Category Archives: New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

Will the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Protect People Who Voice Complaints About Behavior That They Cannot Prove is Discriminatory?

If an employee “voices a complaint about behavior or activities in the workplace that he or she thinks are discriminatory,” but it turns out they are not, is the employee still protected under the N.J. Law Against Discrimination? That issue was addressed by the Court in Battaglia v. UPS, 214 N.J. 518 (2013).
In that case, an employee of UPS was demoted after he complained that managers had made derogatory comments about women and certain other activities. However, he was unable to prove that the discrimination actually took place.
The Supreme Court determined that it would not matter if the activity was actually contrary to law, so long as the person complaining about it had a good faith basis to believe it was. As the Court noted “we do not demand…that he or she be able to prove that there was an identifiable discriminatory impact upon someone of the requisite protected class.”
The basis for the Court’s ruling was that the N.J. Law Against Discrimination is a remedial statute. That means that it is meant to address a social ill, in this case, discrimination. Therefore, it will be read expansively so as not to discourage people from making reasonable complaints that might happen to turn out later to be unprovable.

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May the Government provide funding for religious schools that discriminate based upon gender and other suspect classifications?

May the Government provide funding for religious schools that discriminate based upon gender and other suspect classifications? The currently-pending case, American Civil Liberty Union of New Jersey; Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of NJ and Gloria Shore Andersen v. Rochelle Hendricks and Andrew P. Sidomon-Eristoff, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, General Equity Part: Mercer County is seeking to answer that question.
The suit stems from a $750 million bond issue that was approved by New Jersey taxpayers to fund higher education. $11 million dollars of that money was allocated by Governor Christie to support two New Jersey schools: Beth Medrash Govoha and Princeton Theological Seminary. The issue relates to whether these institutions should have been funded with government money, given the fact that they train clergy and discriminate (albeit, legally) on the basis of suspect classifications, such as gender and religion.
One of the interesting aspects of this case it is primarily being brought under the New Jersey Constitution. It provides protection against government intrusion into religious matters that is superior to that of the federal constitution.  Indeed, Article 1, paragraph 3 of the New Jersey Constitution prohibits taxes being used “for building or repairing any church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry” and Article 1, paragraph 4 prohibits establishing a preference for one sect over another.
Another impediment to the funding is that the schools engage in activity that, if engaged in by a private party, would violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Religious institutions enjoy an exception to that law which allows them to discriminate on such items as gender or religion. However, the government is covered by the restrictions in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Therefore, when the government funds an otherwise exempt institution, the government is violating the Law Against Discrimination.