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Employment Discrimination Enforcement in New Jersey: Roles of the EEOC and DCR

Posted by Jamison Mark on Jan 17, 2024 9:00:00 PM

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If you’ve suffered illegal discrimination at work, pursuing legal action can be daunting and complex. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) were created to help workers enforce their rights to be free of discrimination at work and in the job application process. While consulting an employment discrimination attorney can be extremely beneficial to your case, you don’t have to hire an attorney to file a claim.


Help from Government Agencies

Federal and state agencies help protect U.S. workers by enforcing anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC enforces federal workplace discrimination laws including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act[1], the Equal Pay Act[2], the Age Discrimination in Employment Act[3], and more. In New Jersey, the DCR is charged with enforcing violations of state civil rights laws, including the employment protections provided in New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)[4]. Employees of—and applicants for positions in—New Jersey’s state government can also file discrimination complaints with the Division of Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action, which enforces the state’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace.[5] Often, discriminatory behavior violates both federal and state laws, and employees can file complaints with all applicable agencies.


Defining Illegal Discrimination

Under all these laws, it’s illegal for employers to treat employees less favorably because of certain characteristics. New Jersey law offers broader protections than its federal counterparts, applying to more employers and protecting more characteristics. For example, no federal law expressly protects LGBTQ individuals in the workplace (although a 2020 Supreme Court decision held that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII” because of its ban on discrimination based on an individual’s sex).[6] However, both the NJLAD and the Policy Prohibiting Discrimination in the Workplace contain explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Title VII expressly protects workers from discrimination based on

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • National origin

The NJLAD’s language is much more expansive, covering

  • Race, creed, or color
  • National origin, nationality, or ancestry
  • Age
  • Marital, civil union, or domestic partnership status
  • Sex or gender identity/expression
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Affectional or sexual orientation
  • Genetic information, atypical hereditary traits, or refusal to submit to genetic testing
  • Disability
  • Liability for service in the U.S. Armed Forces

The NJLAD applies to all employers in New Jersey except the federal government. Federal statues, on the other hand, apply only to employers with a threshold number of employees. For example, the ADEA can be enforced only against employers of at least 20 workers, and Title VII and the ADA have 15-employee thresholds.


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC requires workers to file a complaint either by mail or in person at a field office. Any party who needs language access assistance is directed to contact their closest field office. Before individuals can file lawsuits against their employers under laws enforced by the EEOC (with the exception of the Equal Pay Act) must first file a claim with the agency. EEOC complaints must be filed within 180 days or within 300 days if violations are also covered by state or local laws.


New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights

The NJLAD is among the most robust antidiscrimination statutes in the nation. It applies not only to employment but also housing and places of public accommodation. To file a discrimination complaint with the DCR, New Jersey workers must submit an intake form. This can be done either by using the state’s online portal or by calling the agency’s toll-free number for assistance. There is no requirement to file a claim with the DCR before filing a lawsuit under the NJLAD.

New Jersey workers who face employment discrimination may have multiple options for pursuing legal claims against their employers. If it appears that both state and federal laws may have been violated, the DCR and EEOC may work together to investigate the claim.


Hiring a Private Employment Attorney

Although the DCR and the EEOC exist to enforce our state’s and nation’s antidiscrimination laws, their resources (like those of all government agencies) are limited. They can’t provide you with the advice, direction, and support that an experienced employment attorney can. An attorney can help you fill out your complaint, so your case is laid out clearly and concisely, giving you the best chance of success. While government agencies only deal with the remedies they’re tasked with administering, an attorney can help you understand all remedies that might be available to you. They can advise you about the prospects of a lawsuit and represent you if you decide to file one.

The attorneys at the Mark Law Firm are experienced at pursuing workplace discrimination claims and have recovered millions for our clients. Learn about some of our legal wins on our resource page.


[1] 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et. seq. (1990).

[2] 29 U.S.C. §206(d).

[3] 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq.

[4] N.J.S.A. 10:5-12.

[5] N.J.A.C. 4A:7–3.1

[6] 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020).

Topics: Employment Law, Discrimination & Harassment

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