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  Director's Findings 2008  
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  Cause findings are issued by the Director at the conclusion of an investigation. There are three types of findings.    
  A Finding of Probable Cause is issued when an investigation reasonably concludes that probable cause exists to credit the allegations of the Verified Complaint.  
  A Finding of No Probable Cause is issued when an investigation reasonably concludes that no probable cause exists to credit the allegations of the Verified Complaint.  
  An Agency Determination is issued when an investigation reasonably concludes that probable cause exists to credit some allegations of the Verified Complaint and no probable cause exists with respect to other allegations of the Verified Complaint. Agency Determinations are considered findings of probable cause with respect to the credited allegations.  
     
     
 
2008 Compendia (not yet available)
 
  Case summaries are provided for descriptive purposes only and are not part of the Director's decision.  
     
 

12/22/08

Selena Christmas v. Berkeley College

OAL DOCKET NO.: 9023-078-05
DCR DOCKET NO.: PR16HK-02986

Complainant, a student, filed a verified complaint with the Division alleging that Respondent, an educational institution, subjected her to unlawful public accommodation discrimination based on several disabilities, in violation of the Law Against Discrimination. Complainant had right shoulder arthroscopic surgery for rotator cuff and lateral tears, and requested several accommodations of Respondent. Specifically, she asked to use a recorder during legal research and writing classes, and subsequently asked to make up an examination the day after the test was scheduled, both of which were denied. Complainant was unable to successfully complete the course and alleged that it was due to disability discrimination.

The matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law ("OAL") prior to the issuance of a finding of probable cause. Following an administrative hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) issued an initial decision dismissing the complaint. The ALJ found that Complainant had established a prima facie case of disability discrimination, but concluded that Respondent provided legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for denying Complainant’s requested accommodations. First, allowing Complainant the use of a tape recorder to record classes was ineffective and unreasonable owing to the hands-on nature of the course work as well as the advantage Complainant would enjoy over other students who had already performed some of the work missed by Complainant due to absences. Second, Respondent’s refusal to allow Complainant to take a make-up mid-term exam was based on Complainant’s lack of preparedness and not because of her disability.

The Director adopted the ALJ’s dismissal of the complaint, with some modifications. The Director concurred with the ALJ’s finding that Complainant had established a prima facie case of disability discrimination, in that she was afflicted with spinal disc disease, right shoulder impairments, irritable bowel syndrome and depressive and anxiety disorders. The Director also concurred with the finding that Respondent did not fail to reasonably accommodate Complainant’s disabilities. The Director concluded that Respondent was able to establish a legitimate reasons for denying Complainant’s request to use a tape recorder for the lecture period of the classes, as the majority of the class work required research and writing in the law library. It was undisputed that this accommodation would have been of little or no value. The Director also found that Respondent did not fail to engage in the interactive process, as Complainant had not advised Respondent of her arm/shoulder condition until after the mid-term exam was given. Indeed, she did not undergo surgery until after the date of the exam. Further, there was credible evidence that Complainant initially asked to postpone her exam date because she was unprepared to take the test. Accordingly, the Director upheld the dismissal of the complaint.

6/23/08

J.P. v. Cliffside Park Board of Education

Supplemental order

OAL DOCKET NO. CRT
DCR DOCKET NO.

J.P. (Complainant), a high school math teacher, filed a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights alleging that his employer unlawfully discriminated against him based on disability in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), when it refused to reinstate him after he recovered from a period of disability.

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an initial decision concluding that the employer failed to meet its obligations under the LAD to provide reasonable accommodations for J.P.'s disabilities.
The ALJ ordered Respondent to reinstate Complainant as a math teacher, and awarded him $155,698 in backpay, reimbursement for health insurance premiums and counsel fees in an amount to be determined. The ALJ also assessed a $10,000 statutory penalty.

After reviewing the hearing record and the exceptions and replies of the parties, the Division Director adopted the ALJ's conclusion that the employer violated the disability discrimination provisions of the LAD. The Director concluded that the employer did not reasonably arrive at its conclusion that Complainant's disability precluded performance of his job, and that the employer failed to meet its obligations to engage in an interactive process with Complainant to determine whether reasonable accommodations could be provided to enable him to return to work.

The Director adopted the ALJ's reinstatement order, statutory penalty and backpay award. The Director also awarded Complainant $1,000 in emotional distress damages, and after receiving supplemental submissions from Complainant, awarded $83,037.50 in counsel fees and $16,821.84 in costs. In addition, based on expert testimony presented by Complainant, the Director awarded an additional $27,947 to compensate Complainant for the negative tax consequences of receiving his backpay in a lump sum, also known as tax leveling.

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6/17/08

Jalieth Guy v. Southern New Jersey Technical School

OAL DOCKET NO. CRT 10486-07
DCR DOCKET NO. PH11HH-029109

Case Summary: Complainant filed a verified complaint with the Division alleging that Respondent refused to accommodate her disability in violation of the LAD. Specifically, Complainant had dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. She alleged that Respondent’s denial of a reasonable accommodation prevented her from attending classes in its licensed practical nursing program, and she was forced to withdraw from the school. Respondent maintained that it accommodated Complainant by providing her extra time to take tests. Respondent filed an answer denying any violation of the LAD. After issuance of a finding of probable cause and amending the verified complaint to include the Director as a complainant, the matter was transferred to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested matter.

Neither Respondent nor a representative appeared at a scheduled pre-hearing conference and two scheduled hearings. Respondent received appropriate notice in all instances, but refused to provide any explanation to the ALJ for its failure to appear. The Deputy Attorney General served a notice of motion to strike defenses together with supporting documents on Respondent. On March 17, 2008, the ALJ also served Respondent the DAG’s motion to strike and advised Respondent that it would be considered unopposed if there were no reply. Respondent failed to file any opposition to the motion, and on April 7, 2008, the ALJ ordered that Respondent’s defenses stricken and suppressed. The ALJ concluded that Respondent unlawfully discriminated against Complainant based upon her disabilities, in violation of the LAD. Specifically, Respondent failed to engage fully in the interactive process. In addition, the ALJ determined that Respondent did not satisfy its burden of demonstrating that allowing Complainant to tape classes would have caused it an undue burden. The ALJ awarded Complainant a refund of her tuition in the amount of $2,460.20 plus interest. Additionally, the ALJ awarded Complainant damages for emotional distress in the amount of $5,000.00.

The Director found that the ALJ properly entered an initial decision on the merits based on Complainant’s ex parte proofs because Respondent failed to appear at several scheduled proceedings, or provide any explanation for its non-appearance, despite being given appropriate notice. N.J.A.C. 1:1-14.6 (j), N.J.A.C. 1:1-14.4 (d). The Director noted that Respondent filed no exceptions to the ALJ’s initial decision, and made no other objections to the ALJ’s rulings.

The Director also awarded Complainant $2,646.59 as a refund of her tuition plus interest. In addition, the Director found the ALJ’s award of $5,000.00 for emotional distress insufficient and increased the amount to $15, 000.00. The Director agreed that the maximum penalty of $10,000.00 for a first violation of the LAD was appropriate and he therefore assessed that amount as a penalty. Finally, the Director found that the request for attorneys’ fees in the amount of $8,627.50 was proper.

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2/6/08

Moebis v. Hartford Life Private Placement and Pat Fox

OAL Dkt. No. CRT 6322-06
(ON REMAND CRT 6850-03)
DCR Dkt. No. EP11WB-47626-E

Case Summary: Complainant filed a verified complaint with the Division on Civil Rights alleging that his employer discriminated against him based on his age and his German ancestry, and that the employer refused to provide reasonable accommodations for his carpal tunnel syndrome. After an administrative hearing, Administrative Law Judge Solomon Metzger (ALJ) dismissed the complaint, concluding that the employer had provided reasonable accommodations for Complainant’s disability, and that Complainant failed to demonstrate that he was differentially treated or harassed based on his age or ancestry.

After considering exceptions and replies submitted by the parties and evaluating the evidence in the record, the Director adopted the ALJ’s dismissal of the complaint. The Director concluded that the employer’s efforts to provide reasonable accommodations for Complainant’s carpal tunnel syndrome were sufficient to meet its obligations under the LAD. The Director also concluded that Complainant failed to present evidence that he was treated less favorably than younger co-workers, and that Complainant failed to demonstrate that he was harassed because of his age or his ancestry.

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