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Know Your Rights

  • Across New England, it is illegal for someone to fire you, not hire you or otherwise treat you in a discriminatory way, including asking you questions about your sexual orientation during an interview because of your actual or perceived sexual orientation or HIV status.
  • In Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, it is also illegal for someone to fire you, not hire you or otherwise treat you in a discriminatory way at work based on your actual or perceived gender identity or expression.
  • In New Hampshire, there is not (yet) a gender identity-specific law, but some transgender workers have been successfully protected against discrimination under disability as the protected characteristic.
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Employment Protections By State

See Which States Currently Include Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation In Their Non-Discrimination Laws

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How Employment Protections Work

  • Most workers are “employees at will” and can be fired, or not hired, by an employer for nearly any reason, or no reason at all.
  • However, the federal government and individual states have identified “protected characteristics” and made it illegal to fire, not hire or discriminate against an employee solely because they possess - or are perceived to possess - one or more of those characteristics.
Federal Law
  • Federal law protects characteristics such as race, sex, religion and disability, which includes HIV status (for a full list of federally-protected characteristics, see the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
  • While federal law currently does not explicitly protect sexual orientation or gender identity, some federal courts and agencies have found that sex discrimination protections cover discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
    • The EEOC has issued an official ruling that discrimination against transgender employees is a form of sex discrimination.
  • There are also continuing efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as protected categories under federal law.
State Law
  • Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and 15 other states currently include sexual orientation among protected characteristics.
  • Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and 11 other states also include gender identity. Click on the map above to learn more about employment protections in each state.

What to Do If You Experience Discrimination

  • If you feel you have been discriminated against at work or when applying for a job because you are or are perceived to be LGBTQ or HIV positive, you should start by trying to work out a satisfactory resolution with the employer. If you belong to a union, you may also want to try to get help from them.
  • If your attempt to resolve the issue informally fails, you can file a complaint with your state’s anti-discrimination commission—each New England state has one:
  • Your complaint must be filed within a certain time from the last instance of discrimination. This is called the statute of limitations, and it varies by state:
  • Connecticut: 180 days
  • Maine: 300 days
  • Massachusetts: 300 days
  • New Hampshire: 180 days
  • Rhode Island: 1 year
  • Vermont: 1 year
  • You need to document in your complaint that the discrimination you faced is based on your being – or being perceived to be – LGBTQ or HIV+.
  • Employment discrimination can be difficult to prove, so the more complete and detailed your documentation, the better.

Filing a Federal Complaint

  • If you experience discrimination based on your gender identity, you can file a complaint with the EEOC, as well as with your state anti-discrimination commission.
  • Because disability is a federally protected characteristic, if you have been discriminated against on the basis of your HIV status, you can file both a state and federal discrimination complaint.
  • See the EEOC website for more information about filing a federal claim.

Check It Out!

Maine Transgender Network

Provides support and resources for the transgender community, families, and significant others, and raises awareness about the varied forms of gender identity and expression by providing training and consultation for mental health and social service professionals.

History Unerased

Encourages confidence in delivering LGBT and other erased histories through the mentoring and support of educators -- by educators.

More Great Resources →

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