Attorney General Grewal Appoints Rachel Wainer Apter Director of New Jersey Division on Civil Rights – New Focus on Expanding the State's Civil Rights Protections as the Federal Government Withdraws

“Discrimination threatens the foundations of our democracy. As the federal government pulls back from its responsibility to protect people of color, LGBTQ people, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and other marginalized communities, it is more important than ever that New Jersey stand up to protect its own residents,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Rachel has an extraordinary commitment to social justice and equality, and has the vision and skills necessary to lead the Division as we work to protect the civil rights of all New Jerseyans.”

Wainer Apter, a New Jersey native, currently serves as Counsel to the Attorney General, advising on civil rights and immigration matters. She most recently led the New Jersey team that defeated a motion by Texas and seven other states to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, Wainer Apter worked at the American Civil Liberties Union on cases concerning immigration, voting rights, reproductive freedom, and the right to be free from discrimination. She served as counsel in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which considered whether a baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple was exempt from Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, and on a challenge to the Trump Administration’s decision to allow employers with moral or religious objections to contraception to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage. Wainer Apter also argued and won a disability discrimination appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and led a task force regarding investigations into incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses.

Wainer Apter, who grew up in Rockaway and now lives in Englewood with her husband and three children, said, “This is a unique time for civil rights law in New Jersey. While civil rights are under siege at the national level, the New Jersey legislature has been dramatically expanding civil rights protections across the state and New Jersey has one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country. I am excited and honored to lead the Division to ensure that all New Jersey residents can live their lives free from discrimination.”

After law school, Wainer Apter served as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court, Judge Robert Katzmann on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Judge Jed Rakoff on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She also worked in the Supreme Court and Appellate practice at Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, where she was a leader of the firm-wide Women’s Initiative. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and received her law degree from Harvard Law School.

The Division on Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the nation’s oldest anti-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, pregnancy or breastfeeding, and a variety of other protected characteristics in the workforce, places of public accommodation, housing, and lending. The Division is charged with preventing and eliminating discrimination in New Jersey by both receiving, investigating and acting upon complaints alleging discrimination, and by affirmatively issuing reports and publications, conducting investigations, and implementing educational and community outreach programs to address systemic discrimination.

The appointment of Wainer Apter was recommended by Attorney General Grewal and approved by Governor Murphy. By statute, the appointment must also be approved by the New Jersey Commission on Civil Rights.

Wainer Apter will succeed Craig Sashihara, who has served as the Director of the Division on Civil Rights since 2011. During his tenure, Sashihara oversaw a number of significant initiatives, including efforts to combat racial taunting in high school sports and to fight discrimination on the basis of disability, pregnancy, and gender expression. Sashihara also led the Department’s investigation into Mahwah Township’s unconstitutional ordinance banning non-state residents from the town’s parks.

Sashihara will be transitioning to a new role as Counsel for NJ CARES (New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies), the Attorney General’s initiative to combat the opioid crisis. “Craig is a dedicated public servant who is incredibly committed to justice and civil rights,” said Attorney General Grewal. “I am grateful to Craig for his leadership of the Division over the past seven years and look forward to everything he will accomplish in his new role.”

In addition to appointing Wainer Apter, Attorney General Grewal also announced the creation of a new attorney unit, to be called the “Affirmative Civil Rights & Labor Enforcement Section.” The unit, which will work closely with Wainer Apter, will focus on investigating and litigating systemic violations of the civil rights of protected classes and of workers under state and federal laws. The Attorney General’s Office is currently accepting applications for an Assistant Attorney General to supervise the new unit.

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