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N.J. Civil Rights Unit Obtains $2M For Alleged Discrimination Victims
New Jersey Law Journal
The state Division on Civil Rights recovered more than $2 million in settlements for discrimination plaintiffs in 2012, a 42 percent increase over the year before.
Besides compensation for alleged victims, the settlements generally include nonmonetary terms such as required training about the Law Against Discrimination, creation of antidiscrimination policies and regular reporting requirements to ensure compliance.
"The financial terms of the settlements are nice we're always happy to put money in the pockets of deserving New Jersey residents," said Division Director Craig Sashihara said Thursday in announcing the 2012 scorecard.
"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," he added.
The division is responsible for enforcing the LAD and the state Family Leave Act.
Last year's settlements included:
Osnowitz v. West New York Board of Education: Marie Osnowitz received $83,000 from the West New York Board of Education over allegations it failed to accommodate her disability and engaged in reprisal for her discrimination complaint. Osnowitz, a teacher's aide, used a motorized wheelchair because because of a knee injury. She complained that the district refused to grant her request for special parking access and new locations for meetings she was expected to attend, which were scheduled in inaccessible spots. She filed her complaint in February 2009 and was told in April of that year that she would not be offered employment for the next year. She later amended her complaint to accuse the school district of unlawful reprisal. In addition to paying Osnowitz, the district agreed to provide anti-discrimination training to senior staff members.
Arnone and Daniels v. Luciano: Andre Daniels and Alicia Arnone were paid $6,000 by landlords Carmelo and Rosa Luciano to resolve allegations they were rejected as tenants for an apartment in Lodi because they are an interracial couple. After putting down a deposit, they were told the apartment was rented and the deposit was returned. Two days later, the apartment was offered to a white male tester from the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey. Besides the payment to Daniels and Arnone, the landlords paid $1,500 to the Fair Housing Council.
L.S.C. v. Club at Ricochet: The complainant alleged she was sexually harassed and physically threatened by a South Plainfield health club co-worker and was wrongfully discharged after complaining to management. The club paid $45,000 to her, $5,000 to the state.
S.G. v. Bullek: The complainant, who was born deaf, charged that Westfield orthopedic physician David Bullek failed to accommodate her disability by providing an American Sign Language interpreter when she visited his office for back problems. In addition to paying $10,000 to S.G., Bullek agreed to provide an ASL interpreter at no charge if patients require one and to attend training on how to provide reasonable disability accommodations.
Daugherty v. Vanco USA: Richard Daugherty notified his employer, trailer manufacturer Vanco USA of Bordentown, in July 2006 that he needed surgery on both eyes and two days off for each operation. Daugherty was fired after missing two days for the first procedure. The company paid $28,000 to him and $10,000 to the state.
Rosen v. Glenwood Apartments and Country Club: A Old Bridge apartment complex paid $15,000 over allegations it refused to rent to Lyle Rosen because he intended to pay most of the rent using federal Section 8 housing assistance. The complex owner also agreed to require LAD training for any management company it used to screen applicants, to keep detailed records of rental applications and inquiries for three years including an explanation for any applicant's rejection and to make those records available to the division.
Stokes v. Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 9: The union was accused of unlawfully removing African-American shop steward Jon Stokes after less than six months, due to his race, and replacing him with a white worker. The union agreed to pay the state $25,000, adopt antidiscrimination policies and train its members about state and federal civil rights law. Stokes retained private counsel to pursue his own recourse.
Though the totals recovered in 2012 jumped 42 percent from the $1.4 million in 2011, they had fallen that year by 33 percent from the $2.1 million in 2010.
Asked to explain the fluctuations, Sashihara said "there are countless variables that can affect whether a case is settled or prosecuted, and the amounts of any settlements."