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The Lakewood Board of Fire Commissioners, as well as the New Jersey State Association of Fire Districts have just been served a Civil Rights Complaint alleging discrimination against Shabbos observance, FAA News has learned.

The Complaint was filed with the Division on Civil Rights within the Department of Law and Public Safety, which is part of the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General.

The New Jersey State Association of Fire Districts is financed mainly by public funds; each member fire district pays $300 each year from taxpayer funds as dues to the Association.

The Association is governed by Executive Officers, Board of Trustees, and Committee Member who are compromised of fire commissioners from across the State, and are elected from within the Association membership.

The Lakewood Fire District, which is is one of the largest in the State, pays the annual $300 membership fee each year. However, the Association's monthly meetings are always on a Saturday.

On September 20, 2022, Larry Loigman, Vice Chairman of the Lakewood Board of Fire Commissioners, sent an email to the Association asking, "when will the next meeting be on a day other than Saturday? I am not available due to religious observance." The Association responded, "all our meetings are held on Saturday mornings."

Mr. Loigman responded, "I would ask that you consider scheduling meetings at other times so that I, or other individuals who cannot attend on Saturday, might be able to be present."

The Association replied, "I will bring this up at our next meeting in December and get back to you." There was no further response.

On June 2, 2023, Mr. Loigman reached out to Fire District Administrator Yehuda Beer regarding the Association's lack of accommodation. Mr. Beer replied that BOFC Chairman Yaakov Steinberg has stated that "his position and the consensus of the Board" was not to ask them to change their meetings dates.

Despite this backlash, on June 4, 2023, Mr. Loigman sent the following email to the Association: As you are aware, members of our Board are unable to attend your meetings because you have declined to schedule them for a day other than Saturday when, due to observance of the Sabbath, our members cannot be present. Even though our District is one of the largest in the State, we are not represented; nor, as far back as anyone can remember, has anyone from Lakewood been elected an officer of the Association. I would appreciate a response from you or another officer. Thank you.

There was no response.

On June 12, 2023, the Board of Fire Commissioners approved paying the $300 annual membership fees due to the Association. At that point, Commissioner Loigman asked if the Board feels the best thing is to file a civil rights complaint against the Association for holding their meetings on Saturdays. Commissioner Pfeffer said "certainly not." Commissioner Loigman stated that he will "take that as a yes."

Mr. Loigman has now filed a formal Complaint with the Division of Civil Rights, alleging that the Association, as well as the Lakewood Board of Fire Commissioners, "committed acts of unlawful public accommodation discrimination within the meaning of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination."

Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Mr. Loigman was "denied accommodation in the scheduling of the Association's meetings, making it impossible for him to attend due to the observance of his sincerely held religious beliefs, specifically, the Jewish Sabbath... during which time, pursuant to the tenets of the Jewish faith, work activities are prohibited. Furthermore, the Board of Fire Commissioners aided, abetted, assisted, supported, or otherwise participated in allowing the Association maintain its discriminatory practices."

N.J.S.A. 10:5-4 provides, in pertinent part, "All persons shall have the opportunity to obtain employment, and to obtain all the accommodations, advantaged, facilities, and privileges of any place of public accommodation..."

As an observant member of the Jewish faith, Complainant belongs to a protected class. He alleges that he was denied a reasonable accommodation in the scheduling of meetings of the Association and, as a result, the opportunity to participate in the business affairs of the Association and to serve as an officer, trustee, or committee member of the Association.

In or around June 2022, Commissioner Loigman asked Ian Goldman, the attorney for the BOFC if the Board has a civil rights policy. Mr. Loigman replied "no, as it's not necessary for the Board to have one."

The Civil Rights Complaint alleges that the payment of dues from the public funds of the Lakewood Fire District constitutes the "aiding, abetting, and active support of an entity which violates the Law Against Discrimination, in violation of the public policy of this State."

The Complaint seeks "any and all relief provided by law, including, but not limited to, affirmative relief, including, but not limited to, an order directing reasonable accommodations; and compensatory damages for economic loss, humiliation, mental pain and suffering.

The Law Against Discrimination requires the Division of Civil Rights to conduct an investigation into the allegations raised in every complaint filed.

State law further requires the named defendants to, within 20 calendar days, file an Answer, a Position Statement that fully and completely explains why they believe no violation occured, and a copy of all documents and any other evidence necessary to support the facts, allegations, and defenses set further in their Position Statement and Answer.

The Law Against Discrimination specifically prohibits anyone from retaliating against, harassing, threatening, attempting to expel, or coercing, any person because that person has made a complaint alleging a violation of the LAD.

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Bad Poet said...

This guy is just constantly suing people...

Get a life! LOL

Good Poet said...

And I sure that hope he keeps on suing the Bad actors. We need to live in a society where the people in power need to follow the same rules as everyone else.

Why should they be able to get away with breaking the laws while the rest of us have to pay the price!?

ab said...

Just another lawsuit Mr Loigman will lose.

Shlomo Kleinman said...

I'd love to see Ian Goldman, the Board's attorney and a Mechallel Shabbos fighting this Shabbos lawsuit!