Myron was a truck driver working for a construction company in Lafayette. One day, he asked for time off to attend a bris. (A bris is a Jewish religious ceremony in which an eight day old boy is circumcised.) Myron’s supervisors apparently found this funny, and began calling Myron “every Jewish slur there is.” One supervisor even set his cell phone to play “Hava Nagila” whenever Myron called.
Myron asked the guys to stop, but they kept on. Myron complained to the company president. Nothing was done. Eventually, Myron quit his job and filed a lawsuit, claiming unlawful discrimination.
New Jersey law forbids workplace discrimination based upon religion. (It also prohibits discrimination based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) The law gives workers who suffer such discrimination the right to sue their employers for damages.
As evidence for his claim, Myron produced a videotape, showing his coworkers calling him names like “Jew bag” and “Jew burger” (and those were the nice names!). But even with this “smoking gun evidence”, the trial court still dismissed the case. The judge was hung up over one issue.
Myron wasn’t Jewish.
The judge decided that, in order to sue for anti-Semitic discrimination, you had to first show that the unfair treatment took place because you were Jewish. Needless to say, Myron was disqualified.
Myron appealed to a higher court. He argued that discrimination shouldn’t be excused simply because it was based on a mistaken belief of religion. The appeals court agreed. The court said that unlawful discrimination can be based on perceptions. This is true even if the perceptions are incorrect.
The court acknowledged that anti-Semitic remarks are likely to hurt Jews more than non-Jews. However, the court said that the LAD is “remedial legislation.” In other words, the law is meant to put an end to inappropriate conduct. With this in mind, giving violators a free pass, just because they got someone’s religion wrong, doesn’t make very much sense.
They say that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Apparently, ignorance of your own ignorance is no excuse, either.