On November 23, 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that will expand the state’s anti-discrimination laws to cover “gender identity.” The expanded anti-discrimination law will take effect on July 1, 2012, and will provide protection against discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, education, and credit, but not in public accommodation. It will also provide protection under the state’s hate crimes law.
The new law defines gender identity 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.” For evidentiary purposes, “gender-related identity” may be shown by providing “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 as part of a person’s core identity.”
Massachusetts will become the 16th state to prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity. Accordingly, by July 1, 2012, employers should revise their equal employment opportunity policies, anti-harassment policies, employment applications, and training materials to specifically include “gender identity” as a protected class.