Earlier this month, in Pritchett v. State, the New Jersey Supreme Court confirmed that the state of New Jersey and municipalities remain subject to punitive damages under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).
Shelley Pritchett worked for the State of New Jersey as a Senior Corrections Officer at the Juvenile Justice Center (“JJC”). In 2011, Officer Pritchett suffered back, knee and neck injuries when she broke up a fight between two inmates. She went on a workers’ compensation leave as a result. Her doctor subsequently diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis. As a result, she sought to extend her medical leave by approximately 4 ½ months. However, the JJC denied her request, and instead offered to extend her leave by only about a month and told her that if she was not medically cleared to return to work by then she would have to resign.
Officer Pritchett was unable to return to work within the additional time JJC had granted. However, she told the JJC she did not want to resign. In response, JJC told her that if she did not resign by the end of the week, it would initiate disciplinary proceedings to fire her, and she would lose her pension. In response, Officer Pritchett applied for a disability retirement.