Bill Text: NJ S3878 | 2018-2019 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Reaffirms and clarifies that Attorney General and Division on Civil Rights may initiate actions in Superior Court to enforce "Law Against Discrimination."

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 3-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2019-05-30 - Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee [S3878 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2018-S3878-Introduced.html

SENATE, No. 3878

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

218th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED MAY 30, 2019

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  M. TERESA RUIZ

District 29 (Essex)

Senator  LORETTA WEINBERG

District 37 (Bergen)

Senator  SANDRA B. CUNNINGHAM

District 31 (Hudson)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Reaffirms and clarifies that Attorney General and Division on Civil Rights may initiate actions in Superior Court enforce "Law Against Discrimination.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning the enforcement of the "Law Against Discrimination," and amending P.L.1992, c.146, P.L.1945, c.169, and P.L.1983, c.412.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 12 of P.L.1992, c.146 (C.10:5-12.5) is amended to read as follows:

     12.  a.  It shall be an unlawful discrimination for a municipality, county, or other local civil or political subdivision of the State of New Jersey, or an officer, employee, or agent thereof, to exercise the power to regulate land use or housing in a manner that discriminates on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, marital status, familial status, sex, gender identity or expression, liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States, nationality, or disability.

     b.    [Notwithstanding the provisions of section 12 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-13) any person claiming to be aggrieved by an unlawful discrimination under this section shall enforce] The provisions of subsection a. of this section shall be enforced by [private right of] an action in Superior Court pursuant to paragraph (2) of subsection a. of section 12 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-13).  This [section] subsection shall not apply to discrimination in housing owned or managed by a municipality, county, or other local civil or political subdivision of the State of New Jersey where such discrimination is otherwise prohibited by section 11 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-12).

(cf: P.L.2017, c.184, s.4)

 

     2.    Section 12 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-13) is amended to read as follows:

     12.  a.  (1) Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an unlawful employment practice or an unlawful discrimination may, personally or by an attorney-at-law, make, sign, and file with the division a verified complaint in writing which shall state the name and address of the person, employer, labor organization, employment agency, owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, or agent alleged to have committed the unlawful employment practice or unlawful discrimination complained of and which shall set forth the particulars thereof and shall contain such other information as may be required by the division.  Upon receipt of the complaint, the division shall notify the complainant on a form promulgated by the director of the division and approved by the Attorney General of the

complainant's rights under [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.), including the right to file a complaint in the Superior Court to be heard before a jury; of the jurisdictional limitations of the division; and any other provisions of [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.), without interpretation, that may apply to the complaint.  The Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, the Attorney General, or the Commissioner of Education may, in like manner, make, sign, and file such complaint.  Any employer whose employees, or some of them, refuse, or threaten to refuse to [co-operate] cooperate with the provisions of [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.), may file with the division a verified complaint asking for assistance by conciliation or other remedial action.

     (2)   (a)  Any complainant, the Attorney General, or the director may initiate suit in Superior Court under [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.) without first filing a complaint with the division or any municipal office.

     (b)   Upon the application of any party, a jury trial shall be directed to try the validity of any claim under [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.) specified in the suit.

     (c) All remedies available in common law tort actions shall be available to prevailing plaintiffs, and if the Attorney General or the director is a prevailing plaintiff, those remedies shall be available on behalf of named or unnamed victimsThe injunctive relief set forth in section 16 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-17) shall also be available to prevailing plaintiffs.  These remedies are in addition to any other provided by [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.) or any other statute.

     (d) In addition to the remedies set forth in subparagraph (c) of this paragraph, the Attorney General or director may seek and obtain from the Superior Court penalties pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1983, c.412 (C.10:5-14.1a).  In the alternative, in lieu of these penalties, the Attorney General or director may seek and obtain punitive damages payable to the State upon a finding of an unlawful discrimination or an unlawful employment practice and that the provisions of P.L.1995, c.142 (C.2A:15-5.9 et al.) are satisfied.

     (e) Prosecution of such suit in Superior Court under [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.) shall bar the filing of a complaint with the division or any municipal office during the pendency of any such suit.

     (f) If a jury determines that an employer is guilty of an unlawful employment practice prohibited by subsection r. or t. of section 11 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-12), the judge shall award three times any monetary damages to the person or persons aggrieved by the violation.

     (g) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 6 of P.L.1979, c.404 (C.10:5-27.1), if the Attorney General or the director is a prevailing plaintiff, the court shall award reasonable attorney's fees and litigation and investigation costs.

     b.    At any time after 180 days from the filing of a complaint with the division, a complainant may file a request with the division to present the action personally or through counsel to the Office of Administrative Law.  Upon such request, the director of the division shall file the action with the Office of Administrative Law, provided that no action may be filed with the Office of Administrative Law where the director of the division has found that no probable cause exists to credit the allegations of the complaint or has otherwise dismissed the complaint.

     c.     A party to an action based upon a violation of [this act] P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.) shall mail a copy of the initial pleadings or claims, amended pleadings or claims, counterclaims, briefs, and legal memoranda to the division at the same time as filing such documents with the Office of Administrative Law or the court.  Upon application to the Office of Administrative Law or to the court wherein the matter is pending, the division shall be permitted to intervene.

(cf: P.L.2018, c.9, s.3)

 

     3.    Section 2 of P.L.1983, c.412 (C.10:5-14.1a) is amended to read as follows:

     2.    Any person who violates any of the provisions of the "Law Against Discrimination," P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-1 et seq.), shall, in addition to any other relief or affirmative action provided by law, be liable for the following penalties:

     a.     In an amount not exceeding $10,000 if the respondent has not been adjudged to have committed any prior violation within the five-year period ending on the date of the filing of this charge;

     b.    In an amount not exceeding $25,000 if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed one other violation within the five-year period ending on the date of the filing of this charge; and

     c.     In an amount not exceeding $50,000 if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed two or more violations within the seven-year period ending on the date of the filing of this charge.

     The penalties shall be determined by the director or the Superior Court, as applicable, in such amounts as [he] the director or court deems proper under the circumstances and included in [his] an order following [his] a finding of an unlawful discrimination or an unlawful employment practice pursuant to section 16 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-17).  Any such amounts collected by the director or awarded by a court shall be paid forthwith into the State Treasury for the general purposes of the State.

(cf: P.L.2001, c.254, s.1)

 

     4.    This act shall take effect immediately.

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would reaffirm and clarify that the Attorney General and the Director of the Division on Civil Rights (director) may initiate actions in the Superior Court to enforce the provisions of the "Law Against Discrimination" (LAD). The bill would enhance the ability of the Attorney General and the director to take proactive steps to enforce and protect the civil rights of the State's residents.

     The bill also clarifies that the prevailing plaintiffs in a Superior Court action under the LAD may seek and obtain the same injunctive relief that the director may award in an administrative proceeding under that law.  Additionally, the bill clarifies that in such a Superior Court action, the Attorney General or director may seek and obtain certain penalties authorized under the LAD.  In the alternative, in lieu of these penalties, the bill provides that the Attorney General or director may seek and obtain punitive damages.

     The bill also makes the award of attorney's fees, litigation costs, and investigation costs mandatory in Superior Court actions under the LAD if the Attorney General or the director is the prevailing plaintiff.  Under current law, any prevailing party in a LAD action may be awarded, but is not ensured, a reasonable attorney's fee.

     The bill also revises the provision of the LAD authorizing Superior Court actions against local governments for discriminatory land use or housing regulations to reflect the possibility that those actions may be brought by the Attorney General or the director.  Lastly, the bill revises the provision of the LAD authorizing the award of certain penalties to reflect the possibility that those penalties may be awarded by the Superior Court.

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