On December 19, 2006, NJ Govenor, Jon Corzine signed legislation to add gender identity expression as a protected class against discrimination to the NJ Law Against Discrimination (LAD). Under the law, that will come into effect in 180 days, transgender employees will have the same protections of other protected classes under LAD. In addition, employers would be required to allow employees to dress and groom themselves “consistently with the employee’s gender identity or expression.”
This law seeks to codify the NJ Appellate Division’s ruling, in Enriquz v. West Jersey Health Systems, 342 N.J. Super. 501 (App. Div. 2001). In that case an employee was hired as a male and within a year of employment began undergoing a transformation to be a woman. The employer became uncomfortable with the transformation and terminated the employee. The Court held that transexualism, otherwise known as gender dysphoria, although not a handicap under the ADA, is a handicap under the LAD, and is fact protected from discrimination.
It appears that this new law, which makes gender identity a protected class of its own may seek to follow society’s more current view of gender identity as less of a “mental disorder” and more of a way of life for many Americans.