New Jersey is proud to be a pioneer in protecting the rights of its residents. One crucial tool in this fight is the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Here are ten facts to help you get acquainted with this landmark law, which continues to change to ensure all Garden State residents enjoy full and fair access to jobs, housing, and public services.
- The NJLAD first took effect in 1945—nearly two decades before the federal government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
- In the nearly seventy years since it became law, the NJLAD has been amended many times to expand its protections and clarify its language. It now prohibits discriminatory conduct or harassment based on
- National origin
- Sex/gender identity or expression
- Sexual orientation
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Religion (or absence of religion)
- Disability or perceived disability
- Familial/relationship status (including marital status, domestic partnership, or civil union status)
- Military service (both past service and current continuing obligations such as reserve duty, deployments, and emergency assignments)
- Disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of any individual (or refusal to submit to genetic testing or provide genetic information)
- Age (for everyone over the age of 18)
- The NJLAD prohibits discrimination in the workplace, including during the hiring process. It also protects workers regarding termination, discipline, scheduling, compensation, retirement, benefits, and other terms and conditions related to their employment. An employer cannot take action against any employee or potential employee for reasons related to a protected characteristic.
In some cases, an employer's policies may effectively discriminate against a protected class of workers in violation of the NJLAD, even if they apply to all employees. A requirement that all workers work one Sunday a month, for example, may be an unfair burden for religiously devout workers whose beliefs forbid them from working on Sundays, even if the employer did not intend any discrimination.
- The law also protects individuals from housing discrimination, discrimination in places of public accommodation (like restaurants, beaches, pools, parks, and hotels), and discrimination in credit and contracting practices. Because the law’s reach is so broad, its applicability and specific protections vary depending on the facts of each situation.
- The law protects individuals from retaliation if they help someone else file or pursue a complaint based on prohibited discrimination. This includes protections for employees who testify on behalf of a fellow employee in a discrimination trial or hearing. Employees are also free to discuss pay, benefits, and other compensation with co-workers to determine whether everyone is being compensated fairly.
- NJLAD applies to most NJ employees, but it does not protect not workers who are classified as independent contractors. If your employer does not take taxes out of your pay, you are probably considered an independent contractor.
However, many employers misclassify workers to avoid paying taxes and other overhead costs. If you do not meet the criteria for independent contractor status, even if that’s how your employer classifies you, you are protected by the NJLAD.
- The law was recently amended to protect against racial or ethnic discrimination based on natural hairstyles.
- The NJLAD applies to businesses with as few as ONE EMPLOYEE. Many federal worker protections, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, typically exclude employees of very small businesses.
- It protects workers who require the use of a service animal in the workplace.
- It explicitly protects pregnant and breastfeeding workers from discrimination in the workplace. (Another New Jersey law specifically protects a person's right to breastfeed in any public place they are otherwise entitled to be.)
Every situation is different, but the NJLAD covers a wide variety of discriminatory behaviors and policies. Filing a lawsuit under the NJLAD can help change discriminatory workplace policies, prevent injustice, and provide compensation for victims of discrimination.
If you believe you have been the victim of or witnessed discrimination violating the NJLAD, you should contact an experienced New Jersey attorney. You may be able to make a real, lasting difference in your community, as well as recover compensation for your own damages.
 N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 10:5-1 et seq.
 Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241)
 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.