You may be forgiven if you thought that a hostile work environment was only created when an employee who was the target of racial, ethnic or gender slurs was a member of the race, ethnicity or gender that the slurs were directed at, i.e., a member of that particular "protected class."   

However, expanding the scope of  the New Jersey state anti-discrimination statute a New Jersey court has just ruled that employees who are not even members of the class that the law was designed to protect may sue; in this case, the court held that you don’t have to be Jewish to claim a hostile workplace if you are allegedly subjected to anti-semitic comments.     

Stacy Jones and Ben Horowitz who write for The Newark Star-Ledger report in The Washington Post that a former non-Jewish truck driver sued after having allegedly been subjected to slurs from his supervisors such as “only a Jew would argue over his hours” and “if you were a German, we would burn you in the oven.” (One allegedly offending supervisor would only concede that he merely said things to the plaintiff like “Jew money” and “bagel meister,” and used “Hava Nagila” as the plaintiff’s ring tone for his cell phone).   

In holding that the plaintiff had a right to bring the lawsuit (without ruling on the merits), the court said that the issue was whether under the state employment discrimination statute the plaintiff could prove that the discrimination “would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish.”  Put another way, the court stated that the issue was the effect that the anti-semitic comments allegedly made would have on “a reasonable Jew,” rather than on a person of plaintiff’s German-Irish and Lutheran background. 

Who knew?