TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara announced today the launch of a statewide initiative designed to promote awareness among veterans and active military personnel of their rights under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), as well as their recourse if they believe those rights have been violated.
The initiative was conceived as a means of helping those who have served in the military and — upon returning to civilian life – encountered discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere.
“This is one way of giving back to those who have given so much,” said Dow. “Many people understand that discrimination based on gender, race or religion is illegal. Through this initiative, we intend to spread the word that discrimination against someone simply because he or she is a member of the military and has answered the call to duty – or might end up answering that call to serve – is just as illegal.”
“Men and women in the military devote themselves to protecting us,” said Sashihara. “The least we can do is ensure that they’re not treated unfairly in their civilian jobs, in their attempts to obtain housing for their families, or in their efforts to gain access to places of public accommodation. No one should be penalized for serving his or her country.”
Working in conjunction with the American Legion of New Jersey and other stakeholders, the Division recently held the first of what will be a series of public forums for military veterans at the American Legion Post in Lawrenceville. Additional public forums at other locations, as well as other events and activities focused on veterans’ rights, will be held throughout 2012.
Sashihara explained that one concern underlying the outreach effort is that discrimination against military personnel may go unreported due to a lack of awareness of the protections afforded by the law. For example, he noted, some military members may not realize that an employee cannot be fired, demoted or removed from promotional consideration simply because they are absent from work fulfilling their service obligations.
As part of the planning effort leading up to the veterans’ initiative, representatives of the Division on Civil Rights worked closely with American Legion Past State Commander Bob Looby and other Legion officials.
Division representatives also discussed the proposed initiative with veterans during roundtable meetings held earlier this year at American Legion posts in Toms River and Woodbury.
In addition to the American Legion, other partners in the veterans’ outreach initiative include the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which can provide veterans with information and assistance pertaining to federal anti-discrimination law.
Director Sashihara thanked Division on Civil Rights Assistant Director Phillip Freeman, who heads the Division’s Bureau of Prevention, Outreach and Public Education, for his work on the veterans’ initiative.
Anyone seeking to file a formal discrimination complaint can do so by visiting one of the Division’s four regional offices located in Atlantic City, Camden, Trenton and Newark. For additional information, visit the Division’s Web site at: www.NJCivilRights.org .
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