How Does the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Protect Workers?September 6, 2021
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provides sweeping protections against acts of discrimination in the state. If you believe you have been discriminated against, you may have legal recourse, and you should know your rights under the law.
Discrimination vs. Bias-Based Harassment
This law covers discrimination and bias-based harassment, so it is wide in scope. Discrimination is an act of giving one group preferential treatment over another. Bias-based harassment is in a somewhat different category.
An example of bias-based harassment would be an anti-Semitic slogan or symbol spray-painted on a student’s locker. This would be a single act, but a workplace or academic environment can be inherently bias based, and this can breed illegal acts of harassment.
What are the NJLAD Protected Classes?
The law lists the different protected classes under the NJLAD. Race is at the top of this list, and it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their religion or creed.
Age discrimination is very common in the United States, and this is another protected class. A report was produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in 2017, and it uncovered systemic ageism in hiring practices.
Fictional credentials were created for so-called applicants who were between 29 and 31, and they did the same thing with fake applicants who were between 64 and 66. They all had parallel qualifications, but the younger group got 35 percent more responses to their application.
It is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their ancestry or country of origin. People of all sexual orientations are protected under this law, and this extends to gender identification.
There are cases of discrimination that are based on gender, and this is a protected class, along with women that are pregnant or breast-feeding. People with disabilities are in the protected class group, and the NJLAD prohibits discrimination based on marital or domestic partnership status.
This law singles out two classes that are protected from housing discrimination per se. Landlords cannot discriminate against an applicant because of their income source as long as it is legal.
Familial status is the other distinction, so the law protects people from discrimination based on their family makeup. This means that a landlord cannot discriminate against a family because they have minor children, or a family that is in the process of adopting or fostering a child.
Employers are not permitted to discriminate against people that have unusual hereditary traits, and employees have a right to refuse to take genetic tests.
What are Prohibited Acts of Discrimination?
For employers, discrimination would apply to a failure to hire someone simply because they are in a protected class. Employers cannot fire someone or refuse to promote them on a discriminatory basis. Paying someone a lower wage for the same work could be another act of discrimination under this law.
As it relates to housing, everyone should be treated equally regardless of their race, sexual orientation, religion, gender identification, country of origin, and other factors. A refusal to rent to someone based on any of these factors would be a violation of the NJLAD.
Is Sexual Harassment Covered Under the NJLAD?
Any bias-based harassment is illegal under the NJLAD, including sexual harassment in the workplace or in an academic environment. Unwanted physical contact is a blatant form of harassment, and there are others that are less direct.
Unwanted text messages of a sexual nature would be a form of harassment, and it can be verbal as well. In addition to acts that are between two people, there can be consistent undertones of sexual harassment in a workplace, a school, a housing environment, or a public accommodation.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is another behavior that is illegal under the NJLAD. This is present when a superior demands some type of sexual favor from a subordinate as a condition of employment.
It can be the promise of a promotion, or the proposition can include the threat of dismissal. A job applicant could also be the target of an act of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Is Retaliation Covered in the Discrimination Law?
There is an explicit section on retaliation in the NJLAD. Retaliation by an employee or a landlord that has been reported by someone for discrimination or bias-based harassment is a violation of the law.
Disability Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations
In addition to the fact that people with disabilities are in the protected class, they have additional rights under the law. Reasonable accommodations must be made for these individuals in workplaces, public accommodations, and housing environments.
There is one caveat to this provision. If it would be extremely difficult for the entity to provide accommodations, they may not be required to do so.
A landlord or someone else who falls under this law is required to comply with it as soon as they know that a reasonable accommodation is necessary. The protected class extends to women who are pregnant, and a reasonable accommodation may be necessary for breast-feeding.
This section of the law is rather broad in scope, and it extends to religious accommodations. If a workplace has a dress code and an employee has to violate it because of their religious beliefs, they are protected under the NJLAD.
Disparate Treatment and Disparate Impact
There is another element to the law that is related to disparate treatment and disparate impact.
Disparate treatment is an overt effort to target someone in a protected class with discriminatory intent. Disparate impact would be a policy that would appear to be nondiscriminatory on the surface, but it in practice, it negatively impacts a protected class.
To provide clarity, the company that simply does not hire anyone over the age of 40 would be guilty of disparate treatment. An example of disparate impact would be a policy that applies to everyone that disproportionately impacts older individuals.
Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
In addition to the NJLAD, discriminatory actions and instances of bias harassment are illegal under federal laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on religion or creed, gender, race, or country of origin.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 expanded protections that were established in the original measure.
Men and women are entitled to equal pay for equal work under the Equal Pay Act of 1963. People with disabilities are protected from employment discrimination through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is self-explanatory, and it applies to people who are at least 40 years of age.
How Do You Pursue a Discrimination Case?
If you have been damaged by an act of discrimination or bias as defined under the NJLAD, you should obtain legal representation. When you have an advocate by your side, you will even the playing field, and a legal professional will understand the procedural steps that must be taken.
There is a 180-day deadline for filing a claim with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (NJDCR) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Since there is time sensitivity, you should reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible if you think you have a case.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can Represent You in a Worker Discrimination Case
If you have been a victim of worker discrimination, you can rely on the Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. We take the interests and concerns of our clients very seriously, and we also want to do our part to end discrimination and bias-based harassment. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, we serve clients in Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, South Jersey, and across New Jersey.