New Jersey Court Rules Race Includes Ethnicity in Discrimination Claims

There are many classes that are protected from employment discrimination under both state and federal law. While some classes, such as race and gender, are obvious, it is not always clear whether other subsets of the population qualify as protected classes.

Recently, the United States District Court of New Jersey analyzed whether ethnicity or national origin are protected classes, ultimately ruling that a claim alleging discrimination based on ethnicity is actionable under the law. If your employer discriminated against you based on your ethnicity or ancestry, you may be owed damages and you should speak with an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss the circumstances surrounding the discriminatory acts.

Discriminatory Acts of Plaintiff’s Employer 

The plaintiff, who is Slovenian, worked for the defendant employers, who owned a coin and stamp collecting business. The plaintiff alleged the defendants repeatedly told him to “act more Jewish” and to use a different first name or he would be fired. They also disparaged him for his Slovenian ancestry and told him Slovenians were “low-life” and were not respected. The defendants also forced the plaintiff to engage in a fraudulent stamp altering scheme, threatening to revoke his immigration bond if he did not keep the forgery a secret.

Reportedly, the plaintiff eventually advised the defendants he would no longer tolerate their statements or use the name they assigned him, after which he was terminated. He filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of his civil rights under U.S.C. §1981, a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), and a violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the court denied. 

Claims for Discrimination Based on Ethnicity 

In assessing the plaintiff’s discrimination claim the court analyzed whether the plaintiff was a member of a protected class. The court stated that for purposes of §1981 claims, race includes ancestry and ethnicity, but not a person’s nation of origin. The court explained that to succeed on a claim of discrimination based on ethnicity, the party alleging discrimination must show that he or she was intentionally discriminated against due to his or her ancestral or ethnic background, and not solely because of his or her place of birth.

Here, the court found that the plaintiff set forth sufficient facts to show he was discriminated against not merely because of where he was born, but because of the ethnic group to which he belonged. As such, the court held he stated a sufficient claim for discrimination under §1981. Similarly, the court held that the plaintiff’s allegations that he was discriminated against for being Slovenian were adequate to sustain a claim for discrimination under NJLAD. The court found the plaintiff’s CEPA claim was sufficiently plead as well. As such, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey Employment Discrimination Attorney

If you believe your employer discriminated against you due to your race or ethnicity, it is prudent to meet with an experienced employment discrimination attorney to discuss whether you may be able to recover compensation. At the Jaffe Glenn Law Group, our New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys will aggressively pursue any damages you may be owed. We can be reached at 201-687-9977 or via the online form to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Court Affirms Dismissal of Employment Discrimination Case, January 7, 2019, New Jersey and New York Employment Lawyer Blog

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