Discrimination on the basis of race or color in employment is illegal in New Jersey. It is prohibited by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Any decision made by your employer—from hiring to firing to anything in the duration of your employment can not be based on your race or color. Labor unions, too, cannot discriminate on the basis of race or color.
Color discrimination is based on a person’s skin tone. Under New Jersey law, one’s race falls under one of the following categories:
- White not of Hispanic origin
- Black not of Hispanic origin
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Asian or Pacific Islander
Although there is overlap between these two kinds of discrimination, color discrimination can occur without racial discrimination “when members of the same race are treated differently because of their skin color,” according to New Jersey law.
It’s illegal for anyone in your work environment to harass you because of your color or race. This includes your employer, coworkers, or even clients.
A policy that is on its face not discriminatory, but is intended to discriminate on the basis of race or color is prohibited by law. Even if the intention is not to discriminate, but has the effect of discrimination, it may still be unlawful. The EEOC provides an example of what such a policy might look like: “a ‘no-beard’ employment policy that applies to all workers without regard to race may still be unlawful if it is not job-related and has a negative impact on the employment of African-American men (who have a predisposition to a skin condition that causes severe shaving bumps).”
Example of Race Discrimination
One recent case in New Jersey demonstrates some important components of the law against racial discrimination. Tammy Jordan was hired by Larchmont Elementary School in 2016, the first full-time black teacher to be hired since 1990. A lawsuit she filed alleges that she was subjected to a “hostile and abusive” work environment on a daily basis due to her race. Moreover, she claims that when she complained, she was retaliated against.
Her lawsuit alleges that she was the victim of harassment in the workplace from her white coworkers: among other complaints, she says that her very position at the school was questioned, with colleagues questioning if her hiring were the result of affirmative action; her colleagues spoke down to her, questioning her ability to understand things; Jordan was so harshly excluded by her coworkers that she felt confined to her classroom, because leaving it meant facing the rampant racism among the teachers.
She was moved to another class after complaining to the teacher’s union and the assistant superintendent—she claims this move was retaliation, as her new class had more children with behavioral problems than is typical.
One component of her suit is that the principal of the school, also a black person, failed to take any corrective action or start an investigation into the matter. Despite the fact that he himself told Jordan he was well aware of the problem of racism in the school, she claims he just told her to tough it out, essentially.
It does not matter that the principal was the same race as the teacher; she still can have a claim against him for racial discrimination. As the EEOC states, “[d]iscrimination can occur when the victim and the person who inflicted the discrimination are the same race or color.”
What is Creed?
Freedom of religion in the United States is one of the core principles this nation was founded on. Your affiliation with a certain faith, or with no faith at all, cannot be used to discriminate against you by an employer under the law in New Jersey.
New Jersey law defines both religion and creed as “all aspects of religious observance, practice and belief or nonbelief.”
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination based on creed or lack thereof.
The only exception to this rule, according to the NJ Attorney General’s Office, is for religious “associations or organizations.” These sorts of groups can use a certain religious affiliation as a requirement for hiring any employees who will be “engaged in the religious activities” of the group.
If you’re not trying to get a job with a religious group, your prospective employer cannot ask you about your religious affiliation, as it is not relevant to your ability to perform the job.
Moreover, once you’re hired, your employer may be mandated to accommodate your religious practices unless doing so poses an “undue hardship” for them. These accommodations may include allowing you to keep facial hair, wear certain religious clothing, or allow you to miss work and rearrange shifts for “sincerely held religious practice.”
New Jersey law does allow employers to prohibit employees from bringing their religion into the workplace: “employers may implement policies that restrict evangelical or other religious practices, such as passing out religious materials that may be unwelcome by other employees or customers,” the NJ Attorney General’s Office says.
If you have questions or beleive you’re the victim of race discrimination, contact our discrimination lawyers at Castronovo & McKinney.