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Protections against discrimination for LGBT workers still unclear

Victims of workplace discrimination can face consistent, painful mistreatment whenever they go into work. They can also be robbed of certain job opportunities or benefits that are granted to other people who do not share the specific characteristic that gives way to the mistreatment.

Under these circumstances, the solution would be for the worker experiencing discrimination to file a legal claim to enforce his or her rights to protection from this type of misconduct. However, workers in the LGBT community may not have this same solution available, as the federal laws protecting workers from discrimination continue to be challenged and unclear.

Federal discrimination laws dictate that a worker cannot be mistreated based on certain traits and characteristics, including race, religion, disability, sex, age and nation of origin. However, there have been ongoing disputes regarding whether these same laws protect people from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Recently, the Justice Department filed a brief reaffirming its stand that federal laws do not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a shift away from the views of the previous administration, which took the position that such protections would be extended to cover workers' sexual orientation and gender identity.

It might seem like New Yorkers don't need to be concerned with developments like this one, as we have state laws that prohibit discrimination against workers in the LGBT community. However, the fact is that until there are federal protections in place, these employees can be exposed to discriminatory actions and behaviors from federal employers and employers in other states.

Of course, we will follow any developments with regard to the Justice Department's actions and positions, but in the meantime, we urge any worker who feels as though they have been the victim of discrimination to reach out for legal guidance. An employment law attorney can help you defend your rights so that you can protect your job, your income and your well-being.

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