The New Jersey discrimination case, originally filed almost a decade ago, ultimately made it to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The court issued its opinion in August this year in Victoria Crisitello v. St. Theresa School.
Crisitello, who was aware of the Code of Ethics and Archdiocesan Policies, became pregnant and was unmarried at the time. The school terminated her employment as this violated the tenets of the Catholic Church.
She sued, citing pregnancy discrimination and marital status discrimination under the Laws Against Discrimination. The court ruled in favor of the school.
It’s important for people who work for religious organizations to understand how the NJ Law Against Discrimination applies to religious institutions. Keep reading as this legal guide explains it.
What Is NJ Law Against Discrimination?
The New Jersey law aims to protect workers from being treated unfairly and to keep them from being deprived of rights due to discrimination.
The NJLAD, enacted in 1945, prohibits discrimination based on a person’s protected characteristics such as race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, affectional or sexual orientation, familial status, disability, nationality, sex, gender identity, or gender expression (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-4)
What Does the Ruling Mean?
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling in Victoria Crisitello v. St. Theresa School says that the LAD contains an express exception for religious organizations that make employment decisions based on the criteria outlined in the tenets of its religion.
What does this mean for religious institutions? These organizations must put any policy regarding employment criteria in writing. They must ensure that all employees receive and acknowledge these policies.
Employees are to agree to abide by the policies relating to the tenets of religion in writing. The institution should keep written acknowledgments on file.
Employers need to enforce their policies equally across the board.
Who Does the Law Affect?
The law affects religious institutions in the state of New Jersey and their employees.
It gives exemptions to these institutions that other businesses and employers do not have.
Caveats to Consider
While the ruling is a win for religious organizations in New Jersey, there are a few things to keep in mind. Let’s look at a couple.
Possible Legislative Changes
The New Jersey Supreme Court based its ruling only on an exception in the NJ Law Against Discrimination. Because of this, the New Jersey Legislature can move to amend the LAD.
If someone makes a claim under federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the result may be different. The federal equivalents do not contain an express exception for religious organizations.
Individuals may sue these organizations under federal laws pertaining to discrimination.
The employee must first make a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Have you been affected by the NJ Law Against Discrimination? The New Jersey law firm of McOmber, McOmber & Luber has years of experience dealing with employee rights.
If you are in need of legal services, contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.