New Jersey Employment Discrimination: State Police Refuse to Answer Questions about Promotional Policies

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey against State Police on behalf of the Latino Leadership Alliance. The group is seeking access and information regarding promotion policies, The Inquirer reported.

The chairman of the group, which describes itself as a coalition of community organizations, says he is a former police officer looking to ensure that there is no “disparate treatment of minorities,” according to the lawsuit.State police denied a state Open Public Records Request last month, saying the request was “improper and overbroad.” The ACLU asserts police are permitted to keep individual employment records private but not general employment policies.

The ACLU is accusing state police of a culture of secrecy, saying it’s the third public records request the agency has denied in recent months. For their part, state police are pointing to a recently adopted rule by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which permits police to withhold “standard operating procedures” from public view. The new regulation was first adopted in December 2011; the Attorney General’s Office had previously said the rules would not be used to exempt general polices and procedures.

Yet it’s been used to deny this request by the Latino Leadership Alliance, which wanted to know if promotion policies favored one ethnic or racial group over another.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate in employment matters on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national orientation. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission statistics from 1997 to 2011 show charges filed under Title VII alleging race discrimination in the workplace have risen from 762 in 1997 to nearly 3,000 last year. Race-based charges have increased from 29,199 in 1997 to more than 35,000 last year.

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits employment discrimination in any job-related action — including hiring and promotion — on the basis of any of the law’s protected categories. Protected categories are: race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information liability for military service, or mental or physical disability, including AIDS and HIV related illnesses.

Such discrimination is also forbidden in setting salary and benefits, making job assignments, in disciplinary actions and when reducing the workforce or otherwise conducting layoffs or terminations.

The law also protects employees from retaliation in the wake of making a good faith complaint about discrimination or harassment. Avenues for remedy include filing a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (which must be done with 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination) or pursuing a case through New Jersey Superior Court, typically with the assistance of an experienced New Jersey employment lawyer.

If you need to speak to an employment law attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or (646) 867-7997.

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