Know the Law
Rachel Wainer Apter, Director
Public Accommodation Discrimination
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation 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;
- Marital status or domestic partnership/civil union status;
- Liability for military service.
A place of public accommodation is generally any place that offers goods, services, or facilities to the public, including
- Schools, colleges and universities
- Stores and businesses
- Summer camps
- Hotels & motels
- Medical providers, hospitals, and doctors’ offices
- Government offices or agencies
The law means people cannot be denied access to or treated less favorably by a place of public accommodation because of their actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or expression, or other protected characteristic.
In addition, employees and agents of places of public accommodation cannot harass patrons or customers, and must take action to stop bias-based harassment if it knew or should have known about it, even if the harassment is perpetrated by a fellow patient, patron or customer.
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.
The law does not apply to a place that is by nature “distinctly private,” like a private club, or to schools operated by bona fide religious institutions.
In addition, places which are reasonably restricted to individuals of one gender (such as dressing rooms) may deny access to members of the other gender as long as they allow people to enter based on their gender identity or expression. Click here to view a fact sheet about protections from discrimination or harassment in public accommodations based on gender identity or expression.
Discrimination and Harassment in School
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits discrimination and bias-based harassment in schools, based on actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or expression and other protected characteristics.
That means that a student cannot be subjected to bias-based harassment from students or school staff in a way that creates a hostile school environment. If a school knows or should have known about such harassment, it must take action to stop it. For instance, a school must take action if a teacher or other school official knows that one student is repeatedly harassing a classmate because of her disability.
The LAD also applies to school-sponsored functions and activities that take place outside of school hours. For example, students have the right to participate in high school and college athletics without being subjected to racial or religious harassment from teammates, opponents or fans. Click here to view agreements between DCR and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
The LAD also prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics in the implementation of class placement and school discipline policies, including suspension and expulsion.
Finally, a school cannot retaliate against a person for reporting bias-based harassment or discrimination, for exercising or attempting to exercise these or any other rights under the LAD, or for assisting someone else in exercising their rights.
Click here to view a fact sheet on discrimination and harassment in school.
Service and Guide Dogs in Public Facilities
The LAD entitles any person with a disability who uses a service or guide dog to the full and equal enjoyment of all public facilities. Public facilities include not only places of public accommodation, but also spaces open to the general public like beaches, parks, streets, sidewalks, and public buildings.
Under the LAD, a person with a disability is entitled to bring their service or guide dog to all public facilities as long as the dog has been trained by a recognized training agency.
The public facility may not charge a person with a disability an extra fee for their service or guide dog, although the person may be required to pay for any damage done to the premises by the dog. Additionally, the individual must keep the service or guide dog in their immediate custody at all times.
Click here to view a fact sheet on service and guide dogs in public facilities.
The LAD prohibits sexual harassment, a form of gender-based discrimination, in places of public accommodation.
Sexual harassment 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. Sexual harassment is unlawful whether perpetrated by an employee of the public accommodation, such as a university professor or a doctor, or a fellow patron of the public accommodation, such as another student or another customer at a store.
A place of public accommodation must take action to stop sexual harassment if it knows or should have known about it.
There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a benefit (like a better grade or a discount at a retail store) is conditioned on sexual favors, or when an adverse action (like being cut from a school-sponsored athletic team or denied medical care) is threatened if you refuse a sexual advance. And a hostile environment exists when you are subjected to unwanted harassing conduct based on gender that is severe or pervasive enough to make the environment intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
Click here to view a fact sheet on sexual harassment in places of public accommodation.
Discrimination and Harassment by Law Enforcement
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits police officers and police departments from discriminating in policing based on race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or expression, and other protected characteristics. That means that police officers and police departments cannot target you for arrest or other law enforcement action because of an LAD-protected characteristic. For example, police officers cannot pull you over or ask you to leave a neighborhood because of your race, single you out for a bag check because of your religion, or ask you for ID because of your national origin or gender identity or expression. The LAD also prohibits police officers and police departments from verbally or physically harassing members of the public and individuals in police custody on the basis of any LAD-protected characteristic. Depending on the circumstances, even use of a single slur by an officer in a police encounter may violate the LAD.
A police officer or police department cannot retaliate against you for reporting bias-based harassment or discrimination to DCR.
You can also report police misconduct to other agencies. Click here to view a fact sheet on how to report misconduct or discrimination by law enforcement officers or agencies.
Discrimination in Credit & Business Transactions
Under The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) it is unlawful for businesses, banks, or financial institutions to discriminate in any loan, contract, or other financial or business transaction based on actual or perceived race, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or other protected characteristic.
That means, for example, that a lender cannot make decisions about a mortgage, or offer less favorable terms on a loan, because of the applicant’s race. It is also illegal to discriminate based on the actual or perceived race, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or other protected characteristic of the applicant’s spouse, partners, employees, business associates, suppliers or customers.