The New Jersey Supreme Court recently recognized that an employer can be held liable for discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) based on an employment decision that was influenced by a subordinate’s discriminatory animus, whether or not the subordinate intended to get the employee fired.
Michele Meade was the Township Manager for Livingston Township. She was involved in disciplining Police Chief Craig Handschuch and Police Sergeant Kenneth Hanna for their failure to alert the Livingston Community Center about training exercises being conducted in the Center’s parking lot by the Emergency Services Unit (“ESU”). As a result, when someone spotted a man wearing camouflage and carrying a rifle bag in the parking lot, the Community Center locked down three preschool classes, and the Police Department dispatched two detectives to the scene.
Following the incident, Sergeant Hanna filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Meade, claiming she violated the law by using “unreasonably loud and offensive coarse or abusive language” when she publicly addressed him about the incident, including by asking him “what kind of f—ing operation are you running here?” Sgt. Hanna filed a second criminal complaint in which he alleged Ms. Meade had “purposely com[e] into physical contact with officers and civilians in an attempt to obstruct and stop an authorized ESU training exercise.” Ms. Meade eventually was acquitted of both charges.