Civil Rights

Civil Rights

Housed within the Attorney General’s Office, the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) is charged with preventing and eliminating discrimination in the State and enforcing the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination—one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country. On a range of cases—from housing and employment to rights of public access—DCR takes legal action against those who discriminate on the basis of race, gender, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other protected traits. DCR also enforces the New Jersey Family Leave Act, which promotes workplace equality by guaranteeing eligible employees time off for child care. As of January 1, 2022, DCR also enforces the Fair Chance in Housing Act, which prohibits housing providers from asking about criminal history on housing applications in most instances. The FCHA is the first state law of its kind in the country and is intended to ensure people with past criminal histories have a fair shot at accessing safe and affordable housing.

  • Protecting our diverse communities in the face of Washington’s attacks. With the federal government abandoning its responsibility to enforce federal civil rights laws, the state of New Jersey has stepped up its efforts to protect populations that have historically faced bias and discrimination. At the same time, we have pushed back against a number of federal efforts to deny basic legal protections for minority and immigrant groups.
  • Standing up for New Jersey’s 17,000 Dreamers. In Spring 2018, the State of Texas sued the federal government, demanding an immediate end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has provided legal protections to more than 700,000 Dreamers, including more than 17,000 in New Jersey. When the federal government refused to defend against Texas’s lawsuit, New Jersey took the lead and jumped into the fray—and won a crucial legal victory that blocked the immediate termination of DACA. And in Fall 2019, the State continued the fight by filing a brief in support for DACA’s legality before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Combatting bias crimes. The Division on Civil Rights took the lead on an inter-agency task force to combat youth bias incidents in the wake of a statewide report prepared by the Division and the New Jersey State Police showed a spike in bias incidents in New Jersey since 2016. Civil and criminal enforcement authorities within the Department of Law & Public Safety are committed not only to responding to bias incidents but also to identifying and addressing root causes of bias crimes.
  • Ensuring equal rights for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. From pushing back on efforts to roll back federal anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community to fighting for equality here in New Jersey, the Attorney General’s Office is committed to eliminating bias and discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation. In November 2019, the Attorney General issued a landmark order to all New Jersey law enforcement offices to ensure safe and respectful interactions with LGBTQ+ residents, including individuals who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary.
  • Ending hairstyle discrimination. In December 2018, a high school wrestler in Buena, New Jersey had his locs cut before a match rather than forfeit a match because of his hairstyle. The Division of Civil Rights launched an investigation, which resulted in a settlement with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) that included a two-year suspension of the wrestling referee and implicit bias training for officials and staff involved in high school athletics across New Jersey. At the same time, DCR issued a statewide “Guidance on Race Discrimination Based on Hairstyle” that made clear that, under New Jersey law, discrimination on the basis of hairstyle is illegal.

Additional Resources

Division on Civil Rights

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