The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals in any job-related action on the basis of certain protected characteristics including: race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, familial status, sex, sexual orientation, atypical cellular or blood trait, generic information, or service in the armed forces. It is one of the most comprehensive statutes regarding workplace discrimination and applies to all employees in the state of New Jersey.
Lately, questions regarding whether the NJLAD applies to employees who do not live in New Jersey have been surfacing. With the increase of telecommuting and internet-based jobs in the workforce, New Jersey courts must decide whether extraterritorial jurisdiction will be extended to out-of-state workers.
The New Jersey Appellate Division was presented with such a query in a recent case, Trevejo v. Legal Cost Control. In that case, the court examined the reach of the NJLAD and found that coverage may extend to telecommuters living out of state.
Summary Judgment and Appeal
In Trevejo, an employee lived in Massachusetts while working from home for a New Jersey-based company. She brought suit against the Haddonfield company for which she worked, alleging age discrimination under the NJLAD. Because she had not been to New Jersey in the past seven years, the trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, stating that she was not an inhabitant of New Jersey, and therefore the NJLAD did not apply.
The appellate court disagreed, holding that NJLAD coverage is not limited to inhabitants of New Jersey, but rather applies to nonresident telecommuters. The court considered the text of the NJLAD, noting that it applies to “persons”, not “inhabitants.” Also, the court focused on the intention of the statute, which is to eradicate discrimination in the workplace and to further the public’s strong interest in discrimination-free workplaces.
According to the appellate court, it needed to be determined whether the plaintiff had sufficient contacts with New Jersey, and therefore was entitled to NJLAD protections.
Returned to Court for Further Discovery
The trial court’s order of summary judgment was therefore reversed and remanded back to the trial court for further discovery. This will address questions such as: whether other employees worked from home, where the company’s servers are located, what type of software the company used to conduct business, and the location of the company’s internet service provider. The trial court must now decide whether, even though the plaintiff did not have an actual presence in New Jersey, she had a virtual presence that entitles her to coverage under the NJLAD.
Therefore, employers must be aware that employees, even those living out of state, may still be entitled to protection under the NJLAD. The NJLAD may even apply to employees (like the one in Trevejo) who have little to no contact with New Jersey. Working or living in New Jersey is not a prerequisite for coverage under the NJLAD; telecommuters who have never even been to the state may have sufficient contacts to warrant NJLAD application.
Cape May County Employment Lawyers at Levine Staller Handle All Matters of Employment Law in New Jersey
Employment law is constantly evolving. At Levine Staller, our attorneys stay abreast of all new legal developments and analyze the potential implications for our clients. If you are an employee who experienced workplace discrimination or an employer looking for reliable legal advice, contact our Cape May County employment lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. We advise clients in Atlantic County, Cape May County, Ocean County and throughout New Jersey from our office in Atlantic City. Contact us online or call us at 609-348-1300 for a free confidential consultation.