On June 21, 2016, in Smith v. Millville Rescue Squad, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed the scope of the marital status protection afforded to employees by the Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The Court ruled that the LAD’s marital status provision is not limited to the state of being single or married but protects employees who have announced “they will marry, have separated, have initiated divorce proceedings or have obtained a divorce.”
From 1998 until 2006, Robert Smith was employed by the Millville Rescue Squad (“MRS”) as its Director of Operations. His wife was also an MRS employee. In 2005, he began an extramarital affair with a volunteer under his direct supervision. His wife learned of the affair and informed the CEO of the MRS, who was Smith’s direct supervisor. The volunteer subsequently left the MRS, but the affair continued. After leaving his marital home, Smith informed the CEO that his marriage had collapsed. During a February 2006 meeting, the CEO told Smith he had “had eight months to make things right with [his] wife[,]” that “he did not think there was any chance of reconciliation . . . and that he believed there would be an ‘ugly divorce.” The CEO informed Smith he would bring the issue before the MRS’s Board of Directors. Shortly thereafter, the MRS terminated Smith’s employment.