Division Announces Findings of Probable Cause in 5 Cases and the Resolution of 11 Other Cases Involving Allegations of Disability Discrimination
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has issued Findings of Probable Cause in five cases alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
The Findings of Probable Cause announced today include three cases involving alleged disability discrimination by housing providers, one case involving alleged disability discrimination by an employer, and one case involving alleged disability discrimination by a place of public accommodation. The cases involve respondents in five New Jersey counties: Bergen, Camden, Morris, Ocean, and Union counties.
The Attorney General and the Division also announced today that DCR has resolved eleven other cases involving allegations of disability discrimination. Across these cases, which came to DCR through complaints filed by members of the public, DCR has recovered $153,000 for complainants.
The LAD prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation on the basis of an actual or perceived disability. This means that employers, housing providers, or places of public accommodation cannot deny equal treatment to any person because of a disability. It also means that they must provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.
“In New Jersey, we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind – including discrimination on the basis of disability. Everyone, regardless of their ability, has the right to work, live, and have equal access to places of public accommodation,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The enforcement actions announced today are a testament to our ongoing commitment to fighting disability discrimination in all its forms.”
“The enforcement actions we are announcing today reflect an unfortunate reality: Disability discrimination remains a pervasive problem in our workplaces and our communities,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “The Law Against Discrimination provides powerful protections against disability discrimination, and we remain firmly committed to enforcing them and holding violators of our laws accountable.”
Findings of Probable Cause
Among the enforcement actions announced today, DCR has issued a Finding of Probable Cause against a provider of mental health services after DCR’s investigation found that the provider failed to accommodate the complainant, a person with hearing loss who needed sign language interpretation services. Under the LAD, places of public accommodation are required to make reasonable accommodations necessary to allow a person with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, or access the full benefits of, respondent’s services, programs, or activities, unless doing so would be an undue burden on its operations. In this case, the provider’s failure to accommodate the complainant prevented her from receiving mental health care for approximately six months.
The enforcement actions announced today also include Findings of Probable Cause in three housing cases alleging disability discrimination. All three cases involve allegations that housing providers violated the LAD by unlawfully denying the tenant or prospective tenants’ initial request to live with an emotional support animal.
In one case, for example, a complainant alleged that a Bergen County-based condo association delayed her move-in date, forcing her to live in a hotel, because she requested to live with her service animal as a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities. In that case, the housing provider required the prospective tenant to submit extensive documentation proving that her dog was a “service animal” within the meaning of the law, even though she presented sufficient evidence to allow the dog to live with her as an “emotional support animal.” DCR’s investigation found probable cause to conclude that the housing provider’s delay amounted to a constructive failure to accommodate.
In another case, the tenant’s move-in date was delayed because the leasing agent overseeing her Morris County rental refused to accept the medical documentation she provided so that she could move in with her emotional support animal. The leasing agent required that she have her healthcare provider fill out a form called an “Assistance Animal Verification Form.” Housing providers, however, are generally prohibited from requiring special forms or documentation to support a tenant’s request to live with an emotional support animal.
In a third housing case, a Union County housing provider ignored the tenant’s medically documented need for emotional support animals, imposed a fine, and tried to have the tenant evicted for violating its “no pets” policy. Under the LAD, a housing provider cannot apply a “no pets” policy to prohibit emotional support animals.
DCR also issued a Finding of Probable Cause in an employment case in which an employee of a healthcare provider in Camden County was fired after he requested a shift change so that he could attend physical therapy appointments.
The Findings of Probable Cause announced today do not represent final adjudication of the cases. Rather, a Finding of Probable Cause means DCR has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion the LAD has been violated.
Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees
DCR also announced today that it has resolved eleven other cases involving allegations of disability discrimination. These matters were resolved through negotiated settlement agreements or consent decrees. In total, across all eleven cases, DCR recovered more than $153,000 for complainants.
In each case, the respondent also agreed to comply with the LAD’s prohibitions against disability discrimination; to ensure that its written policy complies with the LAD’s requirement that respondents consider providing a reasonable accommodation to persons with a disability; and to hold training for their employees on that written policy and the LAD. In some cases, the respondent also agreed to DCR’s ongoing monitoring of reasonable accommodation requests.
To view a Fact Sheet on disability discrimination and the rights of people with disabilities in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation under the LAD, please visit https://www.nj.gov/lps/dcr/downloads/fact-Disability-Discrimination.pdf. People with disabilities who believe their rights under the LAD have been violated can file a complaint with DCR by visiting https://bias.njcivilrights.gov/ or calling 1-833-NJDCR4U (833-653-2748).
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights enforces the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act, and works to prevent, eliminate, and remedy discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation throughout New Jersey.
To find out more information, go to www.njcivilrights.gov.