The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination is a civil rights statute that prohibits a wide range of discrimination, including employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression, gender role and transgender status. The law is an attempt to protect some of the most disadvantaged communities in the nation. Transgender people, despite recent progress, still face an uphill battle in securing their rights in employment and other areas of life.
The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have substantial data detailing the struggles faced by transgender Americans. The rate of extreme poverty among transgender people is nearly four times the national average. Unemployment is a massive problem. When surveyed, 90 percent of transgender Americans acknowledge that they have been subjected to harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job. The situation is particularly bleak for member of racial minorities. Transgender discrimination combined with race discrimination makes the prospect of earning a living in this country bleak for some individuals.
While some states, like New Jersey, have passed laws specifically tackling transgender discrimination, the federal government has not followed suit. Stronger legal protections will not put an immediate end to the problems faced by the transgender community, but it would send a signal that the government is committed to equality. It would, at least, begin the process of putting an end to the pernicious and widespread discrimination faced by transgender Americans.
The media has recently focused more attention on transgender issues. That focus carries the potential to benefit the movement for equal status and an end to discrimination for transgender people. Hopefully, the challenges faced by the majority of transgender individuals will be part of the discussion and will lead to real change.
Source: The New York Times, “The Struggle for Fairness for Transgender Workers,” by The Editorial Staff, 9 July 2015