Division Announces Findings of Probable Cause in 10 Cases and Resolves 7 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 ten cases involving allegations that an employer, a housing provider, or a place of public accommodation has violated the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by discriminating on the basis of disability.
The Findings of Probable Cause announced today include six cases involving alleged disability discrimination by employers, three cases involving alleged disability discrimination by housing providers, and one case involving alleged disability discrimination by a school district. The cases involve both public and private entities. And they involve respondents in six New Jersey counties: Atlantic, Cumberland, Camden, Hunterdon, Mercer, and Monmouth Counties.
The Attorney General and the Division also announced today that DCR has resolved seven other cases involving allegations of disability discrimination. In each case, the respondent agreed to injunctive relief that requires it to comply with the LAD’s prohibitions against disability discrimination. Across these cases, DCR has recovered more than $53,000 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 accommodations 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.
“Every New Jerseyan has a right to live, work, and obtain an education without facing discrimination on the basis of a disability,” said Attorney General Platkin. “The enforcement actions we are announcing today reinforce our office’s ongoing commitment to eradicating disability discrimination across our State.”
“For generations, persons with disabilities have faced discrimination from their employers, from landlords, and from businesses and institutions in their communities. But make no mistake: Our State’s civil rights laws flatly prohibit disability discrimination,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “We will not tolerate violations of our State’s robust protections against discrimination on the basis of disability, and we will hold violators accountable.”
A Finding of Probable Cause does not represent final adjudication of a case. Rather, it means DCR has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion the LAD has been violated.
Disability Discrimination in Employment
Among the enforcement actions announced today, DCR has issued Findings of Probable Cause in six employment cases. These cases involve allegations that the employer violated the LAD either by (1) refusing to hire an applicant based on a disability, by denying an employee a reasonable accommodation, (2) failing to engage with the employee in the interactive process required by law in determining whether a reasonable accommodation was appropriate, or by (3) terminating an employee’s employment due to a disability.
In one case, DCR found probable cause to support a complainant’s allegation that a municipal police department likely violated the LAD when it summarily determined that her disability—the complainant has monocular vision (i.e., vision out of only one eye)—disqualified her from being considered for employment. The evidence gathered during DCR’s investigation showed that the police department denied the complainant’s application based solely on guidelines stating that law enforcement officers should generally have vision in both eyes.
As a result, DCR found probable cause to support the allegation that the police department violated the LAD because it failed to conduct an individualized assessment of the complainant’s circumstances and failed to engage in an interactive process with the complainant to determine whether she could perform the essential functions of the position, with or without accommodation.
In another case, DCR found probable cause to support an employee’s allegation that a casino likely violated the LAD when it fired an employee after a lifting restriction prevented her from returning to her job as a guestroom attendant. The investigation found that the employer terminated the employee without giving proper consideration to whether she could have been provided a reasonable accommodation, such as transfer to a different job.
DCR found that the evidence showed that the employer had at least one job opening for which the complainant was qualified, and which the complainant could have performed. But the employer failed to accommodate complainant by reassigning her to that position. Under the LAD, an employer cannot terminate an employee with a disability on the grounds that the disability precludes job performance without first considering the full range of reasonable accommodations that can be offered to the employee that would allow them to continue working.
Disability Discrimination in Housing and Public Accommodations
DCR has also issued three Findings of Probable Cause in cases involving housing providers, and one in a case involving a public school.
The Findings of Probable Cause in housing cases involve allegations that a housing provider either denied a rental application due to a prospective tenant’s disability, denied a reasonable accommodation to an existing tenant, or unreasonably delayed granting a reasonable accommodation to an existing tenant.
In one case, a complainant alleged that a large apartment building in Minotola denied his request for a reserved parking space as a reasonable accommodation for a medical condition that requires his use of a wheelchair. The apartment building denied the tenant’s request on the basis that the request might result in similar parking requests from other tenants. DCR found probable cause to support a violation of the LAD, as the housing provider did not adequately identify an undue burden that would result from granting the tenant’s accommodation request.
DCR also issued a Finding of Probable Cause against a local board of education after DCR’s investigation found that an elementary school in the district decided to remove the complainant’s service dog from the school building without regard to whether the dog was a service animal, and without giving the complainant the opportunity to provide documentation stating that the dog was a service animal.
Under the LAD, it is unlawful for any place of public accommodation, including a school, to deny the right of people with disabilities to be accompanied in any place of public accommodation by guide or service dogs that have been specially trained by a service animal trainer.
Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees
DCR also announced today that it has resolved seven other cases involving allegations of disability discrimination. These matters were resolved through negotiated settlement agreements or consent decrees. Across those seven cases, DCR recovered more than $53,000 for complainants.
In each case, the respondent also agreed to comply with the LAD’s prohibitions against disability discrimination and to ensure that its written policy complies with the LAD’s requirement that respondents consider providing a reasonable accommodation to persons with a disability. The respondents also agreed to hold training for their employees on that written policy and the LAD. In addition, in some cases, the respondent 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 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.