note to the Assembly and Senate leadership, you can contact them at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/leadership.asp If you live or work in New Jersey, you can contact your legislators here: http://eqfed.org/campaign/a930yes

There are 37 Fortune 500 companies in New Jersey, and 11 of them already have policies against gender identity discrimination according to HRC: Prudential Financial Inc., Merck & Co. Inc., Honeywell International Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Lucent Technologies Inc., Liz Claiborne Inc., Schering-Plough Corp., Chubb Corp., Avaya Inc., Toys 'R' Us Inc. and Pathmark Stores Inc.

As discussed earlier this week, there are 7 states with statutes that prohibit discrimination against transgender employees (CA, IL, ME, MN, NM, RI and WA), and another 8 (CT, FL, HI, IN, MA, NJ, PA and NY) that have state-wide executive orders or court rulings protecting transgender employees.

1 comment:

Dr. Jillian Todd Weiss said...

Here are the 37 Fortune 500 companies in New Jersey that would be affected by the pending bill to add gender identity to the state anti-discrimination code:
Johnson & Johnson, Medco Health Solutions, Prudential Financial, Honeywell Intl., Merck, Wyeth, Chubb, Public Service Enterprise Group, Toys "R" Us, American Standard, Schering-Plough, Lucent Technologies, Automatic Data Proc., Campbell Soup, Quest Diagnostics, Becton Dickinson, Hovnanian Enterprises, Bed Bath & Beyond, Avaya, Engelhard, Sealed Air, Pathmark Stores, Burlington Coat Factory, New Jersey Resources, Rockwood Holdings, Cytec Industries, NRG Energy, Exide Technologies, Linens 'n Things, IDT, Commerce Bancorp, C.R. Bard, Church & Dwight, Selectiv Insurance Group, Children's Place, Suburban Propane Partners, Dun & Bradstreet