What Happens When The Attorney General’s Office Is Accused Of Discrimination?

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Last month, several deputy attorneys general–both past and present–levied serious allegations against the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, asserting that those of African-American descent were casually denied deserved promotions that instead went to their white counterparts. This story originated in Trenton, New Jersey, and if true could mean that an already underrepresented swath of the state’s population could struggle even more.

As such, a subsequent lawsuit was filed in the state’s Superior Court in order to address these claims and see to it that those responsible for the potential race discrimination are held accountable for their actions.

Before the lawsuit was filed, lawyers were sent to meet with John Hoffman and Robert Lougy at the Attorney General’s office in order to iron out details for how to fight against possible systematic discrimination in the office. Even though a detailed plan was drafted in order to combat the race discrimination, the lawyers of those who were passed up for promotion seem to think that not enough is being done, and certainly not fast enough to make a significant difference.

The AG’s Office vigorously discredits these allegations, suggesting instead that minorities are represented fairly. Three African American and three Asian members of the office head several of thirteen divisions and commissions within the Department of Law and Public Safety. A position called chief diversity officer was given to Assistant Attorney Lora Fong after being made available last year.

Although that may be the case, the lawyers allege that the majority of lawyers and managers of which most of the department is built are not really represented at all–except by those leaders already mentioned. In other words, only those in the public eye seem to represent those outside of the public eye. They also say that this epidemic of race discrimination is due to Governor Chris Christie’s policies, and in large part because he recommended or chose his own colleagues for those state positions when he was elected to office back in 2009. What that means is simple: the positions were filled without actually being made transparently available to those qualified individuals who could have instead filled them. The ones getting the jobs were just buddies of Chris Christie.

Race discrimination can mean a lot of things in addition to passing the right people up for the right jobs. Sometimes, those of a different ethnic background are simply treated differently than their peers, in which case it can be difficult to identify the cause of the problem in order to eventually fix it. Luckily for those who experience racial discrimination at work, legal avenues are available to contest such activity and there are laws on the books that try to prevent or mitigate the likelihood of it occurring.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was signed in order to offer protections to anyone based on race, color, creed, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and a number of other identifiers. These protections are offered for those in employment positions, seeking housing, public places, etc.

In the case of the New Jersey AG’s Office, we’ll have to wait and see how the case unfolds. For now, the office has remained mostly silent about its response to the lawsuit and the allegations within.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.