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New Jersey files civil-rights complaint against Pine Valley

April 28, 2022

The 18th hole at Pine Valley Golf Club.

Photo by Dom Furore

New Jersey’s acting attorney general has filed a civil-rights complaint against Pine Valley Golf Club.

Acting AG Matthew Platkin alleged Wednesday that Pine Valley has exhibited a pattern of gender-based discrimination in both access to the facility and in its employment policies.

“Gender-based discrimination has no place in New Jersey, period,” Platkin said. “Our Division on Civil Rights is committed to rooting out unlawful discrimination and holding accountable those who violate our laws.”

In May 2021, the historically all-male club voted to allow women into its membership for the first time in its history. However, Platkin claimed Pine Valley only did so after his office commenced its investigation and took issue that as of July 2021 just three of the club’s 700 members were female.

In the eight-page written complaint the state acknowledges private clubs are exempt from Laws Against Discrimination protections, but the state argues this exception cannot be invoked by Pine Valley because the club “was so deeply intertwined with the former Borough of Pine Valley.” All of the borough’s land was owned by the club and it effectively controlled the borough’s operations, according to Platkin, while receiving services and benefits provided by its government. Platkin also said the club prohibited women from owning homes in the borough unless co-owned by a man, as the ability to co-own or lease property in the borough was tied to club membership. The borough merged with neighboring Pine Hill in 2022.

Other allegations from Platkin’s office include that just 4 percent of Pine Valley’s workforce is comprised of women, the inclusion of an unlawful policy in the club’s employee handbook that prohibited men but not women from wearing earrings, and the inclusion of a policy that forbade employees from discussing their pay in violation of the LAD, as amended by the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act.

The complaint is seeking compensatory damages for “economic loss, humiliation, mental pain and suffering for any victims of the alleged discrimination.” The club will have 20 days to respond to allegations made.

Designed by Philadelphia hotelier George Crump and architect Harry Colt, Pine Valley covers some 600 acres of rugged pine land and is perennially listed as the best course in the United States. When contacted by Golf Digest a spokesman for Pine Valley declined to comment further citing the private nature of the club.