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Citizenship Status and National Origin Discrimination in New Jersey

There are many different areas in which an employer can be liable for illegal discrimination. An employer isn’t liable, though, if the employee didn’t meet the qualifications for the job in question. Thus, if a job’s legal requirements demand that the employee be a U.S. citizen, a non-citizen is technically not qualified for that job. If citizenship isn’t a requirement, though, an employer’s decision to discriminate against a non-citizen based upon his national origin could give the non-citizen a potential case. If you’ve been a victim of discrimination based upon your national origin, you should contact a knowledgeable New Jersey nationality discrimination attorney promptly to discuss your case.

One non-citizen whose case presented such a scenario was James, a campus security guard at a private research university in Hoboken. James had emigrated to the United States in 1992 and married an American woman, but he never became a citizen himself. Shortly after arriving in the United States, James started his campus security employment. The employer did not require that its campus security officers be U.S. citizens and knew that James was not when it hired him.

After a former investigator from the local prosecutor’s office became chief of campus security, the new chief allegedly began recruiting his friends and former associates to the campus force. Some campus officers referred to the campus security force as a “retirement home for ex-cops.” According to James, the chief began looking for ways to terminate him in order to recruit a friend to fill James’ position.

The chief allegedly publicly distributed information stating that James was a resident alien. Eventually, the university suspended him on the basis of his citizenship status. James sued, but the trial court threw out the case. The Appellate Division, however, ruled that James was entitled to proceed with his discrimination claim.

When you pursue a discrimination claim in New Jersey, one of the key hurdles you’ll need to clear is to prove that you were qualified for the job. In other words, you have to show that you met all of the mandatory requirements for employment in that position. For example, New Jersey has a statute that requires that municipal police officers in the state be United States citizens. Barring a non-citizen from holding a local police officer job for, say, the City of Hoboken isn’t illegal national origin discrimination because that non-citizen doesn’t meet one of the essential requirements for the job, so that person is not qualified for the job.

New Jersey, however, has no statute requiring that university campus police officers be U.S. citizens. In fact, the university had terminated James and subsequently reinstated him, which worked against its claim that citizenship was a requirement. “Nothing … reveals why plaintiff was reinstated to his position if citizenship was a disqualifying factor,” the court opinion noted.

In this case, the employer did not have enough evidence to prove that citizenship was a requirement of employment. As a result of that, James was entitled to go forward with his claim that the employer committed impermissible national origin discrimination against him.

In many situations, the law protects non-citizens from discrimination based upon their national origin. If you think you’ve experienced discrimination on that basis, you should take action right away. Consult the diligent New Jersey nationality discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates, who have been helping employees for many years. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

Auto Parts Store Agrees to Cash Settlement and Policy Changes After Allegations of Religious Discrimination, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Jan. 18, 2018

Teacher of Palestinian Origin Allowed to Pursue Title VII Discrimination Case Against New Jersey School, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Sept. 27, 2017

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