Is Nepotism Legal in New Jersey?

Nothing is worse than working hard at a job only to see the boss promote his child, niece, or nephew. The same is true of applying for your dream job, only to watch helplessly as an employer hires a relative.

But is this type of nepotism legal in New Jersey? The answer is a very broad “yes”—at least with respect to private sector jobs. But there are definite exceptions, especially regarding jobs in the public sector. If you have concerns, please contact one of our New Jersey employment lawyers today.

No General Prohibition on Nepotism

Both federal and state law prohibit discrimination on certain bases, such as race, gender, religion, age, national origin, etc. However, neither state nor federal law prohibits nepotism.

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, weighed in on this issue back in 2004 in the case Bambaca v. Township of Edison. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “familial status.” However, as the Court decided, this does not cover nepotism. So state antidiscrimination law does not prohibit your boss from hiring his sister, and federal courts have decided that federal law is the same.

Exceptions for Public Employees

Although there is no widespread prohibition on nepotism in the private sector, there are laws on the books for certain public sector employees.

For example, schools that receive state aid cannot engage in nepotism, so this law covers public schools, charter schools, and county vocational school districts. If a school hired the spouse of a school board member, then they could have violated the regulations in place. The law does allow relatives to be hired if there has been a thorough search which turns up no other qualified candidates, but the key is whether the search was thorough.

NJSA § 52:13D-21.2 also contains a broad anti-nepotism provision that applies to the government. It states that a relative of an appointed member of certain government bodies cannot be employed in the same body. Under the statute, a relative includes a spouse, child, sibling, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, grandchildren, step-relatives, or the parent spouse’s parent.

Local Ordinances

There might also be anti-nepotism ordinances which have been passed in certain New Jersey towns. These ordinances prohibit local officials from hiring relatives for government jobs. These laws do not apply to private sector employment, however. So if a store owner wants to hire his wife, he can certainly do that. But the local mayor is prohibited from hiring his wife. There is no clear count on how many boroughs have adopted these ordinances, so you should check before filing a legal complaint.

Discrimination or Nepotism and New Jersey Employment Law

Of course, it might be the case that an employer has hired a relative and discriminated against you at the same time. For example, an employer who hires all of his male relatives could be discriminating against female job applicants but using nepotism as a cover. If so, then antidiscrimination law applies, even if the employer is in the private sector.

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Our law firm has helped many people with discrimination lawsuits, and we are happy to help. Please contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.