An April 2, 2018 New Jersey Appellate Division just crumpled an employer’s roadmap when it held an employee working remotely in Massachusetts may still fall within the scope of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”). In Trevejo v. Legal Cost Control, Inc., an employee’s NJLAD case was dismissed at the trial court level, after the court allowed some limited discovery, on the basis that the employee, who worked remotely for a New Jersey-based business, was not protected by the NJLAD. The employee appealed the ruling and, in particular, the trial court’s order permitting only a narrow scope of discovery as to the employee’s connections with New Jersey. The Appellate Division, reviewing the discovery order under an abuse of discretion standard, reversed and held that the trial court was overly narrow in limiting discovery. While it did not reach the issue directly, the Appellate Division, recognized the predominant goal of the NJLAD “is nothing less than the eradication of the cancer of discrimination in the workplace.” As such, the Appellate Division left open the possibility that the employee, despite the fact that she admittedly performed no work in New Jersey, may still be protected under the NJLAD. Accordingly, the Appellate Division held the case required additional discovery, including discovery as to the following: where the plaintiff's co-employees worked; whether those co-employees worked from home; the nature of the software used by the plaintiff and other employees to conduct business on behalf of the employer; the location of the server used to connect the plaintiff and other employees to the employer’s office in New Jersey; the location of the internet service provider allowing the plaintiff and other employees to connect to the employer’s office in New Jersey; the individual or individuals who made the decision to terminate plaintiff and the basis for the decision; and any other issues relevant to plaintiff's contacts with New Jersey and her work for the defendant.
Savvy employer takeaway: New Jersey employers with operations and/or employees located in other states should carefully consider whether their actions might have violated New Jersey law, giving rise to a claim under New Jersey law for employees who are working in other states.