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NJ Settles with Golf Club Over Allegations of Gender-Based Discrimination

Camden County

By: Richard L. Smith 

The NJ Attorney General’s Office Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has reached a settlement resolving their complaint against Camden County’s  Pine Valley Golf Club over allegations that the historically male-dominated Club engaged in a pattern of unlawful gender-based discrimination. 

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Attorney Matt Platkin said under the settlement announced Wednesday. The Club agreed to end discriminatory employment practices and housing practices and educate its employees about the NJ Law Against Discrimination (LAD) requirements. During the course of DCR’s investigation, the Club also lifted its policy restricting Club membership to men only and admitted its first women members. 

DCR’s administrative complaint against the Club, which was filed in April 2022, alleged that the Club violated the LAD by banning women from becoming members and by otherwise restricting their ability to golf and access Club facilities – policies that the Club relaxed only after DCR commenced its investigation of the Club. 

The complaint further alleged that the Club had adopted employment policies that discriminated on the basis of gender and used discriminatory restrictive covenants that prevented women from owning houses on the Club’s land unless they co-owned a house with a man. 

“The Division on Civil Rights continues to work tirelessly to end the abhorrent legacies of exclusion and misogyny,” said Attorney General Platkin. “New Jersey will not tolerate gender-based discrimination, and those who violate our laws will be held accountable.”

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“Gender-based discrimination violates our laws and is an affront to the values we hold dear, plain and simple,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights.

“The settlement agreement announced today reflects our ongoing commitment to rooting out gender-based discrimination and ensuring that no one faces such discrimination in employment, housing, or places of public accommodation in our State.”

As part of the settlement agreement, the Club will remit a $100,000 payment to DCR. In addition to making a payment to DCR, the Club will also endow two new scholarships totaling $100,000 to support the participation of women in golf: a scholarship through the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship program for the benefit of women caddies’ education, and a scholarship through Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (Rutgers University), for the benefit of members of the Rutgers women’s golf team. 

DCR’s administrative complaint against the Club alleged an extensive history of LAD violations at the 108-year-old Club. The LAD prohibits discrimination based on protected characteristics in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation.

DCR’s administrative complaint against the Club included allegations of gender discrimination in each of these protected areas.

The complaint alleged that the Club unlawfully discriminated against women in housing by tying Club membership to the ability to own or lease property on Club land.

The Club’s long-standing men-only membership policy and its use of restrictive “members-only” deed covenants disqualified women from being eligible to own private dwellings that sit on Club-owned land. 

The complaint also alleged that the Club violated the LAD’s protections against discrimination in employment by, among other things, engaging in employment recruiting primarily based on word-of-mouth referrals from the Club’s workforce of mostly men, which resulted in the Club being staffed almost exclusively by men.

The complaint cited a continuing lack of women employees at the Club, noting that women made up fewer than 4 percent of the Club’s employees and that the few women who worked at the Club were generally in positions that did not interact with Club members.

In addition, the complaint alleged that the Club adopted unlawful policies in its employee handbook that prohibited men – but not women – from wearing earrings and forbade employees from discussing their pay in violation of the LAD. 

During DCR’s investigation, the Club lifted its policy restricting Club membership to men only and admitted its first women members.

The settlement also includes the following provisions to address the discriminatory practices identified in the complaint:

  • The Club agrees not to discriminate based on sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or any other LAD-protected class in violation of the LAD;
  • The Club is prohibited from restricting the lease of land or ownership of private houses based on gender or Club membership status;
  • The Club will no longer lease land for residential purposes or allow people to own homes on its property, subject to limited exceptions; 
  • The Club must provide all persons, including women, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and intersex individuals, equal opportunities to obtain employment with the Club;
  • The Club is prohibited from relying on word-of-mouth recruitment as its primary method of employee recruitment;
  • The Club will publicly post all future job openings such that they are equally accessible to people of all genders and must advertise at least 75% of its job openings in at least two primary online job posting websites;
  • The Club is prohibited from barring any employee from wearing earrings at work based on sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression;
  • The Club cannot prohibit or forbid any employee from appearing, grooming, or dressing consistent with the employee’s gender, gender identity, or gender expression; 
  • The Club cannot prohibit or forbid any employee from discussing pay or compensation; and
  • The Club must provide interactive anti-discrimination training to all its employees that addresses State anti-discrimination laws, including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. 

To ensure continued compliance with the settlement agreement, the agreement also imposes regular compliance reporting obligations on the Club, including requiring the Club to submit annual reports to DCR regarding changes in employment and housing at the Club.

More information about gender discrimination and the obligations of employers, housing providers, and places of public accommodation under the LAD is available on DCR’s website.