New Jersey has some of the strictest protections against employment discrimination and a recent case shows these protections can be extended to workers who do their work remotely from another state. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) protects workers from discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, age, ancestry, nationality, sex, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, or genetic information. The recent ruling from the Appellate Division defines the word “person” used by the NJLAD as not limited to “inhabitants.” Therefore, workers who telecommute are also covered by New Jersey law.
Telecommuter Sues for Age Discrimination
The case before the Appellate Division originated when a telecommuter based in Massachusetts sued her New Jersey employer for age discrimination under the NJLAD. The plaintiff has never lived in New Jersey and is a resident of Massachusetts where she pays her property taxes. All her work from home was done using a computer provided to her by her employer that she connected to the company’s server in Haddonfield. The plaintiff made occasional trips to Haddonfield for business.
When the plaintiff brought her claim of age discrimination, the employer immediately moved for summary judgment based on the fact that she does not live in New Jersey and was therefore not an “inhabitant” entitled to protection under the NJLAD. Summary judgment was granted by the lower court, which decided that the plaintiff failed to show she qualified as an “inhabitant” of New Jersey because her work was not physically performed in the state.
Reversal on Appeal
The plaintiff appealed her case and the Appellate Court reversed the decision of the lower court finding that the lower court’s interpretation of the statute was overly narrow. The case has been remanded for further discovery to determine how much contact the employee had with the state of New Jersey and if that contact was sufficient enough to entitle her to protection under the NJLAD. There are seven factors under consideration for discovery:
- The work location of the plaintiff’s co-workers
- Whether the co-workers also worked from home
- The location of those with decision-making power
- The location of the server that connected the employer’s New Jersey office to the plaintiff and other employees
- The location of the provider for internet service used to connect the employer’s New Jersey office to the plaintiff and other employees
- The kind of software used by the plaintiff and other employees to do business on behalf of their employer
- Other relevant aspects of employment that the plaintiff can use to demonstrate her contacts with New Jersey
Although this case is non-binding, if enough contacts are shown the court may see fit to extend NJLAD coverage to out-of-state employees. Employers should no longer assume that NJLAD protections are applicable only to New Jersey residents. It is advisable to seek legal counsel concerning any out-of-state employees that telecommute to New Jersey offices.
Red Bank Employment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Provide Experienced Counsel in All Matters of Employment Law
If you are an employer with questions about your out-of-state employees, contact a skilled Red Bank employment lawyer at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C.. who can provide you with knowledgeable and experienced legal representation. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.