Thank you for the information and your question. The short answer to your question is that it might qualify as a discriminatory act. I say that because there are many facts that I don't have, including those from the perspective of the employer. However, if the facts are that everyone is approved for the tuition reimbursement program, and you were the only one that was not, and also the only African-American applicant or the only female who has applied, then there would be a strong enough issue that you might want to consider filing a race or gender discrimination
complaint with the NJ Division on Civil Rights and/or the EEOC
. I would recommend though that you first sit down with a local employment law
attorney and discuss all of the facts, including the details of the employer's tuition reimbursement policy, their history with applications for that program, your duties and exactly what transcribed with your request. There is a chance that the attorney might be able to write a letter to the company's senior management that might persuade them to change their mind, so that expensive litigation can be avoided.
One thing to keep in mind is that if the employer has discretion in approving these programs and they can either show that they have at some time in the past approved another African-American for the program or a woman, if you are considering gender, then you won't have much of a chance at success unless you have a smoking
gun, such as statements from the decisionmakers that indicate bias against racial minorities.
Please let me know if you need any clarification. I would be glad to assist you further if I can.