In addition to the paid sick leave law which we’ve been closing following as its made its way through the General Assembly, a new law affecting employers which will make “gender identity or expression” a new protected category passed the General Assembly this weekend and is heading to the Governor’s desk.   Few employers will be exempt from the coverage of the bill, as it applies to all employers with three or more employees, with the exception of certain religious entities.  The Act defines gender identity and 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, which gender-related identity can be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held, part of a person’s core identity or not being asserted for an improper purpose.”  While the verbiage is both wordy and somewhat confusing, the bill is intended to protect those who identify as transgender. 

The law on this subject has been somewhat unclear for several years.  While the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act and Title VII have prohibited discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment based on one’s gender or sex, whether or not those provisions afforded protection to transgender individuals has been hotly contested and debated.  The new law, if signed, will no doubt put the debate to rest.  Moreover, the bill itself was hotly contested and debated, as evidenced by the 20-16 vote in the Senate.

Assuming Governor Malloy signs, as expected, the bill will become law on October 1, 2011, giving employers just a few short months to update their policies, procedures and postings.