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Sunday, January 22, 2017

LINDA TISBY VS. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY/ LINDA TISBY VS. CAMDEN COUNTY, ET AL. A-0326-15T3/

LINDA TISBY VS. CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY/ LINDA TISBY VS. CAMDEN COUNTY, ET AL. 
A-0326-15T3/A-0344-15T3(CONSOLIDATED) 
In this case, we affirm the dismissal of two complaints filed by a Camden County Corrections Officer who was removed from her position because she wore a khimar with her work uniform, consistent with the practice of her faith. Based on the reasoning of the trial judges, we find an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on defendants based upon safety and security concerns, and the second dismissal was appropriate based upon the entire controversy doctrine. 
Plaintiff filed her complaint alleging violations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, asserting defendant's failure to accommodate sincere religious beliefs, and a complaint in lieu of prerogative writ seeking reinstatement and back pay. After considering arguments, the trial judge recognized plaintiff's sincerely held religious belief, but dismissed the complaint, determining an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on defendants because of overriding safety and security concerns of the prison and the importance of uniform consistency and neutrality. 
A different judge dismissed the second prerogative writ complaint, citing the entire controversy doctrine because plaintiff's complaints were only slightly distinguishable and should have been heard as one action. 

Reviewing federal authority touching on this issue, we conclude summary judgment dismissal was correctly entered. Any "inference of discrimination" based on the rejection of the accommodation request grounded on plaintiff's sincerely held religious beliefs was soundly rebutted by the employer's evidence of risks to safety, security and maintaining orderly objective operations in the prison. Further, plaintiff offered no proof of pretext. See Zive v. Stanley Roberts, Inc.; 182 N.J. 436, 447 (2005) (adopting burden shifting test set forth in McDonnell Douglass Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668 (1973)).