Division on Civil Rights Know the Law

Division on Civil Rights Know the Law

Rachel Weiner Apter - Director
Rachel Wainer Apter, Director

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).

Harrassment

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.

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