Q: Can a New Jersey Employee, Whose Supervisors Routinely Directed Anti-Semitic Remarks at Him, Maintain a Claim Against his Employer under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) Even Though He Is NOT Jewish?

A:  In Cowher v. Carson & Roberts, 425 N.J. Super. 285 (App. Div. 2012), supervisors of a truck driver who is not Jewish used a Hebrew folk song as the ring tone for his calls, criticized that “only a Jew would argue over his hours” and made other offensive anti-semitic remarks to him. The trial court dismissed the case reasoning that no liability under LAD could exist because the truck driver was not Jewish. The Appellate Division disagreed and reinstated the lawsuit explaining that simply because the truck driver was not Jewish should not excuse the employer from liability. If a plaintiff can demonstrate that the discrimination he experienced would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish, his claim is covered by the LAD. What is more, in a case such as this which involved facially discriminatory conduct, Courts will infer that the conduct was spurred by plaintiff's perceived status despite denials to the contrary. Otherwise, legitimate claims could be too easily defeated by self-serving denials on the part of otherwise culpable persons.

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