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Law Against Discrimination: Broad Reach

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) has a very broad reach and through recent court decisions has been extended to situations where most people would not think that it applied. As its name implies, the LAD is intended to allow people who are discriminated against based on race, nathional origin, religion, and disability to sue the person or company they believe discriminated against them.

In a recent case, an employee was allowed to sue his employer based on the pattern of blatantly discriminatory insults directed at him by co-workers which the employer knew about. Obviously, it is generally difficult to sue one’s employer if the employer was unaware of the pattern of discrimination. In addition, one comment by a co-worker is generally not sufficient to be successful in these type of lawsuits.

The New Jersey Appellate Division held that the employee could sue based on the many anti-Semitic comments that were directed toward him such as calling him a “Jew bastard” and the like. What was novel about the case is that the employee was not Jewish. His co-workers mistakenly believed he was and in a case of first impression the Appellate Division held that whether he was in fact Jewish did not give license to his co-workers to act discriminatorily.

In another case, the Appellate Division held that a private swim club that allowed daily visitors could be sued for refusing to allow a disabled person to use the club. In that case, as in all such cases, the person suing had the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the swim club had in fact denied him entry on that basis. Obviously, there could have been other reasons.

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