Sikh Coalition Files Amicus Brief in Anti-Semitic Work Environment Case

September 21, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Sikh Coalition

The Sikh Coalition filed an amicus brief with the New Jersey Supreme Court arguing that workplace slurs such as “dirty Jew” violate New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. In February, an appeals court held in Cutler v. Dorn that such slurs simply amount to lawful “teasing” and “pranks.”

Scores of Sikh employees have endured workplace slurs such as “terrorist” and “Taliban” since 9/11. The Coalition’s amicus brief says that “if the Appellate Division’s holding is not reversed, then Sikh employees subjected to severe or pervasive name calling such as ‘terrorist’ and ‘Bin Laden,' and other offensive conduct will no longer benefit from the protections afforded by New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.”

In 2003, police officer Jason Cutler sued an officer of the Haddonfield Police Department, the Township of Haddonfield, and its public safety director. Cutler said he was subjected to the following conduct:

* the phrase “dirty Jews” was used in his presence; * a Israeli flag sticker was placed on his locker and 2 weeks later a German flag sticker was placed above it; * a supervisor asked him several times about his “big Jew nose”; * he was "jokingly" told that he would not be permitted to wear a yarmulke on Passover; and * other officers told him “Jews are good with numbers” and “Jews make all the money.”

A jury ruled in February 2003 that Cutler did in fact face a hostile environment on the job, “based on his religion or ancestry.” On February 3, 2007, however, a three-judge appeals panel overturned the verdict. The appeals court held that “epithets or comments which are ‘merely offensive’ will not establish a hostile work environment claim.”