N.J. AG announces civil rights settlement with mortgage company

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced a $36,000 settlement Tuesday with a national mortgage company on behalf of a Sussex County woman who was allegedly discriminated against in her application for refinancing.

The Texas-based Nationstar Mortgage will pay $30,000 to Hamburg resident Taryn Benacquista to resolve allegations that she was unlawfully discriminated against when her refinancing application was denied because she was on maternity leave from her job. Nationstar will also pay the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights $6,000 and will train its loan processors and officers in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and other fair housing and credit laws.

Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara said that it is illegal for lenders to assume that because a woman is on maternity leave that she will experience a drop in income when she returns to work or that she will not return to work at all.

In 2005, Benacquista bought her condominium in Hamburg with a mortgage obtained through Nationstar. After going on maternity leave in December 2010, she was invited to apply for a refinancing of her mortgage at a lower interest rate in March 2011. Benacquista applied for refinancing, which was denied after the company learned she was out on maternity leave and did not plan to return to work until May 2011.

Benacquista filed a complaint against Nationstar in May 2011 and the Division on Civil Rights issued a finding of probable cause against the company in October 2011.

Nationstar admits no liability under the terms of the settlement.

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