New Jersey’s Pine Valley Golf Club is consistently noted for having the best golf course in the United States, but that distinction did nothing to protect it from a civil rights complaint filed last month by the state’s acting attorney general. According to Matthew Platkin, the exclusive club has demonstrated a consistent pattern of gender discrimination in its employment practices, as well as with regard to its membership, its public accommodations, and even the housing opportunities available on the course.

Pine Valley Golf Club was established over 108 years ago, and from the time of its founding it not only kept women from being members, it even barred almost all women from playing golf or even entering its facilities. It justified this practice, as well as its discriminatory hiring practices, by pointing to its status as a private club, unregulated by federal or state laws. But in the filing accusing the club of violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the state indicates that the club was so deeply enmeshed with the former borough of Pine Valley that private club exemptions did not apply. This refers to the club’s recent merger with the borough in 2022. Previously the borough had been a legally incorporated state municipality whose land was owned by the golf club. 

The state’s list of alleged violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination is long, and includes discriminatory restrictive covenants that prevent women from owning houses on the club’s land unless they co-own the property with a man; restricting membership to men; restricting women from playing golf or otherwise accessing club facilities;  and employment practices that recruited primarily from word-of-mouth referrals from the club’s workforce, resulting in the club being staffed almost exclusively by men. Of 159 employees, only six are women. The lawsuit also points to the Club’s employee handbook, which includes rules that forbid only men from wearing earrings and forbidding employees from discussing their pay; both are violations of state law.

Speaking of the charges against the historic club, Acting Attorney General Platkin said, “Gender-based discrimination has no place in New Jersey, period.” For its part, during the course of the state investigation the club defended its actions by indicating that all sex and gender restrictions on membership and use of facilities had been lifted in spring of 2021, shortly after the Division on Civil Rights began their investigation.

It is unclear how many individuals were victimized by the club’s discriminatory practices, but the complaint is seeking compensation for economic loss, humiliation, and mental pain and suffering, as well as penalties and investigative and litigation costs. The filing is an indication of how seriously the state takes violations of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.

If you have been impacted by discriminatory hiring practices, our experienced attorneys are here to help. Contact us today to set up a convenient time for us to meet and discuss your situation.