Two restaurants and a Monmouth County school district likely violated the state's law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General's Division on Civil Rights announced Friday.
The DCR issued findings of probable cause in three cases, two of which allege discrimination in the workplace. The third case alleges a Monmouth County restaurant violated state law when it refused service to a nonbinary patron for violating its dress code, which prohibited men from wearing sleeveless shirts.
The patron had made their nonbinary status known to restaurant staff, according to the DCR.
"In New Jersey, we are committed to protecting LGBTQIA+ individuals from discrimination, including discrimination at work or as a customer at a restaurant," Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in Friday's statement. "The findings we are announcing today reflect our continued commitment to ensuring that no one is mistreated because of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation."
In another Monmouth County case, the DCR said, a nonbinary teacher alleges that they were told not to speak about their gender identity to students, that they could not wear a pin that listed their preferred pronouns, and that the school unlawfully retaliated when it ended the teacher's employment almost two months before the teacher's scheduled date of resignation.
The final case involves a gay man who alleges the manager at the restaurant where he worked asked if he was going to have a sex change operation and "cut it off" when the man asked for medical leave for scheduled surgery, according to the DCR. The employee requested and received a demotion so he could transfer to another restaurant location, and was fired once a management official at the new location learned he was scheduled for a medical leave of absence.
"Too often, members of the LGBTQIA+ community in New Jersey face discrimination in their communities and their places of work. But our laws are clear: Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression is illegal in New Jersey," DCR Director Sundeep Iyer said in a statement. "We remain committed to enforcing those protections against employers and businesses that discriminate against our LGBTQIA+ residents."
According to the Attorney General's Office, after a finding of probable cause is issued, the parties and the DCR will engage in settlement negotiations. If a settlement can't be reached, the case will either be transferred to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law for a hearing on the merits or to state court, where it could be tried by a jury.
Following a final adjudication or settlement, the offending parties may be required to compensate the victim, as well as pay a penalty of up to $10,000 per violation for a first offense, and up to $50,000 for subsequent offenses. Training requirements, policy changes and compliance monitoring by DCR may also be required.
The DCR said it does not disclose the names of the respondents involved in law against discrimination complaints.