Woman says Elizabeth bar The Lobby wanted to hire ‘people without children’ – NBC New York

A young New Jersey mother said she was shocked when she inquired about bartending jobs at a popular restaurant, only to learn that the location preferred to hire “people without children.”

Idelbel Colon, the job seeker, shared text messages with the NBC New York I-Team that appeared to feature The Lobby, a sports-themed bar and restaurant in Elizabeth, excluding parents from employment considerations.

“Did you want to see if you have any vacancies for bartenders?” Colon wrote in March.

In response, Terry Gonzalez, a former manager at the Lobby, wrote back: “I just hired three and things are going well right now. We are also looking for people without children.”

According to the text messages, Gonzalez went on to explain that the restaurant “just let two girls with kids go because they kept getting sick.”

“This is discrimination,” Colon said. “He can’t just say he doesn’t want to hire women with children.”

Colon said she previously worked at The Lobby for several years before having children. She admitted that Gonzalez once fired her but later rehired her to work at a sister sports bar in Newark. She also got that job before she gave birth.

The Lobby declined to answer questions about how hiring decisions are made at the company, instead issuing a statement from its legal representative, the Hatfield Schwartz Law Group. That statement distanced the company from Terry Gonzalez, calling him a “former” manager and suggesting he did not have the authority to make hiring decisions.

“The Lobby employs a diverse workforce and prides itself on providing a welcoming environment for all,” the statement said. “This was an informal text exchange between a former employee and a former manager. The views expressed do not represent those of The Lobby.”

The statement did not provide details about when Gonzalez left his job as a manager and did not address a screenshot Colon said she took on March 6, 2024, of Gonzalez advertising Lobby vacancies on his personal Instagram page.

The I-Team reached out to Terry Gonzalez for comment but did not hear back.

Some states, including New York, explicitly prohibit employers from excluding people from job consideration because they are parents. Although New Jersey law does not specifically make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on what is known as “familial status,” the state Division on Civil Rights, part of the attorney general’s office, said parents often are members of other protected classes.

For example, prejudice against people with children could be considered to have a ‘disparate impact’ on people between the ages of 30 and 40 – and thus be targeted for enforcement under the age discrimination ban.

Just this week, the Civil Rights Division proposed adopting new language clarifying how the state can penalize employers and landlords for business conduct that is not expressly prohibited by the Law Against Discrimination but nevertheless tends to impose a greater burden on one or more protected classes.

“It is important to understand that a policy or practice does not need malicious intent to have a harmful impact,” said Attorney General Matt Platkin. “We no longer live in a time where ‘I meant well’ or ‘I didn’t think’ are accepted excuses for denying equal opportunity to everyone.”

David Lopez, a professor at Rutgers Law School and formerly general counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said employers who exclude mothers from hiring considerations may also be committing sex discrimination.

“What the employer community needs to understand is that they cannot engage in stereotyping against women,” Lopez said. “Federal and state laws both prohibit sex discrimination, so if an employer refuses to hire women because they have children – and does not refuse to hire men – that would be sex discrimination.”

Colon has initiated the process for filing equal employment opportunity complaints with the state and federal government. She said she wants The Lobby customers to reflect on the fact that the restaurant advertised a Mother’s Day brunch last month, just weeks after she was told the location preferred not to hire mothers of children.

“I just think it’s ironic that they’re promoting a Mother’s Day brunch,” Colon said

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