Will Anti-Discrimination Laws Protect You in the Workplace?

In New Mexico, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on gender, sexual orientation or disability — but how does that work in practice? Will an HIV diagnosis cause you to lose your job or have a difficult time getting hired elsewhere? And if you feel you are being discriminated against due to your gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV status, what can you do?

What Laws Protect You?Multi-racial couple

Different types of discrimination are prohibited by state and federal laws. In New Mexico, sexual orientation is protected by anti-discrimination laws. Additionally, HIV is considered a disability, even if it is not actively affecting your lifestyle or performance, and this is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Note that these laws apply only to businesses with more than 15 employees. Very small privately owned businesses are exempt from these rules.

What Constitutes Discrimination?

Discrimination is unequal treatment based upon factors unrelated to your job aptitude or performance. In other words, if you are passed over for a promotion, are wrongfully terminated, receive harrassing or abusive treatment or are turned down for a job based upoon an external factor like gender identity, race, religion, disability etc., you can make a case for discrimination.

In theory, this is simple. In practice, discrimination can be more difficult to identify. For example, it’s not always easy to tell whether you were turned down for a job due to discrimination or simply because a more qualified candidate also applied.

What Can You Do?

If you feel that you have been discriminated against based on your HIV status or sexual orientation, your first step may be to speak with the company’s HR department. If you work in a corporate setting, going to the corporate HR rather than your individual employer may help.

In addition, some attorneys specialize in wrongful termination and workplace discrimination. Consulting with a qualified attorney can give you the guidance you need to move forward.