This lawsuit is brought by an Illinois resident against his New Jersey-based former employer. Plaintiff alleges the company wrongfully denied him a promotion to a position in New Jersey and thereafter wrongfully terminated him from his job with its subsidiary in Illinois.
Plaintiff claims the company engaged in "associational" discrimination against him, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), based on the fact that his wife was then terminally ill with cancer. The company maintains it treated plaintiff fairly, and that it justifiably discharged him for engaging in inappropriate conduct at a trade show.
The trial court concluded that Illinois law, rather than the NJLAD, must apply to plaintiff's claims of discrimination because he lived in Illinois and worked for defendants' subsidiary in Illinois. Given that Illinois law has yet to recognize a cause of action for associational discrimination, the court granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims with prejudice.
On appeal in this case of first impression, this court holds that the NJLAD, notwithstanding the solitary reference to "inhabitants" in its preamble, can extend in appropriate circumstances to plaintiffs who reside or work outside of this state. However, whether the NJLAD applies to a particular nonresident plaintiff's claims turns upon a weighing of the multiple choice-of-law factors set forth in the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts of Laws (Am. Law Inst. 1971), as adopted and construed by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The court concludes that New Jersey law (specifically the NJLAD's ban against associational discrimination) applies to defendants' alleged failure to give plaintiff fair consideration for a promotion to a position in New Jersey. The Second Restatement factors strongly weigh in favor of applying New Jersey law, not Illinois law, to this failure-to-promote claim. This court therefore reverses the trial court’s dismissal of that discrete claim and reinstate it.
As for plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim, this court vacates its dismissal and remands the choice-of-law issue pertaining to that claim to the trial court, to enable the further development of critical facts and analysis bearing on the Second Restatement factors.