|TRENTON – The Division on Civil Rights obtained more than $2 million in settlement payouts last year on behalf of alleged discrimination victims, Division Director Craig T. Sashihara announced today.
Cases resolved by the Division in 2012 ran the gamut from a public school district accused of failing to accommodate a disabled employee to a landlord accused of denying rental housing to an interracial couple. Also settled were cases involving a fitness club that allegedly failed to protect a female employee from sexual harassment and a physician who allegedly failed to provide a deaf patient with an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter .
In addition to financial compensation for the alleged victims, settlements negotiated by the Division typically included non-monetary terms such as required training in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), creation of new anti-discrimination policies and procedures , and regular reporting requirements to ensure compliance with the law.
“The financial terms of the settlements are nice--we're always happy to put money in the pockets of deserving New Jersey residents,” said Director Sashihara. "But our main focus is broader--requiring employers, housing providers, places of public accommodation, and others to change their practices and policies so that they comply with state and federal law for the benefit of society as a whole. Typically, that means internal policy reforms, educating staff, and heightened public awareness.”
Cases settled by the Division in 2012 included:
Osnowitz v. West New York Board of Education: The Complainant, the late Marie Osnowitz, received an $83,000 payout from the West New York Board of Education. Osnowtiz was a teacher’s aide who used a motorized wheelchair to get around because of knee injuries that impaired her mobility. Her original Complaint alleged that the school where she worked failed to accommodate her disability by declining her request for special parking access, and refusing to change the location of meetings and other events she was required to attend – events not held in accessible locations. Two months after she filed her Complaint in February 2009, Osnowitz was told she would not be offered re-employment for the following school year. She subsequently filed another Complaint with the Division alleging unlawful reprisal. In addition to paying Osnowitz, the Board of Education agreed to arrange anti-discriminaton training for all school district management staff.
Arnone and Daniels v. Luciano: Couple Andre Daniels and Alicia Arnone were paid $6,000 by landlords Carmelo and Rosa Luciano to resolve their housing discrimination Complaint. The Complaint was first filed with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was subsequently referred to the Division on Civil Rights under a work-sharing agreement. Daniels and Arnone alleged that the Lucianos rejected them as prospective tenants in November 2008 because they were an interracial couple. The couple had viewed a one-bedroom apartment being advertised by the Lucianos in Lodi, and subsequently put down a $750 deposit on the dwelling. Six days later, however, the couple was given its deposit back and advised the apartment had been rented. Subsequent investigation by the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey determined the apartment had been offered to a white male “tester” two days after Daniels and Arnone were told it was rented. In addition to paying the couple $6,000, the Lucianos paid the Fair Housing Council $1,500.
LSC v. Club at Ricochet: The Complainant, a former Club at Ricochet employee whose name is being withheld because of the nature of the case, filed a Complaint alleging that she was sexually harassed and physically threatened by a co-worker. She also alleged that she was unlawfully terminated from her job after bringing her harassment allegations to the attention of club management. Club at Ricochet, located in South Plainfield, paid LSC $45,000 to settle the matter, and paid another $5,000 to the State.
S.G. v. Bullek: Orthopedic physician Dr. David Bullek paid $10,000 to S.G., a former patient who was born deaf, to settle her allegation that he failed to provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter during her visit to his Westfield office for treatment of spinal pain. In addition to paying S.G., Bullek agreed to attend training focused on how best to provide a reasonable accommodation – the standard under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination – for patients with disabilities including, but not limited to, deafness or hearing loss. Bullek also agreed, going forward, to provide an ASL interpreter at no charge for patients who are deaf or who suffer from hearing loss.
Daugherty v. Vanco USA: Vanco USA, a New Jersey trailer manufacturing company, paid employee Richard Daugherty $28,000 to resolve allegations that it failed to accommodate his temporary disability. The Complainant had notified his employer in July 2006 that he would need to undergo surgery in both eyes and would require two days off for each eye surgery. He missed work on September 6 and 7 after having the first eye surgery procedure, and was discharged from his job 12 days later. In addition to paying Daugherty, Vanco USA paid the State $10,000.
Irene Rosen v. Glenwood Apartments and Country Club: The Glenwood Apartments and Country Club of Old Bridge, Middlesex County, paid Irene Rosen $15,000 to resolve allegations that it discriminated against her deceased son, Lyle, by rejecting his rental application because he intended to pay most of his rent using federal Section 8 housing assistance. In addition to paying Irene Rosen, Glenwood agreed to require training in the LAD for any rental or management company it employs to screen applicants. Glenwood also must keep detailed records of rental applications and rental inquiries for three years – including an explanation for any applicant’s rejection – and make those records available to the Division on Civil Rights.
Stokes v. Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 9: Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 9 agreed to adopt formal anti-discrimination policies and have its members undergo training in state and federal civil rights law to resolve Division allegations that it unlawfully removed an African-American shop steward (Jon B. Stokes of Franklin Township, Gloucester County) due to his race. Stokes was replaced by a white shop steward after having been on the job for less than half-a-year. The union paid the Division $25,000 to resolve the State portion of the Complaint. Stokes retained private counsel to pursue his own recourse.