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What to do About Employment Discrimination

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) makes it unlawful to treat a person differently because of their race, religion, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex, family status, domestic partnership, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic trait or information, military status, or disability.  Federal laws, including (but not limited to) the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act also prohibit discrimination based on these characteristics.  

In the context of employment, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person who is a member of one of the “protected” classes listed above – race, age, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, etc.  This prohibition extends to various areas of employment: hiring and firing, pay, promotions, transfers, recruitment, testing, benefits, training, leave, use of company facilities, and other areas.

If you feel you have been discriminated against at work, you have several options for legal action.  Below are brief descriptions of the various laws and processes available to you to enforce your rights.  Please take particular note of the deadlines for each type of action. 

New Jersey Division on Civil Rights

You may file a complaint of discrimination with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the state agency responsible for enforcing New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws.   Complaints must be filed with the NJ Division on Civil Rights within 180 days from the alleged act of discrimination. Contact the office nearest to you to initiate the process of filing a complaint:

Trenton Regional Office:
609-292-4605 (TTY: 609-292-1785)
Camden Office:
856-614-2550 (TTY: 856-614-2574)
Atlantic City Office:
609-441-7648 (TTY: 609-441-7648)
Newark Office:
973-648-2700 (TTY: 973-648-4678)

If the Division of Civil Rights determines that your case appears to have merit, it will conduct a brief investigation.  If the Division on Civil Rights finds that your employer appears to have violated the law, it may conduct a mediation between you and your employer, transfer your case to an Administrative Law Judge, or take some other form of action.  The Division on Civil Rights may propose one or more remedies to your situation, including (but not limited to) reinstatement, back pay, or front pay.  

For more information, see the NJ Division on Civil Rights webpage.

Note: If you file a complaint with the NJ Division on Civil Rights, your complaint will also be reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (see below) to determine where your claim is best situated – the NJ Division on Civil Rights or the EEOC. This is known as “dual filing.” 

New Jersey Superior Court

You also have the option of filing a lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court (the State court system) for a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Information on the NJ Law Against Discrimination may be found at Know The Law (from the NJ Division on Civil Rights). Complaints of discrimination must be filed in State court within two years of the alleged act of discrimination. You may file the complaint either by yourself (pro se) or with the assistance of an attorney.  You do not have to file a complaint with the NJ Division on Civil Rights before filing a lawsuit in Superior Court. See the New Jersey Courts website for information on how to file a complaint in Superior Court.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 

Another option is to file a complaint of discrimination in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws.  Complaints must be filed within 300 days from the alleged act of discrimination.  Call 1-800-669-4000 to initiate the complaint process and to find the EEOC office nearest to you. 

If the EEOC finds merit in your case, it may attempt to resolve your matter through mediation (a meeting between you and your employer, facilitated by the EEOC).  If the mediation does not work, your case will be given to an investigator.  If the investigator finds a violation of the law, the EEOC may attempt to reach a settlement agreement with the employer.  It may also refer the case to the EEOC’s legal staff to determine whether a formal lawsuit should be filed.  If the EEOC does not find a violation of the law or decides not to pursue any action on your behalf, it will give you a Notice of Right to Sue letter.  That letter gives you permission to file a private lawsuit in federal court.

See the EEOC website for more information on filing a complaint. 

Federal Court

You also have the option of filing a discrimination lawsuit in federal court, but you may only do so upon receipt of a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC. In other words, you cannot file a claim in federal court without first filing a complaint with the EEOC. Once you receive a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC, you have 90 days to file a complaint in federal court. You may file the complaint either by yourself (pro se) or with the assistance of an attorney.  See the U.S. District Court - District of New Jersey website for information on how to file a complaint in federal court.  

For more information on discrimination, see Sexual Harassment.​

8/27/2012