Phillips & Associates
Phillips & Associates
Phillips & Associates
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A collective bargaining agreement between teachers and a school district in Minnesota has made waves inside and outside the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The part of the agreement receiving the most scrutiny is the one establishing affirmative action in layoffs. While the Minnesota agreement will affect no New Jersey workers, it still makes for a useful opportunity to remind New Jersey workers that the law has limits on what employers can do in efforts to remediate historical and/or systemic racism. Some programs, however well intended, may cross the line into the realm of illegal race discrimination, giving those harmed the opportunity, with the aid of a skilled New Jersey race discrimination lawyer, the opportunity to pursue – and win – a civil lawsuit.

The Minnesota agreement, which was between the Minneapolis Public Schools and the teachers’ union, said that teachers who were members of “underrepresented populations” were exempt from the general rule for layoffs, which was one of “last hired, first fired.” In other words, in the event of layoffs, the school district would potentially bypass a teacher of color with less seniority and instead select a white teacher with more seniority for that layoff.

Supporters of the policy hailed it as a necessary step to make up for past discrimination against people of color and the underrepresentation of communities of color among the schools’ faculties, helping schools’ faculties to look would more closely like the students they’re teaching. Opponents decried the rule as a blatant instance of race discrimination against white teachers.

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Grace Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist and rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, is credited with having observed that the “hardest thing in the world is to change the minds of people who keep saying, ‘But we’ve always done it this way.’ These are days of fast changes and if we don’t change with them, we can get hurt or lost,” the admiral told a Baltimore newspaper. That reality rings true for employers and supervisors who think that “we’ve always done it this way” works as some sort of immunity against liability for sexual harassment. It doesn’t and, if you’ve endured harassment from an “old boys club” who told you “we’ve always done it this way,” then you should get in touch with an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment lawyer to discuss your situation.

One area where too many employers seem to have a blind eye to the need for change is the issue of mixing business and strip clubs. Most recently, a female employee scored an important federal court victory in her sexual harassment case against her employer, a New Jersey corporation that provided “products and services to mobile network operators.”

The employee, B.C., alleged that the employer’s president and chief technology officer twice attempted to kiss her. Additionally, her supervisor took clients to strip clubs and engaged in discussions of his strip club trips that made B.C. “uncomfortable.”

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If you follow this blog with any degree of regularity, you know that one of the most pernicious forms of employment discrimination is pregnancy and/or breastfeeding discrimination. Here in New Jersey, the protections the law has created are strong, and, for some pregnant and/or breastfeeding mothers, they just got stronger through new protocols announced by the Attorney General’s Office (OAG). If you’ve endured discrimination at work because of your pregnancy or because you’re breastfeeding, don’t wait to get in touch with an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination lawyer.

Pregnancy and/or breastfeeding discrimination in employment remains stubbornly frequent, likely reflecting the persistence of harmful stereotypes and biased views against these workers. Unlike, say, 75 years ago, most people today understand that a person shouldn’t be fired or denied employment just because they’re Black or Asian or an atheist, etc. However, far too many people, deep down actually believe that pregnant women and/or breastfeeding women genuinely should not be in the workplace.

The instances have occurred many times and continue to appear in court dockets. In 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling laying out the breadth of coverage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the causes of action it creates.

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Many times, employers prefer to resolve employees’ claims of discrimination or harassment through arbitration rather than litigation. To that end, they often place arbitration clauses within the employment documents that new hires sign at the start of their employment. Sometimes, those provisions are clearly written and properly presented to provide the new employee with fair notice of the clause’s terms. However, when they’re not, then you as an employee may be able to use those facts to escape arbitration. If you’re pursuing an employment discrimination case and you need to defeat an arbitration provision, an experienced New Jersey national origin discrimination lawyer can show what avenues may be available to you to get that done.

The national origin discrimination case of G.R. is an example of a dispute that turned on the arbitration clause he signed.

G.R., a man of Turkish and European descent, accepted a role as the Director of Human Resources at a pharmaceutical company’s US headquarters in Berkeley Heights. As part of the acceptance process, G.R. signed several papers, including an acceptance letter and something labeled a “Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement.” The latter was six pages long and contained an arbitration clause situated at the top of page five.

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Success in an employment discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey is a series of steps that you have to navigate successfully, one at a time, to get to a successful outcome. Before you can have your day in court at a trial, you probably will need to defeat your employer’s motion for summary judgment. One of the key things to know about your case at the summary judgment stage is that you don’t have to present definitive proof that illegal conduct undoubtedly occurred. You simply have to offer enough to demonstrate that legitimate “questions of fact” exist regarding why your employer took its adverse action against you. As long as you have enough for a “rational factfinder” (a/k/a a jury in a jury trial or a judge in a bench trial) to find that the employer’s stated reasons were mere pretexts for discrimination, then your employer loses its motion and you get to proceed toward trial. Whatever phase your case is in, advice and advocacy from an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer can help you enhance your odds of success.

For an example of what you do — and don’t — need, there’s this recent national origin discrimination case from North Jersey.

N.O., a Nigerian woman living in New Jersey, taught elementary school in an Essex County school district from 2014 to 2017. N.O.’s job was a non-tenured one and, at the end of the 2016-17 school year, the district elected not to renew her contract, thus terminating her employment in June 2017.

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In April, we discussed incidences of workers enduring harassment and/or discrimination based on current events. That topic has again risen to the forefront in the wake of the 2022 monkeypox outbreak. Regardless of terrorism at home, war abroad, or a disease outbreak, there’s never a valid reason to discriminate against somebody at work because of their national origin, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. If that has happened to you, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer to discuss what steps you can take.

Back in the early 2000s, many people of Middle Eastern ethnicity and/or of the Islamic faith experienced discrimination and harassment in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. More recently, Chinese and other East Asian people encountered mistreatment when the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage across the United States. People of Russian ancestry encountered issues after the events in Ukraine flared up into war.

Now, there’s another current event and another group being targeted. Monkeypox began to break out overseas in May. In June, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that, of those studied, 95% got monkeypox through sex, and 98% of those with the disease were gay or bisexual men, leading some people to consider monkeypox a “gay disease” and engage in harassment and discrimination against LGBT+ people. In an effort to combat this, the Attorney General’s Office announced the release of a FAQ document related to monkeypox.

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When a worker has devoted decades of service to an employer, they likely hope for recognition and appreciation… and perhaps a nice sendoff party at the end. Many workers experience something much different, where their employers and supervisors view them as past-their-prime old-timers who no longer have “what it takes” and now must be pushed aside, often as ruthlessly and swiftly as possible. If that happens to you as an older worker, that action your employer may simply see as a “business decision” could actually be an instance of illegal age discrimination. A skilled New Jersey age discrimination lawyer can help you assess your circumstances and plot the best path forward.

One such alleged victim of age discrimination recently scored a significant victory in the New Jersey Appellate Division court.

The worker, L.T., was an assistant public defender for nearly 28 years from 1990 to 2017. For the first 22 years, L.T.’s record was “unblemished.” However, in the final 5+ years, the lawyer allegedly experienced an extended pattern of age-related harassment.

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As children, many of us decried what we saw as inconsistent treatment of ourselves versus peers or siblings with the oft-used refrain “that’s not fair!” For adults, when inconsistent treatment in the workplace happens because of your race, sex, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, etc., then that often is illegal discrimination. When it happens because you refused a decision-maker’s request for sex, that’s sexual harassment. And when it happens because you engaged in protected activity as part of opposing illegal conduct like discrimination or harassment, that can amount to illegal retaliation. If you’ve encountered that last one then, with representation from a skilled New Jersey workplace retaliation lawyer, you may have a winning retaliation case.

A recent retaliation case from outside New Jersey is a very good illustration regarding how an employer’s double standards and inconsistent application of discipline can work to undermine its defense.

The worker in the case was an employee at an aluminum manufacturing facility in West Virginia. In 2013, management at the facility changed the overtime policy. Under the new policy, workers interested in working overtime shifts had to sign up on a board.

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The law of discrimination and harassment has, over the years, stated several things. One is that harassment or discrimination by a supervisor or manager is often worse that similar conduct by peer employee. Additionally, many courts have also said that even just one use of the “N-word” packs sufficient harm in it to qualify as severe discrimination or harassment. When your case involves both of those elements, then chances are often high that, with representation from a knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination lawyer, you will be able to overcome a defense motion for summary judgment and have your “day in court” before a jury.

A recent race discrimination case from North Jersey is an illustration of these recurring issues. The workers were five Black employees who worked for an air conditioning systems and service company.

The crux of the workers’ case arose in April 2018 when their supervisor took what he declared to be a “prank call” in his office during a break. The call, which the supervisor put on speakerphone, featured a voice who spoke in a “Donald Duck-like” voice while threatening violence and including the N-word in his comments. According to the lawsuit, the supervisor put the call on speakerphone “with no prompting” from the other people in his office at the time.

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Certain instances of workplace discrimination are fairly clear: a Black person who endures a daily deluge of racial epithets, a Muslim employee who hears a seemingly endless line of jihadi, terrorist, and bombing jokes, or an older worker who endures a regular torrent of “OK Boomer” comments. Other times, it’s not so obvious. In either type of situation, you may have a viable claim for a hostile work environment. Also in either circumstance, but especially in the latter, it pays to retain a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer, who can help you make the most of your facts and demonstrate how they satisfy each of the elements of the law.

I.G. was someone whose alleged hostile work environment fell into the latter category. According to his complaint, he experienced a bout of vertigo in 2020, and as a result, the employer forced him to take a week of medical leave from his plant supervisor job.

After he returned, C.C., his supervisor, allegedly was “very cold and negative.” According to the lawsuit, the supervisor began making negative age-related comments about I.G. to other workers, including “it’s time for [I.G.] to retire.”

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