NJ Court Rules Divorcees Protected By Anti-discrimination Law

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination prohibits a person from being discriminated against based on their marital status. While it may have been thought to only apply to people who are married, a state appeals court added some clarity when it ruled the law applies to people going through divorces as well.

Robert Smith, a former employee on the Millville Rescue Squad, alleged that he was fired after he filed for divorce from his wife, who was also a rescue squad employee, according to the decision. Smith worked on the squad for 17 and eventually worked his way up to director of operations. His wife, her mother and two sisters also worked on the squad.

In ruling in Smith’s favor, the appeal court judges have made it apparent that it’s not legal to force a couple to stay married because they work together. In their decision, the judges wrote:

“MRS terminated plaintiff because of stereotypes about divorcing persons—among other things, they are antagonistic, uncooperative with each other, and incapable of being civil or professional in each other’s company in the workplace.”

The initial separation of Smith and his now ex-wife took place in January of 2006, according to the ruling. At the time, Smith disclosed this information to one of his supervisors and admitted to having an affair with another employee on the squad. The next month, his boss asked if there was any chance of the married couple reuniting. When he said “no,” Smith claims he was fired.

At the trial, Smith said that his boss told him he was being fired because of the ugly divorce he was about to go through. However, the squad’s board of directors pointed to poor work performance. Smith’s case was initially thrown out in district court, because the judge ruled that he failed to show any evidence of discrimination.

At Posternock Apell, PC we have experienced attorneys in family law and employment law. If you’re going through a divorce or feel that you’ve been discriminated against, contact our knowledgeable lawyers today.