SERVING OUR CLIENTS AND COMMUNITY DURING COVID-19

Articles Tagged with Public Accommodation discrimination

Most people are aware that the state and federal law can provide legal protection against sexual harassment and other discriminatory conduct to employees in the workplace. No job-related action, from recruitment and interviewing to compensation or discharge can be intentionally influenced or biased by an employee’s protected class, such as sex, gender, race, disability and others protected classes. But what if the individual is discriminated or harassed outside the employment?  Will the law provide any protection to an individual who is subjected to sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination in places outside the employment, such as government building, campaign organizations or within a police department?  The Appellate Division has issued a decision providing further guidance in situations in which a person is subjected to non-employment related discrimination in a case entitled Holmes v. Jersey City Police Department.

IMG_4199-300x169The case involves a transgender man, who was arrested for shoplifting and brought to the Jersey City Police Department for processing.  The individual, Mr. Holmes, presented his valid driver’s license indicating his gender as male at the time of the arrest. After fingerprinting revealed Holmes’ former name and gender, the officers used offensive and demeaning language to verbally harass Mr. Holmes for the duration of his time at the police station. The officers also moved Mr. Holmes from a male holding cell to a female holding cell despite Mr. Holmes’ identification as male.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment in a place of public accommodation. A place of public accommodation is any place that is open to the public, including schools, businesses, restaurants, government buildings and healthcare facilities. Public place accommodation violations include the use of offensive language, the display of demeaning images such as pornography or inappropriate drawings, as well as unwanted touching and other forms of physical harassment. This harassment can be unlawful regardless of whether it’s performed by an employee of the public place or another patron. Places of public accommodation have legal obligations to ensure that they have policies and procedures in place to prevent and stops the harassment once it knows about it or should have known about it, and it may not retaliate against the individual who was harassed or complained about harassment.

Another state has enacted a law to accommodate breastfeeding mothers called to jury duty. Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new legislation providing jury duty exemptions for breastfeeding mothers into New York law.  New York joins seventeen other states and Puerto Rico who have enacted similar legislation to provide breastfeeding mothers necessary accommodations if called to jury duty. While New Jersey has amended the state’s anti-discrimination law in recent years to include pregnancy as a protected class and to require employers to provide breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace, there is currently is no specific law in place that exempts breastfeeding mother from jury duty.  Whether New Jersey will soon follow New York’s lead remains to be seen.

Employment Lawyers
Under the recent New York law, breastfeeding mothers may file an exemption from serving jury duty for two years, requiring only a doctor’s note affirming that they are currently breastfeeding at the time the exemption is filed.  During the signing, Governor Cuomo noted, “While jury service is a critically important civic duty, we also know new moms oftentimes juggle countless responsibilities and navigate enormous adjustments in the early stages of their child’s life,” and that “This commonsense measure takes that reality into account by providing new moms the flexibility and option to postpone jury service while they care for a newborn.”

New York has followed the national trend in enacting similar laws to deal with the issue facing many new mothers in attempting to fulfill their civic duty while also needing to care for their newborn.  In March 2017, a breastfeeding woman in Minnesota took to Facebook  to share her horrific experience when having to serve on a jury while breastfeeding.  As she stated in her Facebook post, Amanda Chandler was granted only two breaks to breastfeed by the clerk and judge and needed to do so in a bathroom.  Ms. Chandler stated, “[s]eems pretty ironic that the very place which is supposed to uphold and enforce the laws would not follow or adhere to them.”

Contact Information