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Civil Rights in New Jersey, 1945-2020: Discrimination Legislation Timeline

On April 16, 1945, Governor Walter Edge signed a bill enacting the country's first civil rights law, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Discrimination Legislation Timeline




Law prohibiting discrimination based on race, color or previous condition of servitude in public accommodations and eligibility for grand or petit jury service.   Violation is a misdemeanor, subject to fine of $500 to $1000 or imprisonment of 30 days to one year, plus $500 liquidated damages to aggrieved person, plus costs.  For jury violations, fine is not more than $5000.


Amendments to the 1884 law expanded definition of public accommodations, and changed money damage provision to make the $500 payment go to the municipal “overseer of the poor for the  use of the poor....”

1921 Amendments to the law expands the law to include proprietors, managers, employees, etc.,  of public  accommodations, and to prohibit discriminatory written communications.  Amends remedies to reduce the damages to a range of $100 to $500, and makes them payable to State of New Jersey, plus reduced fine to range of $100 to $500, and reduced imprisonment term to 30 to 90 days, but provided option of both fine and imprisonment.   Aggrieved party can bring suit in name of state, and can recover costs and also attorney fees not in excess of $50.
1933 Law passed prohibiting discrimination in employment on public works contracts based on race, creed or color

Amendments - increased attorney fees recoverable to not less than $20 and not more than $100.

1938 Law passed prohibiting state, counties or municipalities form discriminating against applicants based on age

Resolution created unpaid “Good-Will Commission” “to foster racial and religious amity and understanding” and to establish with the Governor a “brotherhood and goodwill” holiday.


Assembly bill 184, creating new commission and appropriating $16,000 to study welfare of urban colored population, was vetoed by Governor Charles Edison, who supported his veto by stating that he was urged to veto the bill by “prominent Negro men and women” and that similar commissions funded in 1938 and 1939 had already produced reports with recommendations, and that $ could be better spent in adopting some of the recommendations already made.

Assembly voted to override veto, and sent bill to senate w/request that they do the same.  Senate also voted to override veto, and bill was enacted without amendment.  L. 1941, ch. 192.

L. 1941, Ch. 247 (A 214) law passed permitting citizens to hold office or employment regardless of sex or marital status, and forbids discrimination in compensation, promotion or dismissal based on sex or marital status.

1942 Made discrimination based on race, color or creed in public employment or employment in industries engaged on defense contracts a misdemeanor, and imposed fines of not less than $100 and not more than $500, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both

Chapters 168 to 174 of L.1945 created the Division Against Discrimination and broadened all civil rights laws to include “creed, national origin or ancestry.”  Discrimination in public places, employment, public contracts, schools, hospitals, and war industries was included.  Ch. 170 abolished good will commission, and transferred the commission’s $5,650 appropriation to the Division Against Discrimination.

1947 New Jersey has a new Constitution with a Civil Rights clause that states: "No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil or military right, nor be discriminated against in the exercise of any civil or military right, nor be segregated in the militia or in the public schools because of religious principles, race, color, ancestry or national origin"

Established new procedures for appointing officers and employees of Division Against Discrimination in the Department of Education.


First Freeman bill was introduced in 1948, but died in Senate Committee after passing Assembly.  It was passed in substantially the same form in 1949.  The statement to the 1948 bill said that it was intended to combine in one law the substantive provisions of the “Civil Rights Laws” 10:1-2 to 10:1-7 and the “Law Against Discrimination” 18:25-1 to 18:25-28 (in former Education statutes).  It consolidates and places administration under an existing single administrative agency. [but it doesn’t really import the remedies to the 1884 provisions]


Law passed prohibiting discrimination in housing built with public funds or public assistance based on race, creed, color national origin or ancestry.  L. 1950, Ch 105 to 112.


Amendments enlarged scope of 1945 law to prohibit discrimination by employers or labor organizations based on liability for military service.

1953 Technical amendments to LAD??

Savings and Loan Act amended to prohibit discrimination in grant of mortgage loans based on race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry.

1957 Law was expanded to include discrimination in housing guaranteed by mortgages financed by federal agencies
1960 Creates Civil Rights Division  - L. 1960, Ch 59 (A474).
1961 Amended Law Against Discrimination to prohibit discrimination in real property based on race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry
1962 Amended Law Against Discrimination to prohibit discrimination based on age
1963 Law Against Discrimination amendments created Division on Civil Rights in LPS as substitute for previously created Division in Dept of Education, to take effect immediately(5/21/63). L1963, ch 40 (S78)
1966 Amendments expanded prohibitions against discrimination in housing, included employers with fewer than 6 employees in definition of employer, and providing that AG, rather than Commissioner of Labor, would take civil rights complaints.  L. 1968, Ch. 17; Ch. 254; Ch 165.
1968 Revisions to Title 18 reallocated the Law Against Discrimination to Chapter 5 of Title 10

Amendments prohibited discrimination based on sex and marital status.


Law Against Discrimination amended to prohibit discrimination based on physical “handicap.” Protections for people who use or train service dogs added in 1977. Definition of “handicap” expanded to include non-physical disabilities in 1979. “Handicap” changed to “disability” in 2003


The Law Against Discrimination was extended to prohibit discrimination in credit and contracting

1977 L1977 c.96 - Prohibits discrimination based on nationality (not just national origin)
1977 L 1977 c.122 - Clarifies provisions concerning employment discrimination in cases of private social clubs and of religious organizations whose tenets require certain employment practices

New Jersey became one of a handful of states to protect individuals based on sexual orientation.

1993 Prohibition against discrimination based on familial status added to housing provisions
1996 Prohibitions against discrimination based on genetic information added

New Jersey became one of the few states in the nation to protect persons from unlawful discrimination in housing based on their lawful source of income or rental subsidy, including Section 8 housing vouchers. The housing provisions of the law were amended in 2003 to strengthen the Law Against Discrimination’s procedural and substantive protections


The Legislature passed the historic Domestic Partnership Act, prohibiting discrimination based on domestic partnership status.


The  Law Against Discrimination was amended to add prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.


The Law Against Discrimination was amended to require employers to reasonably accommodate their employee’s religious beliefs.


Provisions prohibiting discrimination against, and requiring reasonable accommodations of, pregnant and breastfeeding people were added.

2018 The Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act amended the LAD to require equal pay for “substantially similar work” for those in protected categories—giving NJ the strongest equal pay law in the nation at the time. 


Called a "marriage bar" women often had to give up work when they married.

Pluckemin school. Women often had to give up teaching when they married.

In 1962 the LAD was amended to prevent age discrimination


Girls have always played baseball but until 1974 they could not play Little League

Since 1992 LGBTQ non-discrimination in New Jersey has protected people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2006, that law was expanded to include gender identity and expression.


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