An LAD Opinion From the Supreme Court in a Disability Discrimination Case

Grande v. Saint Clare’s Health System, 230 N.J. 1 (2017).  Today’s unanimous, scholarly opinion by Justice Solomon, with an equally scholarly concurring opinion by Jsutice LaVecchia, arose from an appeal as of right in this Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) case.  The Appellate Division split 2-1 as to whether there were genuine issues of material fact for trial, with the majority concluding that there were such issues.  The defendant, Saint Clare’s, appealed, and the Supreme Court found that there were disputed material issues for trial.  The Court affirmed the decision below as modified, and remanded the matter to the Law Division for further proceedings.

This was more than just a fact-intensive analysis of the circumstances of this particular case, which involved a disabled employee.  The two opinions evaluated whether this was a direct evidence case or a circumstantial evidence case, since the standards for the two types of case differ.  The Court also resolved the previously-unaddressed issue of where in the legal analysis is the proper place to consider whether a reasonable accommodation would have allowed the disabled employee to perform her job.  Justice Solomon concluded that a prong of the analysis that looks at whether the employee was in fact performing her job, or whether, with or without reasonable accommodations, the employee was able to perform her job to the employer’s legitimate expectations.

In short, both opinions in this case are must reading for anyone involved in LAD cases, especially those involving claims by disabled employees.  Though the opinions total 60 pages, they are well worth the time to absorb them in full.

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