Appellate Division Rules on New Jersey Employment Discrimination Law in the Age of Telecommuting
In 1945, New Jersey’s Legislature enacted the Law Against Discrimination. It has been repeatedly revised to increase its inclusion and scope. However, its goal remains the same today as it was in 1945: “nothing less than the eradication of the cancer of discrimination in the workplace.” The Law Against Discrimination declares that a workplace free from discrimination is a civil right in New Jersey.
The main section of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination dealing with employment bars employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against employees in their pay or other terms, conditions or privileges of their employment because of their “race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of any individual, or because of the liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States or the nationality of any individual, or because of the refusal to submit to a genetic test or make available the results of a genetic test to an employer.”
When the Legislature enacted the Law Against Discrimination, it listed its purpose as protecting “inhabitants” of New Jersey. However, every other section of this long Law prohibits discrimination against “any individual” or “any person.” In 1945, this discrepancy was not an issue. However, in today’s cyber-world, a conflict inevitably arose between the term “inhabitants,” and “any individual” or “any person” in the context of telecommuting. The Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court recently issued an unpublished opinion helping to clarify this issue.