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star-of-davidThe New Jersey Herald reported on a recent federal case from Louisiana declared that discrimination based upon an employment candidate’s Jewish heritage could constitute racial discrimination in violation of federal law. The employee’s attorney declared the ruling to be “precedent-setting.” While this recent case does not have precedential impact in New Jersey, it is a useful opportunity to analyze the rights and protections available to New Jersey employees who find themselves in this type of situation. If you have been the victim of discrimination because of your heritage or someone’s perception about your heritage, you may have a claim in New Jersey. Talk an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney to find out more about your situation.

In the recent federal case, an alumnus of a Baptist college in Louisiana applied for a coaching position. The college president allegedly refused to hire the man because of his “Jewish blood.” (The candidate’s mother was Jewish.) The case was not one of religious discrimination, as the candidate was not a practitioner of the Jewish religion. The candidate was born into a Jewish family but converted to Christianity during his time at the school and on the football team, according to the Herald.

So, what might happen to a similar employment candidate in New Jersey? The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination bans employment discrimination based upon “race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender, gender identity, disability, nationality, military status, or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait.” Within that heading of creed is protection against discrimination based upon your religious belief or practices.

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gavel-public-domainIn an important new decision from the federal courts, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a secretary could pursue her sexual harassment case even though she did not report the harassment she allegedly endured. The new appeals court opinion acknowledges the complicated dynamics that can exist for some workers and the very real and very damaging risks they can face by choosing to stand up and report their harassers to their employers. Whether or not you reported your harassment right away, you may have legal options. Be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney about your situation.

The secretary, S.M., started working for a Pennsylvania county in 2009. Her supervisor started engaging in unwelcome physical contact soon thereafter. The two frequently worked in a setting where they were the only ones present. The supervisor also allegedly sent the secretary sexually explicit emails, to which she did not respond.

The county was aware of some of the supervisor’s inappropriate behaviors. Twice, the supervisor’s supervisor became aware of the man’s inappropriate conduct toward other female employees and issued reprimands to him. Beyond the verbal reprimands, no further action was taken against the man.

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asleepIn the last few months, multiple stories have emerged from New York City in which employees have asserted that they have been the victims of disability discrimination based upon their condition of sleep apnea. These cases are a reminder that disabilities can come in a wide range of varieties. Just because your disability does not involve a wheelchair or some other visible sign of limitation does not mean that it is not enough to trigger the protection of anti-discrimination laws. For advice and advocacy regarding your disability and workplace discrimination, contact a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney to represent you.

While recent news articles from the New York Post and New York Daily News have focused on New York employees, New Jersey authorities have also faced this issue. Sometimes, the form of discrimination that an employer commits is the failure of the employer to provide the affected employee with a reasonable accommodation. For example, the employee in the Daily News article, a security guard with sleep apnea, sued after his employer allegedly fired him for sleeping during his meal breaks.

Last year, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office issued a ruling in which it found the existence of probable cause for a hearing on alleged disability discrimination. That case involved the employer’s refusal to let the worker return to the job, as opposed to providing some accommodation like nap breaks. R.B. was diagnosed with sleep apnea and placed on leave from his job as a yard switcher for a trucking company in Port Newark.

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yarmulkeWhile everyone hopes that we are progressing toward a more enlightened society in which instances of discrimination and harassment in the workplace become fewer and fewer, the unfortunate reality is that they still happen. Whether your work environment is made into a hostile one because you’re African-American, female, Jewish, LGBT, Latino or for some other reason, you have recourse. To learn more about your options under the law, talk to a New Jersey employment attorney experienced in discrimination and harassment issues.

The allegations made by one township employee alleged conduct that was truly disgusting. According to a nj1015.com report, an employee experienced a near-constant barrage of anti-Semitic comments during his more than 15-year tenure with the township. These comments, which the employee endured on an almost daily basis, ranged from engaging in typical Jewish stereotyping (calling him “my big Jewish buddy,” “cheap Jeward,” and “Mr. Money Bags,” along with asking him why he “killed Jesus”) to epithets like “f***ing Jew,” “golem,” and “Jewbacca” (based the employee’s appreciation of the Star Wars movies). The comments allegedly went as far as telling him he should have numbers tattooed on his arm, a reference to the identification tattoos the Nazis gave Jews who were inprisoned in the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

In a case like this one, the employee’s claim arises from the existence of harassment so severe or pervasive as to make the workplace a “hostile work environment.” In this type of lawsuit, the harassment can be either severe or pervasive to constitute a valid claim; it does not have to be both. The harasser does not have to have authority over the person harmed. The harasser can be a supervisor, a co-worker or, in certain situations, even a non-employee of the employer.

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firemanWhile most discrimination cases involve minorities as the victims, New Jersey law is clear that any form of racial discrimination can be illegal if it is severe or pervasive enough. One of the key differences between a “stereotypical” racial discrimination case (in which the victim is a person of color) and a “reverse discrimination” case (in which the victim is white) is that the white person who alleges discrimination has to clear a higher hurdle than a person of color in order to pursue his case. While that hurdle is higher, it is not impossible. If you are a white employee and believe that you were clearly a victim of racial discrimination, reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination lawyer about your situation.

In one recent case, a white firefighter was able to land a $450,000 settlement in his race discrimination case, according to nj.com. The case, filed by a firefighter named Jeffrey, arose from employment practices within the fire department in one Union County city. The fire chief was African-American. Allegedly, the chief asked African-American firefighters their feelings about taking orders from a white man, but he never asked white firefighters their opinions about taking orders from an African-American. The chief also allegedly committed other discriminatory acts, such as facilitating extra overtime for African-American firefighters while scaling back Jeffrey’s overtime.

The lawsuit further alleged that the chief engaged in tactics meant to block Jeffrey from becoming chief because he did not want a white person in that position, according to the report. Ultimately, the city settled the case, agreeing to pay Jeffrey nearly a half-million dollars in exchange for his ending the discrimination litigation.

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work cubiclesAs a worker, there may be various circumstances under which you might need to take an extended leave of absence. These disabling conditions could range from physical issues (like a high-risk pregnancy, major surgery, or cancer treatment) to psychological ones (like inpatient treatment for bipolar disorder or OCD). When these things happen, your condition might dictate that you need several months away from work. Sometimes, though, an employer might seek to deny a worker any leave beyond the minimum that the laws (the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Family Leave Act) require. When your employer does that, do you have any recourse through the legal system? The answer is that you might. Be sure to reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination attorney without delay to learn more about your case.

Workers who experience conditions that render them temporarily but totally disabled are entitled to the same protections under the law as any other employees with disabilities. This means that these workers are entitled to receive accommodations for their disabilities as long as the requested accommodations are reasonable and will not place undue hardships on the workers’ employers.

All workers employed by employers of 50 people or more are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA and the NJFLA. Taking leave that spans more than 12 weeks can potentially be trickier. If you and your doctor have concluded that you will need to be away from work for more than 12 weeks, it is important to provide notice and get that request for extended leave before your employer as soon as you have the written documentation from your doctor that you need to make the request.

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crime scene investigationThere are various areas of the law that can be interconnected with one another. Your experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney knows that the range of court rulings that may be helpful to you in your own discrimination lawsuit is not limited just to other lawsuits asserting discrimination claims. Sometimes, the decisions made by New Jersey courts – even in non-discrimination cases – may be key to a successful outcome in a discrimination case. This is just another example of how the skill and knowledge of an experienced New Jersey employment lawyer can be vital to your case.

Take, for example, the recent case of Jeffrey, a forensic detective for a local prosecutor’s office. While there, Jeffrey encountered alleged instances of “deficient and improper evidence collection and casework” by his supervisor and other members of the forensic unit. As a result, he filed official complaints. After that, the employer transferred Jeffrey from his position as a detective in the forensic unit to one as a detective in the fugitive squad.

The detective sued, alleging that the transfer violated the state’s whistleblower statute, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act. The employer sought to have Jeffrey’s lawsuit thrown out, arguing that the whistleblower statute requires an adverse employment action, and, since Jeffrey’s transfer was a lateral one, it could not qualify as an adverse action.

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worker with wheelchairIf you have a disability, you obviously face certain unique challenges in your life. Being allowed a fair chance to do a job for which you are qualified should not be one of them. The law says that employers may not discriminate against workers with disabilities, and part of that requirement means the employer must, in most situations, provide an employee with the reasonable accommodations she needs in order to do her job, as long as those accommodations do not place an undue burden on the employer’s business (and most do not). If you’ve been harmed at work because your employer rejected the reasonable accommodation that you requested, you may have a case and may have a right to compensation for disability discrimination. Talk to an experienced New Jersey disability discrimination attorney to learn more about what your next steps should be.

Both federal law and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination are very clear about certain things. One of these is that, if you have a disability, the employer is required to give you a reasonable accommodation of your disability, unless it can prove to a court that the accommodation is unduly burdensome. In other words, it is mandatory, and the employer generally cannot deny you an accommodation unless it meets the high hurdle of proving an undue burden. The employer is not obligated to give you exactly the accommodation that you sought; instead, your employer must engage in a good-faith “interactive process” to arrive at an appropriate accommodation. (If the employer fails to engage in the interactive process, or fails to do so in good faith, that in itself can be a basis for a disability discrimination case.)

Many accommodations sought by employers are genuinely modest and reasonable, and clearly fall short of constituting an undue burden on an employer. An employee with inflammatory bowel disease might ask her employer for an accommodation in the form of extra bathroom breaks or a work station close to the bathroom. An employee who requires the use of a wheelchair might ask for an adjusted desk in his work space to better reach the desktop. An employee with depression might need an extended period of leave to seek treatment.

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Rite AidIn discrimination cases, you can attempt to prove the existence of discrimination by showing that your employer’s practices and policies disproportionately harmed people of a protected class, which is called “disparate impact.” Alternatively, you can show that the employer treated you, a member of a protected class, less favorably than a comparable co-worker who was not a member of a protected class, which is “disparate treatment.” Each of these techniques requires presenting certain types of evidence to the court. To ensure that your discrimination case is as persuasive as possible, make sure that you have retained a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney to represent you.

One example of a disparate treatment case was a lawsuit filed by an employee named Harold. Harold was a store manager at a pharmacy. At some point while on the job, Harold suspected a photo technician’s daughter of shoplifting. Harold did not report the shoplifting to his supervisors at first. Only when the daughter stole a customer’s wallet did Harold take action, contacting police. This was a failure to follow the company’s “loss prevention” policies. Allegedly due to Harold’s failure to follow those policies, the employer terminated Harold’s employment.

The manager sued his employer for discrimination. According to his claim, the failure to follow the policy was only a pretext for the real reasons he lost his job. Harold, a 61-year-old gay man, asserted that age and sexual orientation discrimination were the real motivators for his firing.

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wheelchairThe law in New Jersey gives people with disabilities certain rights and protections. One area in which these rights and protections apply is in the area of employment. As a New Jersey worker or candidate for employment, you have the right to be judged on your individual merits, rather than based upon your disabilities. If you believe that your employer (or potential employer) has taken an adverse employment action against you because of your disability, you may be entitled to sue and to receive compensation. Your skilled New Jersey disability discrimination attorney can advise you regarding the legal consequences of your employer’s actions and the options available to you.

One thing that is worth keeping in mind is that not all disability discrimination laws are created equal. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination offers a very strong and wide-ranging protection for workers with disabilities, including defining “disability” considerably more broadly than the federal law does. In this state, a physical “disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement” qualifies. So does a mental, psychological, or developmental issue if it prevents the “normal exercise of any bodily or mental function or…can be shown to exist though accepted clinical or laboratory tests.”

Furthermore, you do not even have to have a disability at all, even under the broad definition established by New Jersey law, to be entitled to pursue a case of disability discrimination in this state. New Jersey law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or prospective workers if that discrimination happened because the employer mistakenly thought you were disabled (even if you weren’t). You can also bring a disability action if the discrimination was a result of a disability you had in the past, or might have in the future (or that the employer thinks you had in the past / might have in the future – even if that belief is wrong).

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