A cancer patient who lost her hair due to chemotherapy is claiming in a suit that a Motor Vehicle Commission employee repeatedly ordered her to remove her headwrap for her driver’s license photo.
The suit claims Jennifer Giordano was ordered to remove her headwrap at least three times, prompting her to start crying. Giordano explained that she was wearing the headwrap because she was undergoing treatment for cancer that resulted in hair loss, and she asked if her previous driver’s license photo could be used, but the employee continued to demand that she remove the head covering.
In 2015 Joanne Jodry was the subject of numerous media reports when the Motor Vehicle Commission’s Freehold branch would not let her reuse the photo from her old license. Jodry also lost her hair to chemotherapy after a diagnosis of breast cancer. The agency requires driver’s license photos to be retaken every eight years, and Jodry’s photo was due to be retaken.
Giordano’s suit brings one count for violation of the state Law Against Discrimination, which claims the plaintiff was discriminated against based on her Stage 2 breast cancer. The MVC discriminated against Giordano by either not having a policy to protect her from discrimination or by failing to properly train its employees, the suit claims.
The suit seeks to compel training of MVC workers and enactment of policies to ensure that others in her situation are not treated as she was. Giordano also seeks compensation for the emotional distress she experienced, as well as punitive damages and costs of suit.
Giordano went to the MVC office in Eatontown on June 14 to change the address on her license, according to the complaint. She was wearing a headwrap because of hair loss caused by chemotherapy. When she was called to the counter, the employee told her, “you have to take that thing off,” her suit claims.
After some 10 minutes of interaction with that worker, Giordano received her license after another employee intervened and issued Giordano a new license using the photo from her previous one, the complaint states. Ultimately, she was presented her new license by a manager who told her that the MVC does not require driver’s license applicants to remove head coverings when there are religious or medical reasons.
The suit brings one count for violation of the state Law Against Discrimination. The defendant discriminated against Giordano by denying her the reasonable accommodation of reusing her old picture, then accommodating her only after she suffered humiliation and emotional distress, the suit claims.
Richard Schall and Patricia Barasch of Schall & Barasch in Moorestown are representing Giordano.
“The treatment Jennifer received at the MVC was appalling and illegal,” the firm said in a statement. “Breast cancer is a disability under the law and the MVC should not have harassed our client in this way—especially when the remedy—to use her old photograph—existed. The lawsuit seeks to have the MVC adopt policies and train its employees to ensure that other individuals in Jennifer’s situation are never treated this way going forward.”
A MVC spokeswoman did not return a call. Lee Moore, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment.