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yarmulkeAccording to a recent announcement from the Attorney General’s Office, an auto parts store employee received a $10,000 payment and the Attorney General received a promise of internal changes at the business in the wake of an employee’s complaint that the employer cut his hours after he asked not to be scheduled to work during Jewish holidays or on the Sabbath. The case highlights the strong protections New Jersey law creates for employees wishing to observe sincerely held religious practices, as well as the consequences for employers who fail to make a good-faith attempt to interact with a religious employee about his need and reasonably accommodate those religious needs. If you’ve suffered from discrimination or harassment at work because of your faithful observance of your religion, you should reach out right away to an experienced New Jersey religious discrimination attorney.

The employee in the auto parts store case, Ron, worked at the chain’s Hazlet location. Ron generally had been working three or four shifts a week, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Then, one day, Ron asked not to be scheduled for shifts that included Saturday hours or Friday hours after sunset. The employee made this request because he was Jewish and faithfully observed the Sabbath. He also asked to be off on certain Jewish holidays. After Ron made the request, he allegedly received a very different schedule, with the store scheduling him to work only one shift per week.

Believing that the employer cut his hours because he made the religious accommodation request, Ron filed a complaint with the state’s Division of Civil Rights. That agency investigated and concluded that the employer did not meet its legal obligation to accommodate Ron’s religious practice. Under changes to the Law Against Discrimination that took effect back in 2008, an employer has a statutory obligation to accommodate its employees’ “sincerely held religious observance or practice.”

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breastfeedingNew Jersey has expanded the array of people protected from discrimination under the Law Against Discrimination. Starting in January 2018, New Jersey is the 18th state to prohibit employers from engaging in workplace discrimination against women who are breastfeeding. The additions to the NJLAD also require employers to provide accommodations to breastfeeding mothers in order to allow them to take breaks to nurse or pump at work. If you suffer adverse employment treatment due to your breastfeeding, or your employer does not provide you with a proper accommodation for feeding or pumping, you may have a legal case against your employer. As with any instance of workplace discrimination, you should contact an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney to discuss your rights and your options.

The new law, which was signed by the governor on Jan. 8 and went into effect immediately, added breastfeeding as one of the bases upon which employers cannot discriminate in New Jersey, reported. This places breastfeeding alongside pregnancy, sex, marital status, race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or expression, and disability (among other things) as prohibited bases of workplace discrimination under the Law Against Discrimination.

The law includes both the activities of directly feeding the child and pumping breast milk for use later. The new provision requires employers, as an accommodation, to provide nursing employees with a private space in which to express milk. That space must be near the nursing mother’s work station and must not be a toilet.

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prayingAnti-discrimination laws are clear that an employer cannot discriminate against employees based upon their religion. This, however, leads to another question:  what does or does not count as a religion under federal law? One recent case involving a hospital worker offers some perspective on this issue. Although the worker lost his discrimination case, the court’s opinion makes it clear that the range of beliefs that qualify as a religion is broader than one might assume. For advice about this and other areas of employment discrimination law, talk to a knowledgeable New Jersey religious discrimination attorney.

The hospital worker, Paul, had been an employee of a Catholic hospital in southwest Philadelphia since 1994. In 2012, the hospital required its employees to receive a flu vaccination or else submit a form indicating that the employee was medically exempt or exempt based upon religious beliefs.

Paul did not belong to any organized religion. He held strong personal convictions when it came to receiving vaccines, but they were not connected to any religion. In the first two years, Paul submitted the religious exemption form with a lengthy piece of prose explaining his beliefs. Each time, the hospital granted him an exemption. In 2014, the worker submitted the same paperwork and essay. This time, the employer denied the exemption. It required that Paul provide a letter from a clergyperson related to his beliefs, which he could not do. On Dec. 31, 2014, the hospital terminated the worker for not complying with the flu vaccination rule.

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nurseIf you have been harmed at work because your employer discriminated against you due to your sex, race, religion, or some other illegal basis, you are probably frustrated and upset. You also likely want justice for the harm you’ve suffered. You may desire to take your case to court, but you may be concerned about the cost of legal fees. As many real-life examples of self-represented workers in race discrimination cases illustrate, though, you can’t afford not to have a knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination lawyer on your side to litigate your case. Your skilled attorney can guide you through what to do, and what not to do, in the pursuit of your damages.

An example of a self-represented worker who did not meet with success was Willie, a registered nurse who, in the fall of 2011, took a job at a substance abuse and mental health treatment facility near Newark. Willie’s primary assignment placed her on a floor dedicated to rehab patients. Sometimes, though, the hospital would send her to work on another floor dedicated to the hospital’s detox program. Working in the detox unit was apparently a more unfavorable assignment than working on a rehab floor.

The nurse became frustrated with her assignments to the detox floor. She believed that the hospital frequently sent her to the detox floor because of her race and color. According to Willie, the hospital sent her to the detox program twice as often as Mikola, a white nurse assigned to the same rehab floor as Willie. This led Willie to file a claim with the EEOC and, subsequently, to sue her employer for race discrimination in violation of Title VII.

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NJ State HouseMost people in the country have, over the last several weeks, become familiar with the Harvey Weinstein story. Multiple accusers have alleged that the Hollywood producer sexually assaulted or harassed them. Some were actresses, while others were assistants who worked for the producer. Several of these allegations date back to the early to mid-1990s. Some have asked why the producer’s alleged victims waited years, and even decades, to speak out. While there are numerous reasons why a victim might delay in speaking out publicly, for some, there was a very black-and-white one:  they reached a settlement of their legal claims against the producer, and one of the terms of those agreements was their silence. If you are a victim of New Jersey sexual harassment or sex discrimination, potential settlements are one area in which an experienced attorney can be invaluable. Your experienced counsel can help you assess whether a settlement is in your best interest and, if you were to sign, exactly what your contractual obligations would be under that agreement.

A non-disclosure term is a common clause in almost any settlement agreement that resolves the potential legal claims one party might have against another party. The potential defendant pays the potential plaintiff a sum of money, the plaintiff forever gives up her right to sue, and both sides agree never to discuss the confidential details of the agreement. If a bill currently under consideration in the New Jersey legislature becomes law, that process may change in this state when it comes to sexual harassment and discrimination cases. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg proposed SB 3581, a bill that would prohibit employers from using non-disclosure provisions to keep victims of workplace sexual harassment from speaking up, according to an report.

The bill, as proposed, would not only bar employers from setting up such non-disclosure agreements when the victim was one of sexual harassment, but also apply to any situation in which the employee was a victim of a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The bill would clarify the law to establish explicitly that a non-disclosure agreement in this type of scenario is against New Jersey public policy and, as a result, is unenforceable.

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lgbt flagOne of the more frequently discussed issues within federal employment discrimination litigation is that of sexual orientation discrimination. Following two federal appeals court rulings from 2017 that reached opposite conclusions, some hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would step in and resolve the disagreement with finality. The high court recently decided, however, not to take a case that would have done so, leaving the question up to the various lower federal courts. Employees in New Jersey, however, have greater protections thanks to the Law Against Discrimination. If you suffered from discrimination at work because you are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, you should contact a New Jersey LGBT discrimination attorney to discuss your case and find out more about your rights.

The two federal cases were from Indiana and Georgia. Kimberly was a part-time college professor in South Bend, Indiana. The college rejected her six times for full-time positions and eventually terminated her part-time contract. Believing that the college made those decisions because she was openly lesbian, Kimberly sued the college for a violation of federal employment discrimination law (Title VII). The trial court threw out the professor’s case, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals revived it, ruling, for the first time, that sexual orientation discrimination  was a type of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under Title VII.

Jameka, a security officer at a hospital in Savannah, Ga., faced a different problem. Jameka, although a lesbian, “did not broadcast her sexuality.” What was apparent, however, was her appearance:  her hairstyle, her uniform, her shoes, her walk, and her speech all were more stereotypically male than female. Jameka sued for discrimination. In her case, both the trial court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against her, concluding that her case essentially boiled down to a sexual orientation discrimination case, and Title VII did not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.

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brainA few weeks ago, this blog covered the story of an NFL linebacker who filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against his former team, the New York Jets, accusing the organization of engaging in disability discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). While some observers have theorized that the linebacker’s lawsuit “could wind up testing the way the NFL treats players with mental health problems,” the lawsuit clearly serves as a reminder of the protections provided to New Jersey workers by the LAD. Anyone who has been subjected to discrimination based upon bipolar disorder or another major psychological condition should consult a New Jersey disability discrimination attorney right away.

As a preliminary matter, it is important to note that there is more than one type of bipolar disorder. There is both “bipolar I” and “bipolar II.” The popular website distinguishes between the types by explaining that bipolar II “is similar to bipolar I disorder, with moods cycling between high and low over time. However, in bipolar II disorder, the “up” moods never reach full-blown mania.” (Full-blown mania may involve things like auditory hallucinations and delusions of grandeur.) Both types of bipolar disorder qualify as disabilities under New Jersey law.

The law requires your employer to reasonably accommodate your disability. Sometimes, the reasonable accommodations the law says that your employer must make may relate to the symptoms of your bipolar disorder. In other circumstances, the reasonable accommodation you may require may relate to the medical regimen used to treat your bipolar disorder. For several drugs, including antidepressants like Zoloft or antipsychotic drugs like Seroquel, one of the common major side effects is pronounced drowsiness. Certainly, being very sleepy may affect your performance on the job, meaning that you may need to interact with your employer regarding your drug treatment regimen and a reasonable accommodation.

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Nursing AssistantMinimum wage and overtime violations can occur in a variety of ways and can occur in almost any type of workplace. Regardless of the nature of your employment, there is the possibility that your employer could illegally underpay you when it comes to overtime pay that you’ve earned. If this happens to you, you need to take prompt action and contact an experienced New Jersey wage and hour attorney about your case.

One recent example of this was an overtime case involving Tymeco, Iesha, and Teairra, three certified nursing assistants who all worked at the same assisted living facility in South Jersey. The terms of the CNAs’ employment were stated in a collective bargaining agreement completed between the facility owner and the nurses’ union. The CBA required that all disputes arising out of the CBA must go to arbitration rather than directly to court.

The three CNAs’ lawsuit alleged that the employer underpaid them in two ways. First, according to the employees, the employer paid wage differentials that were included in their regular rate of pay, but, when the employer paid overtime, it failed to include those wage differentials in the calculation, meaning that the overtime rate of pay they received was less than the full time-and-a-half they should have received.

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Holiday PartyIt is that time of year again. The holidays are upon us. For many working individuals, the holidays will also mean holiday parties held by their employers. While holiday parties can be a fun and festive time, they can also be a source of problems for both employees and employers if an employee, perhaps fueled by an abundance of alcohol, crosses the line and engages in sexual harassment. Unfortunately, holiday party-related sexual harassment happens too often, and, if it happens to you, you should promptly reach out to an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to help you protect your rights.

In many instances, employees are less inhibited at holiday parties than they are in a conventional business setting. Sometimes, this is a result of alcohol. Other times, even without alcohol, the mere presence of the party atmosphere and removal of the office setting influences improper actions. These two factors mean that holiday parties can be, as one New Jersey employment attorney speaking to called them, “a breeding ground for sexual harassment claims.”

There are several ways that employers can be pro-active to reduce the risk of potential cases of sexual harassment at a holiday party. The employer could, for example, eliminate alcohol from the party or could seek to limit consumption. (For example, Huffington Post reported on changes at the Vox Media party in Brooklyn, where that employer decided that it would “ramp up the food and cut down on the drinks.” That new practice included giving each person two drink tickets instead of having an open bar.) The employer could also eliminate practices like “gag gift” exchanges, since some gag gifts could be inappropriate.

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question mark figureIf you’ve been a victim of workplace discrimination or harassment, there may be many things that may occur to you as responses to the harm you’ve suffered. One of these responses should not be to attempt to take on your employer in court and pursue litigation on your own. While you doubtlessly understand the facts of your case and how the illegal conduct harmed you, there is much more to pursuing a discrimination or harassment action than just those things. It is this “more” where having an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney on your side can be enormously valuable to you and your case.

A couple of recent federal cases demonstrate this truth in clear and unfortunate detail. In one case, Hatem was a dockworker at a dairy. According to Hatem, he suffered frequent and severe harassment based upon his heritage and religion. Hatem, who was a Palestinian and a Muslim, allegedly received taunts calling him a terrorist, quizzing him regarding the location of his camel, and questioning why he went by the western nickname of “Freddie.” This harassment came not only from co-workers but from a supervisor as well, allegedly.

Hatem launched a religious and national origin discrimination lawsuit under Title VII. Hatem, however, decided to proceed without a lawyer. The dockworker never had the chance to prove that the discrimination he suffered met the standard for liability under Title VII. In fact, he never made it to trial. Why? He never managed to complete properly the process of serving notice of the lawsuit against his employer.

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