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cell phoneOutside New Jersey, entertainment giant ESPN made headlines recently when one of its former employees filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer. The woman asserted, as the basis for her sexual harassment claim, that one of the network’s well-known on-air male personalities sent her sexually harassing texts, including an unsolicited one in which the man was shirtless, according to the Chicago Tribune. Inside the state, recent New Jersey sexual harassment actions have included allegations of texts requesting oral sex and attaching pictures of the sender’s uncovered genitals. With all of this sexting in the news, it is important as an employee to know:  when does sexting become workplace sexual harassment? The answer often depends on the exact facts of your case. If you think you have been sexually harassed at work through texts, emails, or other electronic correspondence, you should reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney promptly.

The most recent news was the sizable settlement in a state government worker’s sexual harassment case against a supervisory employee, according to an nj.com report. Latrece was an employee for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. She was presumably focused on the division’s mission of ensuring “the safety, permanency, and well-being of children.” The manager of the Paterson office, however, was apparently focused on something else, according to Latrece’s lawsuit. In addition to various other sexually harassing actions (that included lifting her clothes, grabbing her breasts, and exposing his genitals), the manager texted lewd messages to Latrece, according to the woman’s complaint. The manager also allegedly sent the employee images of his naked genitals via text message.

The state settled the case, agreeing to pay Latrece $350,000.

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emailThe New Jersey Law Against Discrimination provides protection to many types of New Jersey workers. Most people know that you can sue for discrimination based upon race or gender. However, what discrimination based upon being a divorcee? Or being a recovering drug addict? A recent case involving a semi-famous investment broker offered some useful knowledge in this area of less-well-known protected classes, as well as situations in which you can take your claim to court even if your employer put an arbitration agreement in place. Both of these issues come back to one fundamental lesson: if you believe you were the victim of improper discrimination at work, contact a knowledgeable New Jersey discrimination attorney right away. Even if you are not sure if you have a case, your attorney can give you beneficial information and also potentially provide advantageous strategies for your case.

The employee in the recent discrimination case, Craig, had been many things in his life. In his younger years, he was a somewhat notorious event crasher, having “crashed” the Grammy awards, the opening night of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and backstage at the Live Aid benefit concert in Philadelphia. Craig was a successful broker, having amassed a decades-long Wall Street career. Craig was also a recovered addict. Having achieved a degree of notoriety for his crashing adventures, Craig decided to publish his biography in 2017.

Before the book was released, the broker, who was a manager at his employer’s Red Bank office, presented the memoir to the investment bank. Even though the broker’s intoxicated exploits happened in the 1980s and he entered recovery in 1990 (16 years before he started working for the employer,) the employer responded very negatively to the book. The employer allegedly demanded changes to the manuscript and also made threats to the broker’s employment. Just a few months later, the employer fired the broker.

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pregnant womanIn 2014, New Jersey enacted the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. That law expanded anti-discrimination protections for women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or have a pregnancy-related medical condition. The law recognized that women who have recently added to their families or are seeking to add to their families are a particularly vulnerable group in the workplace when it comes to discrimination. The law’s protections include not just pregnancy but also pregnancy-related medical conditions. Thus, if you have been fired from your job because of a medical condition tied to pregnancy, you should reach out promptly to an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney, since you may have a discrimination case against your employer.

If you are familiar at all with the laws prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, you probably can identify certain types of employment actions that are wrongful. Certainly, proof of an employer’s firing a satisfactory employee almost immediately after she discloses her pregnancy will be suspicious. Evidence of an employer’s refusal to hire a woman because she disclosed that she was trying to become pregnant or was contemplating growing her family could also give that woman a possible discrimination case.

However, what about actions that are less blatant? For example, many women suffer varying degrees of medical problems that are inherently connected to their pregnancies. These might include severe and debilitating nausea, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes during the pregnancy and post-partum depression after giving birth. There are also many women who experience “high-risk” pregnancies either because they are carrying multiple babies or because they have pre-existing medical issues that make their pregnancies more complicated than those of other women.

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Police officerObjective assessment devices can be very helpful tools for employers in selecting new hires or making promotion decisions. For employees, one additional indirect benefit of these techniques is that, sometimes, they expose discriminatory motives on the part of employers. This was allegedly the case for one North Jersey police lieutenant who was denied a promotion despite “acing” the captain’s exam. The denial ultimately led to litigation, and litigation led to the city paying the lieutenant $1.2 million at the end of a trial. The case is a reminder of the substantial harm that can result from improper discriminatory conduct by an employer. If you’ve been harmed at work due to your employer’s discrimination, you should a skilled New Jersey race discrimination attorney about your options.

The lieutenant in this case, as reported by nj.com, was an African-American man who had been a member of the police department for more than two decades when he qualified to take the captain’s exam. He didn’t just do well – he got the highest score of all of the individuals who took the exam at that time, according to court documents. He also allegedly did not have any history of disciplinary actions during his years with the department, according to the nj.com report.

Shortly after taking the exam, however, the police chief (who was white) allegedly leveled several disciplinary infractions against the lieutenant. Those disciplinary actions left him ineligible for a promotion to captain.

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terminationThe news, unfortunately, remains frequently populated by stories of women who suffer from workplace discrimination because of their pregnancies. Whether it is the personal assistant of a famous TV and radio political talk show host (who was fired on her first day back from maternity leave), the Pennsylvania bank employee fired because her employer believed (incorrectly) that she was not planning to return to work after giving birth, or the Georgia warehouse worker fired after her doctor gave her a note restricting her from lifting heavy loads, these stories of women facing harm to their employment situations due to their pregnancies take place too often. Fortunately, in New Jersey, the law has some strong safeguards to protect pregnant women from discrimination on the job. If you think that your pregnancy led your employer to take an adverse action against you at work, you should contact a knowledgeable New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney right away.

Pregnancy discrimination is prohibited under both federal and New Jersey laws, since both recognize discrimination against pregnant women as a form of sex discrimination. The federal ban applies to employers with 15 or more employees, while the New Jersey prohibition applies to employers of all sizes. In New Jersey, those anti-discrimination protections also extend to childbirth and “pregnancy-related medical conditions.”

Your employer cannot simply end your employment because your pregnancy has changed what you can and cannot do. Similar to a situation involving an employee with a disability, an employer must attempt to make a reasonable accommodation of the employee’s pregnancy-related limitations. These accommodations might include, for example, allowing extra bathroom breaks or help with certain physical labor.

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signatureOne of the recurring challenges that many people in the workplace face these days is the employer’s requirement that they sign documents waiving certain rights in exchange for employment or continued employment. These agreements can include provisions like clauses that mandate arbitration of all work-related disputes between employer and employee. That can possibly mean that, even if you have very strong proof of illegal harassment or discrimination, you may be blocked from getting that case in front of a jury. As is true of any legal document, especially those that involve forfeiting rights, know before you sign and consult a knowledgeable New Jersey harassment lawyer about the impact those documents could have on you.

One worker whose signature did hurt her harassment case was Kuashema, a salesperson for a furniture store in Hudson County. According to the saleswoman, hers was a hostile work environment. She alleged in a lawsuit that she was subjected to music that used the N-word along with various misogynistic slurs. She also asserted that the N-word and a certain anti-gay slur were frequently used at her work. According to Kuashema, she complained about the work environment conditions, but, not only did the hostile work environment conditions continue, but also the employer fired her in retaliation for making a complaint.

The saleswoman was not able to go forward to trial in her lawsuit, however. Her inability to do so was not a result of any factual weakness in her case. Kuashema’s case was thrown out because, while she still worked for the furniture company, she signed something the employer called the “Associate’s Agreement & Consent.” This document included within it a provision that said that employees agreed to resolve all employment disputes by utilizing the Employee Arbitration Program. In other words, the agreement had a mandatory arbitration clause in it, and Kuashema was, as a result, locked into arbitrating instead of litigating her claim.

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pregnant womanPregnancy discrimination has been against the law in New Jersey for many years. Pregnant women are a protected class under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Additionally, federal law bans the practice of pregnancy discrimination too. The federal government enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to include pregnant women as a class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Both state and federal laws consider pregnancy discrimination to be a form of sex discrimination. The prohibition against discrimination extends beyond just pregnancy, though, since it also applies to childbirth and “pregnancy-related medical conditions.” If you believe you have experienced this kind of harm related to pregnancy, it is important to contact a New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney promptly and discuss your options.

Thus, what exactly is pregnancy discrimination? Workplace pregnancy discrimination is any type of adverse employment action against an employee or job candidate based upon the fact that the woman is pregnant. An employer can be liable for pregnancy discrimination even if that employer did not actually know that the woman was pregnant, as long as it reasonably should have known that the employee (or candidate) was pregnant.

The kinds of missteps that an employer can perform that can lead to liability can include firing a pregnant worker or refusing to hire a candidate because she was pregnant. Additionally, an employer that refuses to hire a job candidate because the employer thinks that the employee might become pregnant is potentially liable for pregnancy discrimination as well. Along those lines, if you are a candidate for a job, and your potential employer questions you during the interview process about wanting children, planning to have children, or a desire to start or grow your family, you may have been a victim of illegal discrimination.

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equal payIn recent days, the gender pay gap has been in the headlines with increasing frequency. One of the most nefarious ways to perpetrate gender discrimination, while still maintaining the appearance of objectivity, is to base an employee’s earnings on what she made in her previous jobs. That practice is soon to be illegal in New Jersey. Earlier this year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order banning the practice of basing pay on salary history in all state government jobs. Now, the governor has indicated his intent to sign a bill that goes beyond just addressing gender pay equity issues and will stand as one of the most powerful pay equity laws anywhere, protecting workers within a multitude of protected groups, according to an nj.com report.

The issue of pay equity has been an important one to the New Jersey legislature for some time. Both houses had passed previous bills requiring pay equity, but the previous governor vetoed those bills. This session, the legislature passed Senate Bill 104, which the governor indicated on Equal Pay Day that he would sign in late April, nj.com reported.

One of the bill’s sponsors stated in the nj.com report that, once SB104 becomes law, New Jersey will have “the most rigorous protections against pay discrimination.” This pending New Jersey employment discrimination law makes it an illegal employment practice under the Law Against Discrimination to provide a worker who is a member of a protected class with lower pay or lesser benefits when that worker is performing work that is commensurate with higher-paid employees who are not members of any protected classes.

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telecommuterThe New Jersey Law Against Discrimination was originally enacted in 1945. In the decades since, the legislature and the courts have expanded the reach of the LAD in order to reflect various changing realities. A recent decision by the Appellate Division may perhaps open the door for yet another group of workers when it comes to the LAD:  out-of-state telecommuters. This decision highlights how the law can change and how it pays to retain a knowledgeable New Jersey age discrimination attorney if you think you’ve been a victim of age discrimination.

The employee, Susan, had worked for 12 years for a company that was based in Haddonfield. During her employment, she only visited New Jersey a few times on business from 2003-08, and none from 2009-15. During the entire 12-year period, she never lived in New Jersey and never worked here. At all times, Susan worked remotely from her home in Massachusetts. She used an employer-provided laptop to connect to the employer’s computer server, and she used an employer-provided phone to participate in company conference calls.

After the employer terminated her employment, Susan brought a lawsuit in New Jersey, alleging age discrimination in violation of the LAD. The employer asked the court to throw out the lawsuit because Susan did not meet the requirements to bring a LAD lawsuit. The trial judge agreed and threw out the case.

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hashtag for metooSexual harassment is an especially insidious form of workplace misconduct because of the particular extent to which it debases and dehumanizes the victim. This is especially true in one of the two major varieties of sexual harassment, called “quid pro quo” harassment. This type of harassment involves an employer basing employment decisions (hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, number of hours assigned, etc.) on the employee’s willingness or unwillingness to submit to unwanted sexual advances. All workers have a right to perform their jobs without being subjected to these types of unethical behaviors, and to have their work judged on their merit, rather than on the provision (or refusal) of sexual favors. If you have suffered from quid pro quo sexual harassment, or hostile work environment harassment, you should contact an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney promptly about your situation.

“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that generally translates to “something for something.” As the courts have clearly indicated, this can exist in more than one possible way. One way is when submitting to such demands is “made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.” (In other words, providing sex becomes part of the arrangement for employment.) The other is when “submission to or rejection of [sex] is used as the basis for employment decisions.” (In other words, the employer takes an employment action regarding an employee because that employee did or did not provide sex.)

All of these types of quid pro quo sexual harassment are illegal under both federal and state laws. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination on several bases, including sex. The law has made it very clear that sexual harassment is a type of discrimination based upon sex. Additionally, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination bars both quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment harassment.

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