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In Oasis Therapeutic Life Centers, Inc. v. Wade, Docket No. A-0711-17T3, 2018 WL 6441135 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Dec. 10, 2018), the plaintiff, a nonprofit charitable organization, purchased a farm in Middletown, New Jersey where autistic individuals would live and work in a therapeutic setting. In their complaint, the plaintiff alleged that, before and after the purchase, the defendants — neighbors of the farm — engaged in a campaign to harass the plaintiff. This campaign included:
The plaintiff alleged that this conduct was based upon the defendants’ discriminatory belief that autism played a role in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49. The appellate court reversed, finding that the plaintiff had standing to bring a LAD claim and had pleaded a cognizable LAD claim against the defendants. LAD makes it unlawful “to discriminate against any buyer or renter because of the disability of a person residing in or intending to reside in a dwelling after it is sold, rented or made available or because of any person associated with the buyer or renter.” N.J.S.A. 10:5-4.1. The appellate court explained:
This provision’s plain meaning supports what is alleged to have occurred here — that defendants targeted and tormented Oasis because Oasis was providing a residence for autistic individuals. N.J.S.A. 10:5-4.1 renders that conduct unlawful, and the [trial] judge erred in dismissing the action for this reason alone.
Oasis Therapeutic Life Centers, Inc., 2018 WL 6441135, at *4.
The appellate court also rejected the defendants’ arguments that their actions were protected by the First Amendment, noting that their attempts to thwart the grant and purchase the property themselves seemed to be a sham to discriminate against the plaintiff.
If you believe that you were the victim of discrimination, contact the experienced discrimination lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. today. Call us at 856-354-9444 or complete the online contact form to schedule a FREE consultation. Folkman Law also has convenient offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.