Countless jokes have been made since Sergio Bichao broke the news that a local couple is taking legal action against their former employer because they allege the husband was fired for passing too much gas, but this is far from a laughing matter. This is the perfect example of what can happen when laws that are drafted with the best of intentions in mind are taken just a little too far.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, the laws the so-called “fart suit” are based on, were both designed to protect and promote the interests of some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately, they were drafted so broadly that the court is now being called in to referee a case that many people find ridiculous rather than redemptive.
The legislature should keep litigation like this in mind as it drafts other laws targeted at curing social ills. For example, one of the hot topics this legislative session has been paid sick leave. It is one thing to say the businesses should provide paid leave, but quite another to subject a business to a lawsuit by an employee who claims they were given un-desirable shifts after calling out sick three sunny Fridays in a row.
The fart lawsuit is only one example of what our future holds if we continue to legislate and then litigate for the social good without taking a closer look at the actual consequences.