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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
September 20, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division on Civil Rights
- J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, Director

 

Lee Moore
609-292-4791

 

AG Harvey Announces Finding of Probable Cause in Religious Discrimination Case; Ocean Co. Employer Accused of Discriminating Against Orthodox Jewish Applicant

TRENTON -- Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and Division on Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo announced today that New Jersey has issued a Finding of Probable Cause against an Ocean County laboratory firm for allegedly denying employment to an otherwise-qualified job applicant because of his religion.

Named as a Respondent in the Finding of Probable Cause document is the Lab Corporation of America, located in Toms River. The company is accused of denying employment as a phlebotomist to Stuart Aron, a qualified candidate who was otherwise regarded favorably by management, because his Orthodox Jewish faith would preclude him from working on Saturdays.

A Finding of Probable Cause means the State has finished its investigation, and has determined there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that the actions of the Lab Corporation of America violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

“If true, these are troubling allegations,” said Attorney General Harvey. “It is the responsibility of all employers in New Jersey to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who practice a particular religion—whether Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam. Hiring someone else in lieu of providing a reasonable accommodation is not only unacceptable, it is against the law.”

According to the Complaint and Finding of Probable Cause documents, Aron, who resides in Lakewood, responded to a job listing for a phlebotomist with the Lab Corporation of America and was interviewed for the position on May 15, 2002. The job listing did not make specific mention of Saturday hours.

According to internal company documents reviewed by State investigators, Aron was clearly regarded favorably by management in the wake of his interview, said Division on Civil Rights Director Vespa-Papaleo. However, Aron noted on his application that, because of his religious beliefs, he would be unavailable to work on Saturdays. Six weeks later, Aron was advised he would not be hired.

The Finding of Probable Cause revealed that the person ultimately hired by Lab Corporation of America, although apparently well qualified, was interviewed long after Aron was interviewed. Considering that Aron met or surpassed the criteria for the posted job, and that he did well in the interview, the company’s actions are suspected of being discriminatory, Vespa-Papaleo explained in his Finding.

“Our investigation revealed that Mr. Aron was a qualified job candidate who applied for a position that was advertised, was interviewed and was rated favorably by company managers, but was rejected after acknowledging that his religious beliefs would, on a limited basis, require an accommodation,” said Vespa-Papaleo.

“At this time of upcoming religious holidays, employers are reminded to be especially mindful of their legal responsibilities to people of faith,” Vespa-Papaleo added. “Employers can receive guidance on religious accommodations by contacting the Division or reading our free Fact Sheet on Religious Discrimination. The Fact Sheet is available in English, Spanish, Arabic and Punjabi, and is available in the “Publications” section of our Web site at www.NJCivilRights.org .

Now that the Division has issued a Finding of Probable Cause, the case will be referred for Conciliation. If Conciliation is not successful, the matter will be referred to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing on the merits, which is a non-jury trial. The ALJ will then issue a written Initial Decision.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) provides that each Respondent found to have committed a violation is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000, provided he or she has not been convicted of a previous violation within the past five years. Respondents who have violated the LAD within the past five years are subject to a penalty of up to $25,000, while those who have been convicted of two or more violations within the past seven years are subject to a penalty of up to $50,000.

The Division on Civil Rights is responsible for enforcement of the LAD and the Family Leave Act. Specifically, the Division investigates allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accommodation and credit. The Division has six offices located in Newark, Trenton, Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City and Paterson. Further information about the Division is available on its Web site or to file a Complaint persons may call the Division toll-free at 1-866-405-3050.

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