New Jersey Transgender Equality Task Force Issues Recommendations to Address LGBTQ Discrimination

The New Jersey Transgender Equality Task Force issued its report and recommendations on November 20, 2019 to address discrimination against transgender individuals of New Jersey.  The New Jersey Transgender Equality Task Force, was established by Governor Murphy and its Senate and Assembly sponsors in July, 2018, convened in March, 2019 and has worked for the past six month studying a wide ranging issues of discrimination facing transgender persons, including health care, long term care, education, higher education, housing, employment and criminal justice.  New Jersey’s creation of the Transgender Equality Task Force is the first in the nation.

IMG_92AFD566C527-1-300x166The task force was chaired by Aaron Potenza who is the Policy and Program Manager for the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Mr. Potenza was joined by representatives from nine state agencies along with other experts, lawyers and health care professionals.   The task force’s directive was to assess the legal and societal barriers to equality for transgender individuals in the State and to make recommendations to ensure equality and improve the lives of transgender individuals.  The task force’s report, entitled “Addressing Discrimination Against Transgender New Jerseyans”, includes various recommendations to address LGBTQ discrimination, which include the following:

  • the Governor’s Office announcing a campaign to increase sexual orientation and gender identity data collection throughout New Jersey state agencies;
  • mandating all state employees undergo training that covers implicit bias, cultural humility, the basics of gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation and intersex status and conditions, issues affecting the transgender community, rights and protections afforded by federal and state law to transgender persons;
  • developing and issuing guidelines by the Office of Attorney General that cover respectful, non-discriminatory treatment of transgender persons;
  • requiring the Office of the Attorney General to train law enforcement officers and civilian staff on those guidelines and on cultural humility;
  • reviewing and modernizing the Department of Corrections transgender policy;
  • mandating the New Jersey State Parole Board and staff to conduct and participate in periodic training on cultural humility and other issues confronting the LGBTQ community;
  • developing comprehensive policies by the Juvenile Justice Commission to appropriately address transgender youth in the juvenile justice system;
  • ensuring that County Prosecutors’ offices who serve transgender victims of crimes receive at least annual training on best practices to ensure that victims do not suffer any additional trauma as a result of interacting with law enforcement agencies;
  • having the Division of Civil Rights take a proactive approach to ensure that state guidance on transgender students is implemented in all schools and that the students and parents know their rights and understand how to file a complaint of LGBTQ discrimination;
  • requiring schools to have all gender inclusive restrooms;
  • requiring the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development recommend that the State Employment and Training Commission (SETC) amend the list of targeted groups in its Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act State Plan to include transgender and LGBTQ populations;
  • specialized employment programs for transgender and LGBTQ populations;
  • requiring Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health to issue guidance regarding restroom access for transgender workers that complies with the mandates of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, prohibiting places of public accommodation or employers to refuse to allow an individual to use a restroom consistent with his, her, or their gender identity or expression;
  • supporting a statewide public education campaign to educate the public on how family acceptance and support of transgender children promotes well-being, reduces risk and saves lives;
  • creating an LGBTQ Patient Bill of Rights that aligns with a Transgender Patient Bill of Rights with clear expectations for the patient and obligations of the provider;
  • requiring state colleges and universities to conduct annual campus climate surveys; and,
  • invest funding for programs that address transgender homelessness and lack of safe and supportive services;

In a press release, Governor Murphy said, “As our LGBTQ community faces threats from the Trump administration, New Jersey has always been and will continue to be on the front lines to protect the rights of our LGBTQ community.  This report is a testament to our State’s unwavering commitment and belief that every resident deserves equal protection, regardless of gender identity.”

New Jersey has long been considered one of the most progressive states in addressing LGBTQ discrimination in places of public accommodation and employment.  The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination specifically protects individuals from being discriminated against because of their sex, sexual orientation and/or other protected traits.  In furtherance of its strong anti-discrimination laws, the task force has provided extensive recommendations to the Governor and the Legislative on how to better ensure equality and improve the lives of transgender people.

Our New Jersey LGBTQ lawyers will continue to monitor any changes in the law that impact the rights of LGBTQ workers in New Jersey.