Phillips & Associates
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police stopEven though the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace has been brought out of the shadows and into the light in recent years, many studies still show that a substantial percentage of victims don’t report their harassers to their employers. Some say they fear they won’t be believed. Others fear they will be believed and will suffer retaliation for speaking up, up to and including losing their jobs.

Regardless of the exact reasons, a failure to report harassment to an employer should not always be an automatic ticket to dismissal of your sexual harassment case and, in New Jersey, it’s not. Under New Jersey law, an employer’s declaration of “We knew nothing and she told us nothing” is not an absolute defense in a sexual harassment lawsuit. If you’ve suffered harassment at work, don’t let your lack of reporting deter you from taking legal action. Contact a skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to learn more about your options.

The case of a North Jersey police lieutenant serves as one recent example of this principle. D.U. had worked for the police department since 1992. The employment was without incident for a long time but, starting in 2013 or 2014, the lieutenant’s direct supervisor, the city’s Director of Police, allegedly started making undesired sexual advances toward D.U. The lieutenant rejected those advances and, according to her complaint, suffered negative workplace consequences. The director allegedly began treating her differently than male peers, began assigning her less desirable duties (patrol work) and began an internal affairs investigation against her.

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orthodox judaismMany religions have various requirements when it comes to how followers dress and/or groom themselves. Some people wear dreadlocks because they observe the Rastafarian religion, some people wear a burqa because of their Islamic faith, some wear peyos in observance of their orthodox Jewish religion and still others wear beards because they are Sikhs. So, what happens when your employer tells you that, because of some business necessity, you cannot observe that clothing/grooming requirement that is an important part of the practice of your religion? Depending on the specific facts of your religious observance and your workplace, your employer’s rule may constitute illegal religious discrimination, in violation of the Law Against Discrimination. If your employer has told you that you cannot dress or groom yourself in a manner consistent with your religious faith, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney right away to find out if your employer’s actions are a violation of the law, and what that might mean for you.

To see an example of how this process can play out for an employee, look at a recent case that originated in Union County. M.R. was a man who practiced the Jewish religion. M.R.’s branch of his religion taught that men were prohibited from shaving their heads or their faces. This was not a problem until the summer of 2016, when M.R. became interested in becoming a state corrections officer. The corrections officers’ training program required all trainees to shave their faces and their heads. M.R.s sought a religious accommodation, and attached a statement from an elder in his church explaining the “no shaving” rule.

A week later, M.R. showed up at the training academy. He was told that his request for an accommodation had been denied, and was subsequently dismissed from the training because he was not properly shaven.

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arbitrationArbitration agreements can be a common part of workplace life. As with any potentially legally binding contractual agreement, it is extremely important to understand the exact legal ramifications of what you’re signing before you do anything. It is also important to understand exactly when your employer can claim that you’ve assented to the arbitration agreement by doing nothing. When it comes to these and other legal issues that can impact you as a worker, you should be sure you have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney to provide you the advice and advocacy you need.

One case originating in Union County provided some useful information on arbitration agreements, as well as on what does (or doesn’t) qualify as a valid passive assent to an agreement. The case followed a fact pattern that is probably similar to what occurs at many workplaces. The employer decides to establish an optional arbitration agreement. The employer sends the affected employees an email containing the policy. The email explains that the policy is not mandatory and includes instructions for opting out of the arbitration agreement. The email also includes a requirement that the employee acknowledge having reviewed the agreement.

In the summer of 2017, the assistant store manager at a wireless employer’s Union store filed a lawsuit alleging that the employer had engaged in racial and gender discrimination. The employer then asked the trial court to order the case to arbitration. The employer asserted that it was entitled to an order compelling arbitration because the manager had never completed the “opt out” requirements. According to the employer, it had asked the manager to acknowledge reviewing the agreement. Allegedly, the manager initially did nothing, but eventually acknowledged reviewing the agreement. She allegedly took no further action.

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gender stereotypesThere many different types of ways that LGBT people can suffer discrimination in the workplace. Sometimes, LGBT people suffer employment discrimination simply because of who they are. Other times, though, the discriminatory animus arises not from the employee’s orientation or identity per se, but from the way in which the LGBT employee expresses him or herself. Regardless of whether your discrimination arose directly from your sexual orientation or indirectly based upon others’ perceptions of your gender expression as insufficiently conforming to their gender stereotypes, it is possible that you’ve suffered illegal discrimination. To learn more about your legal options, including going to court and seeking monetary compensation, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

People make all kinds of assumptions and engage in all manner of stereotyping when it comes to gender. Last year, an employee in California won a motion hearing in court and was permitted to proceed to trial on his claim that his employer fired him for being “too gay.” Specifically, the employee alleged that the employer took negative action not because he was homosexual but because he was gay and chose hairstyles and clothing accessories the employer considered insufficiently masculine.

If something of a similar nature happens to you in New Jersey, can you successfully sue your employer? Yes, you quite possibly can. New Jersey’s employment discrimination law forbids workplace discrimination based upon sexual orientation. It also bars employment discrimination based upon gender stereotypes.

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service animalRecently, the issue of “emotional support animals” has been in the news a lot. In August, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported on Southwest Airlines’ decision to limit such animals on its flights, allowing only cats and dogs. This came after another airline made news by refusing to allow a woman to board a flight in Newark with her large emotional support peacock earlier this year. While the famous emotional support peacock launched many social media memes, the assistance many animals provide people with disabilities is absolutely no laughing matter, and neither is discrimination against workers with disabilities who require the aid of service animals. So, you may wonder, what are your workplace rights in New Jersey when it comes to your animal that provides you aid? For in-depth answers to these and other questions that are specific to your situation, be sure to reach out a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney for the assistance you need.

While the issue of discrimination against people who have animals that render aid may come up most frequently with regard to housing or public accommodations, it can also arise in your job. To better understand your rights, it is important to make a key distinction, which is between service animals and support animals. A service animal is, according to federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to “do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” The range of work and/or tasks a service animal might do include guiding a blind person, being a “hearing” dog for a deaf person, pulling a wheelchair, calming someone with PTSD, protecting someone having a seizure or reminding a person with a mental disorder to take his/her prescriptions. If you have a recognized disability and an animal can perform a task that lessens the symptoms or problems related to your disability, then that dog or miniature horse can qualify as a service animal.

Support animals, on the other hand, are different. The animals’ human companion does not have to have a recognized disability and the animal need not have gone through any specific training to perform any specific task or work.

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sexual harassmentAll workers in New Jersey have the right, and should expect, to be able to pursue their jobs and earn a living without enduring sexual harassment or discrimination on the job. Unfortunately, that isn’t always reality. When workplace discrimination or harassment does occur, you may have various legal options available to you. Depending on the specific facts of your situation, you may be entitled to sue in state court, in federal court or, sometimes, sue in both courts. Whether your circumstances permit you to pursue one or more legal actions to obtain the compensation you deserve, a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney can help you assess all of the legal techniques available to you and give you the advice you need.

The case of a New Jersey municipal employee, S.P., that was reported by nj.com, was one which involved both state and federal legal action. S.P. allegedly had to endure some highly inappropriate behavior related to her work. S.P. purportedly was on the receiving end of quid-pro-quo sexual harassment and endured a hostile work environment inflicted by her employer’s director of municipal services and a health official. In addition, according to an earlier nj.com report, she was allegedly on the receiving end of inappropriate “sexting” messages from her mayor. According to the employee, the mayor agreed to settle the federal lawsuit if S.P. agreed to “commit to involving herself romantically” with the mayor.

Eventually, S.P. was terminated, which she alleged was the result of sex discrimination and retaliation.

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arbitrationA workplace discrimination and harassment lawsuit, like any type of civil case, offers the successful plaintiff the opportunity to recover certain types of damages. These damages may include compensatory damages that compensate the injured worker for the harm suffered.. (This may include lost back wages, lost future earnings and emotional distress.) Your case may present facts that allow for the pursuit of punitive damages. Even if your employer forced you to sign an arbitration agreement as part of your employment, you generally cannot be forced to give away your right to seek punitive damages. So, whether you’re in court or in an arbitration hearing, you have an array of damages you can seek. A knowledgeable New Jersey discrimination attorney can help you make certain that you are seeking all of the damages to which you are entitled, whether in arbitration or litigation.

One case that highlights a harassed worker’s right to seek punitive damages was the recent case of M.R. (Appellate Division Case No. A-5388-16T3). M.R.’s allegations were, unfortunately, not uncommon. She was an employee in the human resources department of a North Bergen-based company. In September 2015, G.O. became the new supervisor of the human resources department. Allegedly, soon thereafter, the supervisor began making sexual advances and she turned him down. According to the employee, after she objected to the harassment, the supervisor retaliated against her, culminating in the supervisor’s firing her in December 2015.

M.R. sued her employer and her supervisor, alleging that she was the victim of sexual harassment and a sexually hostile work environment, in addition to being the victim of retaliation.

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employee rightsIf you’ve been the victim of sex discrimination at work, you have certain rights and certain options for seeking damages to compensate you for the harm you suffered. Sometimes, though, achieving success can involve more than just accumulating evidence, presenting a case and obtaining a verdict in your favor. You may have to defend that outcome in additional battles like a defense request for a judgment as a matter of law, or an appeal. To make sure you are ready to handle whatever direction your case takes, secure strong representation from a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney.

The federal case of a female police officer from near Newark was an example of just how many hurdles you may have clear to obtain, and then keep, your discrimination judgment. M.C. was an employee of the department for many years. The department granted health benefits to retired employees who had 25 years of service. When M.C. retired, the department determined that she had only 24 years and five months of service time. The department demanded that she work seven more months or else face not getting her health benefits.

M.C. sued for sex discrimination. In a case of sex discrimination, one way that the allegedly victimized employee can show that illegal discrimination took place is by proving that the employer treated a similarly situated employee outside her protected class in a more favorable manner than she was treated. M.C. had proof that a male employee had, like M.C., been denied originally benefits on the basis that he had just slightly less than 25 years of time on the job. Allegedly, high ranking employees stepped in, the male employee was given credit for time spent with other employers, and the adjusted calculation gave him more than 25 years’ time.

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If you’ve ever been around someone fairly knowledgeable about taxes, you might have overheard them say, when hearing of a lottery winner’s take or a very successful game-show contestant’s haul, “Well, that amount isn’t really what they will take home. The tax hit on that is quite significant.” That’s true. What’s also true is that this also happens to people who succeed in civil litigation matters. The taxing authorities are entitled to their “cut” of your civil judgment. That’s what makes a recent decision by a federal judge in North Jersey so significant. The judge took taxes into account in fashioning the damages award in a discrimination case. If you’ve been a victim of workplace discrimination, it is important to make sure you are doing everything possible to get everything you deserve, so protect yourself by retaining knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination counsel to handle your case.Legal News Gavel

The recent case, reported by nj.com, involved several police sergeants working for the Jersey City Police. One of the sergeants alleged that her political affiliation and her “expression about a matter of public concern” played a major role in denying her a promotion. Based on those alleged denials, the sergeants sued the City of Jersey City for violating the Law Against Discrimination. The sergeant’s politics and her speaking out about matters of public concern were protected activities under the statute, so any adverse employment action that was a result of those activities was illegal discrimination under the law, according to the lawsuit.

The jury decided that the city had engaged in illegal discrimination based upon political affiliation. For each of the sergeants, the jury calculated their economic damages as the present value calculation of the pension differential created by the lower rank. For the lead plaintiff, that meant an award of $276,000 in economic damages. As the judge noted, though, there was a problem. The employees had received lump-sum awards and would be required to pay taxes on those lump sums in one year, as opposed to “paying taxes on smaller amounts spread across past and future years.” This obligation to pay taxes on the lump sum in one year created “adverse tax consequences” for the employees.

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The successes of other employees in sexual harassment litigation can serve many positive purposes. For one thing, they can serve as encouragement that hopefully will embolden others to come forward and stop suffering from harassment in silence. For another thing, the rulings that the courts make can provide valuable knowledge for those who come afterward. As an example, one recent case from Newark reminds New Jersey workers that you do not need proof that you suffered some extreme or debilitating emotional injury in order to succeed in establishing that you suffered from severe or pervasive harassment. The focal point is the harasser’s actions, rather than how they affected you. For the knowledge you need for your case, retain the services of a skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to represent you.Legal News Gavel

The case involved M.V., a customer service representative. M.V.’s case of sexual harassment is, unfortunately, an all-too-common set of facts. M.V. started her job in 2008 at the Newark office of a national producer of corrugated boxes. Not long after M.V. started work, her supervisor began sexually harassing her.

The harassment M.V. received was similar to the sorts of things too many employees have to endure. First came the supervisor’s comments about his sexual relationship with his girlfriend, with whom he’d recently split. Then came the supervisor’s comments about how he loved Latina women (like M.V.), how the ex-girlfriend thought he had “nice thighs,” how the girlfriend wanted him to have a threesome, and so forth. He also asked M.V. out to eat and placed his hand over her hand in an unwanted way. In addition, the supervisor stared at M.V.’s body inappropriately and often demanded that M.V. not speak to other men at the workplace.

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