Does Connecticut have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in employment?

Yes. Since 1991, Connecticut has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in public and private employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c to 46a-81q). In July 2011, these laws were extended to protect transgender people when Governor Malloy signed Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination, into law. The act, which went into effect on October 1, 2011, added “gender identity or expression” to Connecticut’s list of protected classes. For more detailed information visit GLAD’s and the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund’s (CWEALF) publication, Connecticut: Legal Protections for Transgender People

Do the laws also protect people perceived to be LGBTQ+ in employment?

Yes. Connecticut non-discrimination law defines “sexual orientation” as either “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference…” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81a (emphasis added)). This language includes discrimination based on perception. For example, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay, they may invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law regardless of their actual orientation.

Similarly, the law defines “gender identity or expression” as:

[A] person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth… (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(21) (emphasis added)).

What do the employment provisions say? Who do they apply to?

The non-discrimination law applies to public and private employees. It forbids employers from refusing to hire a person, discharging them, or discriminating against them “in compensation, or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment” because of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(1)) or gender identity or expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(1)). This covers most significant job actions, such as hiring, firing, failure to promote, demotion, excessive discipline, harassment, and different treatment of the employee and similarly situated co-workers.

In addition, employment agencies may not discriminate based on sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(2)), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec.c. 46a-60(a)(2)), either by refusing to properly classify or refer their customers for employment or in general. Labor organizations (e.g. unions) similarly may not discriminate (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(3); Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(3)). The law also forbids all of these entities from advertising in such a way as to restrict employment because of sexual orientation (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-81c(4)), gender identity, or gender expression (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(6)).

Finally, the State of Connecticut and its agencies are forbidden from discriminating based on sexual orientation (see generally Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-81g to 46a-81o) and gender identity or expression (see generally Conn. Gen. Stat. secs 46a-70 & 46a-71), both in their own employment practices as well as in their provision of services. The law also imposes an affirmative obligation on state agencies to adopt rules to enforce the non-discrimination provisions and to establish training programs. Contractors and subcontractors who provide services to the state must certify in writing that they will not discriminate when fulfilling the contract terms.

Effective June 7, 2016, Connecticut added sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, as well as religion, sex and national origin, as protected categories under its law banning discrimination in membership, unit formation, promotion or accommodations in “the armed forces of the state” (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 27-59).

Does the law apply to every employer in Connecticut?

No. As broad as the law is, there are several exemptions to its application.

  • Employers with fewer than 3 employees are not subject to the law (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-51(10)).
  • Certain religious employers are also exempt. See below on Religious Exemption to the Prohibitions on Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity Discrimination.
  • Any employer, agency, or labor organization may defend against a discrimination claim by arguing that it is a “bona fide occupational qualification” of the particular job to have a non-LGBTQ+ employee fill it (Conn. Gen. Stat. secs. 46a-81c; 46a-60 generally). Luckily, although this defense is technically allowed by law, it is strictly applied and rarely successful (see, e.g. The Evening Sentinel et al. v. National Organization for Women, 168 Conn. 26, 36 (1975) (“A BFOQ exists only if no member of the class excluded is physically capable of performing the tasks required by the job”); Conn. Institute for the Blind v. CHRO, 176 Conn. 88 (1978) (“The standard for a BFOQ purposely imposes a heavy burden on an employer whose refusal to hire is prima facie discriminatory”)).
  • The ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program, which is established under federal law to provide officers to the U.S. military, may continue to discriminate in its “conduct and administration” at colleges and universities (Conn. Gen. Stat.  sec. 46a-81q.  It is worth noting that LGB individuals are no longer excluded from the military and ROTC programs; and transgender individuals can now serve in the military and will be allowed participation in ROTC no later than July 1, 2017).

Does Connecticut law forbid sexual harassment on the job?

Yes. Connecticut law defines sexual harassment as:

Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when (a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 46a-60(a)(8)).

Can I file a complaint of sexual harassment if I’m LGBTQ+?

Yes. It is just as unlawful to sexually harass an LGBTQ+ individual as it is to harass anyone else. Some harassment is specifically anti-LGBTQ+, and may be more fairly characterized as harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Other harassment is sexual in nature and more appropriately categorized as “sexual harassment.” Both types of harassment can happen to the same person, and both are forbidden.

Both the United States Supreme Court and several state courts have found same-sex sexual harassment to violate sexual harassment laws (Compare Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998) (man can sue for sexual harassment by other men under federal sexual harassment laws); Melnychenko v. 84 Lumber Co., 424 Mass. 285, 676 N.E.2d 45 (1997) (same-sex sexual harassment forbidden under state law)).