Phillips & Associates
Phillips & Associates
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Workers who have endured discrimination or harassment on the job deal with it in a wide array of different ways. Some survivors of harassment and discrimination feel that an important part of the process is speaking publicly about what happened to them. What sometimes confines them, though, is if they signed something called a “non-disparagement agreement” as part of the settlement of their civil lawsuit. These agreements, however, sometimes leave openings that may permit you to speak out and remain in compliance with your contractual obligations. Whether negotiating a settlement, reviewing a non-disparagement agreement, or determining when and how to speak out, a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer can help to make wise choices.

Recently, a former police sergeant in Monmouth emerged successful in precisely this kind of case. The employee, C.S., allegedly was the target of sexual harassment and sex discrimination at work. Both C.S. and E.G., another female officer on the force, filed sex discrimination lawsuits in 2013. The sides settled the cases in 2014. The department agreed to promote both women to the rank of sergeant, making them the only female sergeants on the force.

However, the women allegedly experienced more harassment and discrimination and more lawsuits ensued. C.S. settled her 2016 lawsuit in July 2020. That second settlement included a “non-disparagement agreement.”

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Discrimination takes many different forms. Obviously, things like the “N-word” are extremely harmful and clearly racially discriminatory. However, the discriminatory conduct you endured does not necessarily have to be something as overt as that to be the basis for a successful discrimination case. If you think the mistreatment and harm you’ve endured at work was the result of your race, ethnicity, national origin, or other protected characteristic, then you should get in touch with an experienced New Jersey race discrimination lawyer to discuss your circumstance.

The religious and racial discrimination that M.T. allegedly endured illustrates this point well. The man, a Muslim born in India, worked as a software engineer for a temporary staffing agency. During that employment, M.T. worked on an assignment for a network of hospitals headquartered in North Jersey.

The engineer allegedly received many offensive comments and questions based on his religion. According to his complaint, these included “are you a jihadist” and “are you hiding a bomb?” The same coworker also allegedly told him to “shut up,” to “be quiet,” that “no one wants to know what you have to say,” that “nobody’s listening (to you),” and that coworkers don’t “understand your accent.”

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Society is continuing to evolve and, with it, so is our understanding of what things employers should be allowed to consider — and, more importantly, should not be allowed to consider — in making employment decisions. In New Jersey, those protected characteristics currently include gender, race, religion, ethnicity/national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and several others. If a new bill the New Jersey Senate becomes, that list will expand to include height and weight, as well. Whatever protected class you’re a member of, if you’ve endured illegal discrimination at work, you should act promptly to get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer.

Three years ago, this blog looked at the case of a Passaic County bus driver who pursued a hostile work environment case. The man lost because the alleged discrimination underlying that hostile environment was the result of the driver’s weight. The courts concluded that New Jersey law doesn’t recognize weight as a protected class and obesity alone doesn’t constitute a disability, even if that worker’s obesity was extreme. (The bus driver in Passaic County was a man who weighed 500-600 pounds.)

That rule could soon change. Andrew Zwicker, a state senator representing Middlesex County, proposed an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) that would add both weight and height as protected characteristics. The bill would include an exception that would allow employers to consider height and/or weight in situations where “the height or weight of an individual is a bona fide occupational qualification.”

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Adding to your family as a result of a pregnancy should be a joyful time. However, for too many parents, especially new mothers, having a baby and caring for that new child is fraught with difficulties at work. These difficulties may include receiving less than all the family leave the law allows, returning to a reduced role after family leave ends, a failure to accommodate breastfeeding, or even termination. All of these things are potentially violations of state and/or federal law so, if any of them have happened to you, do not delay in contacting a knowledgeable New Jersey family leave lawyer.

Earlier this year, a new development occurred in a case we blogged about two years ago. Back in 2020, the Attorney General’s Office had initiated proceedings against a Hudson County home goods company on the basis of discrimination and retaliation.

To recap the case, the worker was a marketing director who became pregnant in 2017. In early 2018, she notified her employer that she planned to take several months off, using federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to recover from giving birth and New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) leave to care for her new baby.

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Businesses are always on the lookout for ways to be more efficient. “Work smarter, not harder,” the saying goes. That’s also true in hiring. To that end, many employers have begun using artificial intelligence in their hiring processes. While this might seem like an ideal solution both in terms of increasing efficiency and eliminating biases that result from the introduction of the human element, the reality is far murkier. Many forms of AI are far from perfect and their flaws make them far from unbiased. Sometimes those biases result in violations of anti-discrimination laws. If you think you’ve encountered that kind of hiring bias and been denied employment because of it, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer to discuss your situation.

Most recently, the federal government put out the call to employers to beware when using algorithms and AI in their hiring processes. The U.S. Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission put out a guidance document on May 12 where they laid out ways that these automated systems can unfairly disqualify some people with disabilities.

For example, some employers use automated personality tests or other cognitive screening exams to assess particular “personality, cognitive, or neurocognitive traits.” The problem with these exams is that they potentially can cull people with “cognitive, intellectual, or mental health-related disabilities,” even though those people met the qualifications that the test was supposed to be analyzing and should not have been eliminated from consideration.

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Arriving at a successful resolution of your age discrimination case is the result of numerous hurdles cleared successfully. One such hurdle that you will likely encounter is your employer’s motion to dismiss. Losing this motion gets your case tossed before you ever get to trial, so clearing this hurdle is crucial. As you get set to take on the entire process of litigating a discrimination case in the Garden State, count on a knowledgeable New Jersey age discrimination lawyer to help you get over each of the hurdles in your path.

Getting past a defense motion to dismiss involves several things, one of the most essential of which is having a well-pled complaint. The recent age discrimination case of one Central Jersey worker shows this in action.

The worker, C.L., had worked for the same architecture and engineering firm since the mid-1980s. However, one day in January 2019, the company president told the engineer that “there was no work” and that he was terminated effective at the end of that day.

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In April 2022, the percentage of workers who worked remotely was at its lowest in two years but, even with these declines, fully 1 in 13 workers (7.7%) remains a remote employee. With remote work comes the question of what to do if you, as a remote worker, experience discrimination or sexual harassment. Who should you sue? Where should you sue? For answers to these and other vital questions, look to an experienced New Jersey workplace discrimination lawyer for the answers you need.

A recent disability discrimination case addressing this issue involved a New Jersey woman who took a job with a New York City investment bank in 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she began her job working remotely from her home. Shocked by the extremely long hours she was working, the employee notified Human Resources that she had an anxiety and mood disorder that required regular sleep. Human Resources and a senior partner worked out an accommodation, and the employee was made exempt from working more than 15 hours on any one day.

Just a few weeks later, the employer fired the woman, allegedly asserting that, among the job’s essential requirements, was “working many 120-hour weeks,” and that her disability rendered her incapable of satisfying the essential duties of the job.

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When you get hurt on the job and become disabled (either temporarily or permanently) as a result, your employer may fear the consequences… on their bottom line. Many of those same (improper) considerations can take place when you step up and act as a whistleblower. If your employer has taken adverse action against you (such as firing you, demoting you, cutting your hours, etc.) because of the disabling injury you suffered or because you engaged in whistleblowing, then your employer very possibly has violated the law. Don’t assume there’s nothing you can do. Instead, fight back by consulting with an experienced New Jersey workplace retaliation lawyer and finding out more about the legal options that exist for you.

Sometimes, an employer can make a good-faith mistake regarding a less-than-clear issue of how far their legal obligations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination do (or don’t) extend. (That doesn’t mean that they aren’t culpable for the harm they caused you, as an unintentional violation is still a violation all the same. A more egregious violation may, however, open an employer up to greater liability.)

A lot of times, though, the alleged missteps an employer makes are more obvious. I.F.’s retaliation case against a New Jersey county government fell more into the latter category than the former.

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Sometimes, a case where a discrimination plaintiff loses can be just as instructive (or even more so) than an outcome where a discriminated worker was successful in court. Much like how the old TLC show “What Not to Wear” educated views about fashion by highlighting others’ faux pas, an unsuccessful case can be a “cautionary tale” of a sort, illustrating what not to do. One of the best ways you can ensure your discrimination case doesn’t get wiped out by a legal faux pas is by ensuring you’ve retained a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer to represent you.

L.B.’s gender discrimination case was one of those lawsuits that roundly failed. She worked at a bar in Morristown where the atmosphere was irreverent, and workers frequently joked with one another. Supervisory individuals engaged in this, as well.

One of the bar’s owners allegedly called L.B.by “names used to describe a person with an oversized posterior.” (The court did not specify those names.) Those nicknames appeared in place of L.B.’s given name on the weekly work schedule and, sometimes, on the woman’s pay envelopes. The nicknames may have been facetious or intentionally inaccurate, as L.B. weighed only 110 pounds and stood 5’2″.

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Twenty-nine years ago last month, Saturday Night Live debuted a skit where a white New Yorker (played by John Goodman) engages in numerous acts of vandalism because of his mistaken beliefs about the Middle Eastern ancestry of a store’s owner. The skit is a reminder that harming someone solely because of their national origin or ancestry is never right. If the person or entity doing that to you is your employer, it could be illegal and you can potentially recover substantial damages in a discrimination lawsuit. If you have encountered that kind of mistreatment, don’t delay in contacting an experienced New Jersey national origin discrimination lawyer to discuss your situation.

The SNL skit takes on renewed relevance this spring as incidents of discrimination against people of Russian origin or ancestry have increased dramatically following the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Japan Times reported about anti-Russian discrimination in that country, including an inn that refused to house guests from Russia or Belarus. Russians have also been banned from participating in major events like the Wimbledon tennis tournament and the Eurovision international song contest.

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