|TRENTON – The Division on Civil Rights announced today that a national mortgage company has agreed to pay a Sussex County woman $30,000 to resolve allegations the company unlawfully discriminated by rejecting her application to refinance because she was on maternity leave from her job.
In addition to paying Hamburg resident Taryn Benacquista $30,000, Texas-based Nationstar Mortgage has agreed to pay the Division on Civil Rights $6,000. The company also has agreed to have its loan officers and loan processors undergo training in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, as well as other fair housing and credit laws.
”Credit-worthiness is one thing, illegal assumptions are another thing altogether,” said Division on Civil Rights Director Craig T. Sashihara. “It is illegal for lenders to assume that because a woman is on maternity leave, she will have a decrease in income when she returns to work, or that she will not return to work altogether. We want the people making lending decisions to understand what factors can, and cannot, be considered when assessing a loan application. This is not just a women's issue. It's a family issue. So many lives are impacted by these decisions."
Benacquista purchased her condominium in Hamburg, Sussex County, in 2005 with a mortgage obtained through Nationstar. She took a maternity leave from her teaching job in December 2010. However, she continued to receive her regular pay from the teaching job on the basis of accrued leave time.
In March 2011, Benaqcuista was approached by Nationstar and invited to apply for a refinancing of her mortgage, which she did. After some preliminary information gathering, Nationstar conditionally approved Benacquista for refinancing at a lower interest rate.
However, Nationstar subsequently denied final approval of refinancing for Benacquista after learning she was out on maternity leave and did not intend to return to work until May 2011.
The information came to light after Benacquista informed a Nationstar employee that she could only provide one pay stub – the company had requested two pay stubs -- until her next check arrived in the mail. The employee asked why she couldn’t simply obtain a second pay stub copy while at her workplace, and Benacquista responded that she was out on maternity leave.
Benacquista filed her original Complaint against Nationstar in May 2011. The Division on Civil Rights issued a Finding of Probable Cause against the company in October of the same year.
In her original Complaint, Benacquista alleged that Nationstar quickly rescinded its conditional approval of her refinancing loan upon realizing she was out on maternity leave. The company, however, claimed Benacquista withdrew her refinancing application. Under terms of the settlement, Nationstar admits no liability.
Deputy Attorney General Megan Harris and Investigators Elizabeth Russian and Ana Limo-Magras handled the Nationstar matter on behalf of the Division on Civil Rights.