With the inauguration of a new President, some things will change; but much will stay the same, because of the limits on the power of the President to make changes to existing law without the consent of Congress. Regardless of the rhetoric, employees should know that protections against discrimination in the workplace do not change just because a different person is sitting in the White House or because the public dialogue may sound different.
Under both federal and state law, workers are protected against discrimination based on age, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, color, religion, and gender (including pregnancy). New Jersey law is even more expansive. In addition to the same categories protected under federal law, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (often referred to as the NJLAD) also protects workers from discrimination based on marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait.
What all this means is that your employer cannot treat you unfairly on any of the above-referenced grounds for promotion, discharge, compensation and the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. These protections also extend to potential employers since you cannot be discriminated against in connection with recruitment, interviewing, and hiring.
The protections that can change from one President to the next are those created via an “executive order.” Since an executive order is not subject to approval by Congress, it is not as strong, and it can be changed by the next President. For example, executive orders put into place under the Obama administration shield employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity employees who work for employers that are federal contracting agencies. These types of federal protections can be changed with just a stroke of the pen by the person occupying the Oval Office. But even so, the stronger New Jersey state law protections remain in place.
Regardless of the type of safeguard, the length of time you have to enforce your rights varies based on the applicable law, so if you think your employer treated you unfairly based on a legally-protected category, you should not wait to protect your rights. Contact us if you think we can help.