In a recent decision, a New Jersey judge concluded that economic abuse, specifically, interfering with an ex-partner’s employment, may constitute domestic violence. As such, behavior that involves threats or direct attempts to jeopardize a victim’s employment may provide grounds for a restraining order.
Ocean County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Jones recently issued his opinion in the case of C.G. v. E.G., addressing one of the many non-physical, yet equally detrimental forms of domestic violence. The victim in this case, C.G. (names have been redacted to protect privacy), separated from her husband E.G. before resuming work as a waitress. She filed a complaint after E.G. began making threatening statements to her via text message. He reportedly told her that he intended to interfere with her job, and followed suit by calling her employer and attempting to have her terminated.
Judge Jones ruled that E.G.’s behavior was harassing and coercive, both of which are among the 14 predicate acts of domestic violence. In New Jersey, harassment is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, and may include any of the following:
- Making or causing to be made communication at extremely inconvenient times, or in offensive language or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
- Subjecting another to striking, kicking, shoving or other offensive touching, or threatening to do so; or
- Engaging in any other course of alarming conduct or repeatedly committing acts with the purpose to alarm or seriously alarm another.
In 2015, coercion was added to the list of predicate acts of domestic violence. This offense is rather broad, including “threats made to unlawfully restrict another’s freedom of action to engage or refrain from engaging in conduct.” Among the threats that may constitute coercion, a person may threaten “to perform any other act which would not in itself substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to substantially harm another person with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
As it relates to this case, Judge Jones wrote:
“In the context of domestic violence, an ex-partner’s acts of obstructing, interfering with, or threatening to endanger one’s job and economic stability can be as fear-inducing to a victim as physical abuse. There are arguably few threats more potentially harassing and coercive than threatening one’s livelihood and employment. For people simply trying to make a living and pay their bills, employment stability and security is an extremely important issue. Hence, any potential damage to such stability through an estranged, vindictive or controlling ex-partner’s wrongful and purposeful actions may logically hurt a victim, and naturally cause significant anxiety and distress, and constitute economic abuse.”
Judge Jones further clarified that economic abuse in the form of interfering with another’s employment may manifest in a variety of actions, including: threatening to contact the victim’s employer or place of employment in an attempt to have them fired, actually calling the employer or place of employment with the same intention, or arriving unannounced to the victim’s place of employment and attempting to damage his or her reputation, undermine his or her job stability, or impede his or her ability to perform job responsibilities.
Overall, this case illustrates the often overlooked forms of domestic violence that can spell serious negative implications for the lives of victims. If you are currently facing a domestic violence matter in New Jersey, the domestic abuse lawyers at Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark can help. Contact our offices in Morristown today at 973-828-0829 for a free initial consultation.