For information about employment non-discrimination laws in states outside New England, visit

Across New England, it is explicitly prohibited by law 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 explicitly prohibited by law 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.

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 laws at the federal level that 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.

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.