NJ Sues Nation’s Best Golf Course Alleging Gender Discrimination
TRENTON – New Jersey’s civil rights division Wednesday filed a gender-based discrimination complaint against Pine Valley Golf Club, a private club in Camden County often ranked as having the country’s best golf course.
The club first began admitting women as members about a year ago, after the Division on Civil Rights launched its investigation.
“Gender-based discrimination has no place in New Jersey, period,” said acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin. “Our Division on Civil Rights is committed to rooting out unlawful discrimination and holding accountable those who violate our laws.”
The complaint says violations of the Law Against Discrimination included preventing women from owning any of the 19 houses on the club’s land – which made up the entirety of Pine Valley borough until it merged into Pine Hill at the start of 2022 – unless they co-owned a house with a man. That rule no longer applies, but the state said the club also no longer plans to enter any new leases of its land.
The complaint also says the golf club used employment policies that discriminate on the basis of sex and gender, including since-dropped bans on employees discussing their pay and a policy prohibiting men, but not women, from wearing earrings.
“The LAD prohibits policies and practices that are intended to, or have the effect of excluding people who identify as women,” said Rosemary DiSavino, deputy director of the Division on Civil Rights. “Failure to provide equal access to persons of all genders in housing, employment and places of public accommodation has consequences.”
The Pine Valley Golf Club says it lifted all restrictions on membership and use of its facilities based on sex or gender by the spring of 2021, but the state says the extensive history of violations over 108 years created “a legacy of inequality that lingers today.”
As of last July, the state said, only three of the 700 members of the club were women, less than 0.5%. It said women make up fewer than 4% of the club’s employees – six out of 159, including two dishwashers, two laundry workers, the caddie luncheonette staffer and the bookkeeper.
The state says that even though private clubs are exempt from the Law Against Discrimination’s protections that apply to places of public accommodation, Pine Valley Golf Club isn’t exempt because it owned all the land and effectively controlled the operations of the recently dissolved borough.
A phone call and email to the club seeking comment had not been returned by mid-afternoon Wednesday.