Cockerill, Craig & Moore, LLC Attorneys at Law

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The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Simplified (or Spider v. Muffet)

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2022 | Employment Law |

By John C. Grady for the firm

My youngest turns thirty-one later this month. Twenty years ago when he was in grammar school his class had “bring your parent to school day.” In our town that meant a lot of parents that owned their own businesses and had a lot of cool swag to bring in and share. I could not compete with that; I was a Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey and giveaways were not in our basket of tricks. So I did what I knew, I created a moot court experience based on Little Miss Muffet. As you might remember the nursery rhyme, Little Miss Muffet was eating her curds and whey when a spider sat down beside her and frightened her away. In our Moot Court version, the Spider was suing Miss Muffet for discriminating against him simply because he was a spider.

Despite the lack of giveaways, the experience was a big hit and redeemed me in the eyes of my son. The lesson was a valuable one then and continues to be: judging a person by their appearance – or their ancestry – hurts us all. In New Jersey, the Law Against Discrimination  “unequivocally expresses a legislative intent to prohibit discrimination in all aspects of the employment relationship, including hiring and firing, compensation, the terms and conditions of employment, and retirement.” Schiavo v. Marina Dist. Dev. Co., LLC, 442 N.J. Super. 346, 367, 123 A.3d 272, 284 (App. Div. 2015). The Legislature said discrimination because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States, disability or nationality harmed  the rights and privileges of all of New Jersey’s inhabitants and menaced the institutions and foundation of a free democratic State. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-3 (West).

New Jersey continues to amend the Law Against Discrimination to meet the needs of the present; last year additional protections for older workers became law. This year a bill in the Legislature would add weight and height to categories protected against discrimination.

For employees or prospective employees, if you have been held back in your progress at work, lost a job, or been denied a job based on an employer’s consideration of any of the protected categories, or even the perception that you fit into any of them, contact the attorneys at Cockerill, Craig & Moore to see how we can help you.

For employers there are steps you can take to minimize accusations of discrimination and to defend against such claims if they are made. Not all claims have merit, and the mere filing of a claim does not result in liability. Employers have statutory and common law defenses that begin with policies and procedures put in place, communicated, and followed that can prevent or mitigate the effect of such claims. If you are concerned about how to implement practices to prevent harassment and discrimination and promote diversity and inclusion, we can help you with that.

We have experience defending employers before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and in court and can defend and guide you if the need arises.