Know the Law

About the NJ Law Against Discrimination

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) is one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country.

The LAD prohibits discrimination and bias-based harassment based on many protected classes in employment (including labor unions and employment agencies), housing (include housing providers and realtors), and places of public accommodation (generally, places open to the public, including businesses, restaurants, schools, summer camps, medical providers, government offices and agencies, etc.).

Protected Classes Under the LAD

The LAD prohibits discrimination and bias-based harassment based on actual or perceived:
• Race or color;
• Religion or creed;
• National origin, nationality, or ancestry;
• Sex, pregnancy, or breastfeeding;
• Sexual orientation;
• Gender identity or expression;
• Disability;
• Marital status or domestic partnership/civil union status;
• Liability for military service;
• In housing: familial status and source of lawful income used for rental or mortgage payments;
• In employment: age, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, the refusal to submit to a genetic test or make available to an employer the results of a genetic test.

Anyone who believes their rights under the LAD have been violated may file a complaint with DCR within 180 days of the incident. Click here to learn more about filing a complaint with DCR.
Click here to view a fact sheet about the LAD.

Discrimination

The LAD’s prohibition against discrimination means that an employer cannot fire someone, pay someone less money, or refuse to hire or promote someone because of their race. Similarly, a housing provider cannot refuse to rent an apartment to a couple because of their sexual orientation. And a place of public accommodation cannot refuse to serve someone because of their religion or nationality.

The LAD prohibits conduct that is intended to treat people differently based on their membership in a protected class (disparate treatment) as well as policies and practices that disproportionately affect those in a protected class, even when the policies and practices are neutral on their face and are not intended to discriminate (disparate impact).

Harassment

The LAD prohibits bias-based harassment.  If someone is being subjected to bias-based harassment that creates a hostile environment, an employer, housing provider, or place of public accommodation must take reasonable steps to stop the harassment if they knew or should have known about it. That includes harassment between coworkers, tenants, or patrons, not just harassment by a landlord or by a supervisor at work.

The LAD also prohibits sexual harassment, a form of gender-based discrimination.

Quid pro quo harassment is when a benefit (like a promotion at work, a lease on an apartment, or access to a restaurant) is conditioned on sexual favors, or when an adverse action (like getting fired or evicted) is threatened if a person refuses a sexual advance.

Hostile environment is when a person is subjected to unwanted harassing conduct based on gender that is severe or pervasive. This can include verbal harassment, such as obscene language or demeaning comments; physical harassment, such as unwanted touching; or visual harassment, such as displaying pornographic images, cartoons, or drawings.

Click here to view a fact sheet about protections from sexual harassment under the LAD.

Retaliation

The LAD prohibits retaliation against a person for complaining about, reporting, or cooperating in an investigation of alleged discrimination or biased-based harassment, or otherwise exercising or attempting to exercise their rights under the law. For example, an employer cannot fire, demote, or otherwise penalize an employee for reporting sexual harassment to human resources and a housing provider cannot attempt to evict someone for reporting housing discrimination to DCR.

Reasonable Accommodations

The LAD’s prohibition on disability discrimination means that in addition to not discriminating against individuals based on disability, employers, housing providers, and places of public accommodation must provide reasonable accommodations to a person with a disability unless doing so would be an undue burden on their operations. A reasonable accommodation may include:

  • Restructuring the job of a person with a disability, or providing a modified work schedule or leave of absence;
  • Allowing a tenant with a disability to keep an emotional support animal, even if the building has a no-pet policy;
  • Making public accommodations accessible to people with disabilities (including allowing a person with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal).

The obligation to consider or to provide a reasonable accommodation may be triggered when an employer, housing provider, or place of public accommodation becomes aware that a person with a disability needs an accommodation. The person is not required to use any magic words in order request to an accommodation and cannot be penalized for requesting an accommodation.

The obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation also applies to people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Click here to learn more about protections from discrimination based on pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Finally, the obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation also applies to accommodations on the basis of religion.  So, for example, an employer who has a “no hat” policy would be required to grant a reasonable accommodation to a Muslim woman who wears a hijab or a Jewish man who wears a yarmulke, unless doing so would be an undue burden on their operations.

Disparate Treatment vs. Disparate Impact

The LAD prohibits conduct that is intended to treat people differently based on their membership in a protected class (disparate treatment) as well as policies and practices that disproportionately affect those in a protected class, even when the policies and practices are neutral on their face and are not intended to discriminate (disparate impact).

The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)

The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA)

Under the New Jersey Family Leave Act, a person who works for a state or local government agency, or a company or organization with 30 or more employees worldwide, and who has been employed by the company for at least 1 year and has worked at least 1,000 hours in the past 12 months, can generally can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave during any 24-month period:

  • To care for or bond with a child, as long as the leave begins within 1 year of the child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, who has a serious health condition (including a diagnosis of COVID-19);
  • To care for a family member, or someone who is the equivalent of family, who has been isolated or quarantined because of suspected exposure to a communicable disease (including COVID-19) during a state of emergency; or
  • To provide required care or treatment for a child if their school or place of care is closed by order of a public official due to an epidemic of a communicable disease (including COVID-19) or other public health emergency.

Eligible employees can take a consecutive block of up to 12 weeks or can take leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule.

NJFLA leave is not the same as the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so a person does not use up NJFLA leave while taking leave for their own serious medical condition under the FMLA. In some situations, a person may therefore may be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for their own condition and 12 weeks of NJFLA leave to care for a family member in a single 12-month period.

For example, someone who is pregnant or just had a baby can take up to 12 weeks for pregnancy and recovery from childbirth under the FMLA, and can then take an additional 12 weeks of NJFLA leave to bond with or care for the baby after their doctor certifies they are fit to return to work or they have exhausted their FMLA leave (whichever is earlier).

When returning to work, the employee is entitled to return to the same position they held before leave.  And an employer may not retaliate against someone for taking or attempting to take leave under the NJFLA.

Anyone who believes their rights under the NJFLA have been violated may file a complaint with DCR within 180 days of the incident. Click here to learn more about filing a complaint with DCR.

Click here to view a fact sheet on the NJFLA.

The Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA)

The Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA)

For more information on the Fair Chance in Housing Act visit our FCHA page.

The Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA) bars housing providers from asking about criminal history on housing applications in most instances. The FCHA is the first state law of its kind in the country and is intended to ensure people with past criminal histories have a fair shot at accessing safe and affordable housing.

Housing providers subject to the FCHA include landlords, owners, lessors, sublessors, assignees, or their agents, or any other person receiving or entitled to receive rents or benefits for the use or occupancy of any rental dwelling unit. Under the FCHA, a rental dwelling unit means a home offered for rent by a housing provider for residential purposes, except for a dwelling unit in an owner-occupied premises of no more than four (4) dwelling units.

The FCHA limits a housing provider’s ability to consider an applicant’s criminal history on an initial housing application, in an interview, or in any other way before making an offer. It is also unlawful for a housing provider to publish any advertisement prohibiting applicants with criminal histories from applying for a unit.

There are two exceptions when housing providers may ask about criminal background on initial application materials. They may inquire:

  • Whether an applicant has ever been convicted of drug-related criminal activity for the manufacture or production of methamphetamine on the premises of federally assisted housing; or,
  • Whether the applicant is subject to a lifetime registration requirement on a state sex offender registry.

The FCHA also prohibits a housing provider from ever, either before or after the issuance of an offer, asking about certain types of criminal records or relying on them in rejecting an applicant, such as arrests or charges that did not result in a conviction, or juvenile adjudications of delinquency (whether the information is obtained from an applicant or from a third-party vendor or other outside person/entity). For more information visit https://www.njoag.gov/about/divisions-and-offices/division-on-civil-rights-home/fcha/.

The law also prohibits housing providers from requiring drug or alcohol testing; from disseminating or distributing an applicant’s record in any way not authorized under the FCHA; and from retaliating against anyone for exercising their rights to file a complaint under the law.

If a housing provider chooses to evaluate criminal history, it may do so only after a conditional housing offer has been made. Before considering the applicant’s criminal history, it must provide a Disclosure Statement informing the applicant that the eligibility criteria for the unit includes the applicant’s criminal history, and appraising the applicant of their right to demonstrate mitigating factors, i.e. inaccuracies in their criminal record or evidence of rehabilitation.

After a conditional offer, a housing provider can only consider specified types of criminal records under the FCHA, depending on the seriousness of the offense and how recently it occurred. For more information visit https://www.njoag.gov/about/divisions-and-offices/division-on-civil-rights-home/fcha/.

If a housing provider finds such an offense(s) in an applicant’s record, the housing provider may withdraw the conditional offer only if withdrawal is necessary to fulfill a substantial, legitimate, and non-discriminatory interest. In so doing, the housing provider must perform an individualized assessment considering specific factors under the law. For more information visit https://www.njoag.gov/about/divisions-and-offices/division-on-civil-rights-home/fcha.

The housing provider must also provide a Notice of Withdrawal form indicating the specific reasons for the withdrawal, and notifying the applicant of their right to appeal the denial of their application. The applicant can then request a copy of all the information the housing provider relied upon in making the withdrawal within 30 days of receiving the Notice, and the housing provider must provide the information free of charge within 10 days after receipt of a timely request.

The applicant may then use that information to appeal to the housing provider, claiming that the provider violated the FCHA, and offer additional information in support of a violation. A housing provider must consider and provide a determination based on that new information within 30 days.

Anyone who believes their rights under the FCHA have been violated may file a complaint with DCR within 180 days of the incident. Click here to learn more about filing a complaint with DCR.

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