Phillips & Associates
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Weighing a decision to pursue a discrimination lawsuit can be incredibly stressful. If you’re suing your current employer, it may feel terrifying to contemplate taking the entity responsible for your livelihood to court. Even if your discrimination came at the hands of a former employer, you may fear that a discrimination lawsuit will “follow” you around, leaving you blackballed in your industry. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to discrimination but, with the right New Jersey employment attorney, you can succeed and potentially recover a substantial sum in compensation for your damages.

An example of that occurred recently when an employee of New Jersey’s state-owned public transportation system sued her employer… and won. As reported by nj.com, the plaintiff, O.A., was 20+-year employee of NJ Transit who, in 2013, applied for the position of senior director. According to the report, the position required 8 years of transportation experience plus a degree in “bachelor’s degree in planning, engineering, public administration, economics or business.”

O.A., in addition to her two-plus decades of transportation experience, also had the relevant education experience, including two master’s degrees, according to the report. The successful candidate was a woman who had zero prior transportation experience and a bachelor’s degree in political science. The successful candidate was white (O.A. was African American,) and was also much younger than O.A.

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Last month, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a new “legal enforcement guidance” document that potentially impacted hundreds of thousands of workers in that city. In the new document, the commission provided new details on forms of conduct that constitute impermissible discrimination and/or harassment.

Even though the city’s new guidance isn’t enforceable in New Jersey, and even though citizenship status isn’t a protected class under the Law Against Discrimination, that does not mean that undocumented workers who suffer harassment and/or discrimination on the job due to their immigration status are without recourse here. There are still other potential options, both under state law and federal law, so you should be sure to reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney about your circumstance right away.

This new guidance didn’t expand the protections of the city’s anti-discrimination and harassment laws – those laws already barred discrimination and/or harassment based on immigration status and national origin. Rather, the new guidance clarified what may constitute immigration status or national original discrimination.

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Succeeding in any kind of civil lawsuit, including a discrimination and/or harassment action, requires a careful understanding of the law and in-depth knowledge of the procedural rules. Often times, though, the difference between success and failure is the factual evidence in your case. Whether it is getting your persuasive evidence in or keeping your opponents’ damaging evidence out, winning these evidentiary battles can frequently be the key to a favorable outcome and are just one more (of the many) reasons why you need to have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney advocating for you.

A recent case involving a sheriff’s department employee was an example of exactly this. J.I. had diabetes, having been diagnosed with Type I at the age of six. Twelve years into his employment, J.I. underwent a pancreas transplant due to his diabetes. After that procedure, J.I. allegedly endured a long string of taunts and insults. The disparaging nicknames included “Half-Dead,” “Mr. Magoo,” “Stevie Wonder,” “Jerry’s Kids,” “Eye Lab,” and “Walking Dead,” according to the employee. All of these taunts about his condition created a hostile work environment, so the employee sued in 2015.

At the trial, the county wanted to introduce evidence about a disciplinary case against J.I. and his partner, in which J.I. was suspended for misconduct and for untruthfulness. The county wanted to argue that J.I.’s displeasure about that internal affairs investigation was the real reason he sued. The employee, however, successfully persuaded the judge that the evidence would do more to create unfair prejudice than it would shine a light on deciding an issue that was before the jury.

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Layoffs… downsizing… reductions in force. All of these words and phrases are prone to bringing anxiety and uncertainty into the lives of workers. Any downsizing can be stressful and scary – and that’s especially true for older workers, as an unplanned job loss may leave them struggling to find a new position quickly that pays what the worker is really worth.

Sometimes, an employer’s reduction in force is more than just an effort to reduce overhead; it’s an attempt to purge older workers from the company’s payroll. When an employer in New Jersey uses a reduction in force to engage in illegal age discrimination, you may have options through the legal system to provide you with compensation for your losses. To find out more, be sure that you speak to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney about the specifics of your situation.

Take, for example, the recent case of C.S., an employee of a company “in the business of moving sensitive data securely between trading partners using encryption software.” In 2012, the company hired a large number of employees in order “enter the electronic medical records market.” Among those new hires was C.S., who was 60 when hired and held the position of Vice President.

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In many of today’s workplaces, it is increasingly rare for discrimination to occur out in the open. A lot of employers, aware of potential legal liability, have sought to eliminate blatant displays of discrimination. That’s not to say discrimination doesn’t still occur as often; it does. Only now, “pregnancy always makes women crazy” or “that’s a man’s job” is replaced by terminations and other discriminatory adverse actions encased in performance evaluation scores and human resources disciplinary policies.

One of the ways to succeed, even when you don’t have a “smoking gun,” is through something called “comparator evidence.” So, even without that “smoking gun” evidence (like your supervisor saying “old people just don’t have what it takes for this job”) you can still win by providing enough proof that you, as an older worker, got fired for a corporate policy violation, even though five younger co-workers violated the same rule and none of them were disciplined. To make sure that you have the proof your case needs for success, make sure you have a New Jersey employment attorney experienced in discrimination actions on your side.

A recent case from the federal courts provided some good news for workers seeking to win discrimination actions in federal court through the use of this “comparator” evidence. S.A., the plaintiff, worked in New Jersey for a chain of nutrition stores, serving as a store manager from 2001 until 2014. During his employment, S.A. received “numerous awards and accolades.” However, S.A. was fired in early 2014 and replaced by a new manager who was in his 20s. S.A. was 57.

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When you have been the victim of workplace discrimination and were constructively discharged in New Jersey, there are several things that you will need, in terms of evidence, in order to achieve a successful result. As one example, the law requires you to have done everything reasonable in your power to remain employed. If your employer has proof that seems to show you didn’t, you’re going to need sufficient proof to overcome that, or else you may not be able to get the compensation you need.

As with many cases, it comes down to having strong evidence that supports your position and effective proof that blunts what your employer is trying to assert. To make sure you have everything you need to prove the elements of your case, be sure one of the things you have is legal representation from a skilled New Jersey employment attorney.

C.L. was someone asserting a discrimination claim and a constructive discharge in New Jersey. During her first year as a medical resident, C.L. became pregnant. Late in her first year of residency, the resident miscarried and missed the final three months of that first year. Despite the absence, the program advanced C.L. to second-year resident status, including the corresponding raise in pay.

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When you’ve endured discrimination or sexual harassment at work, you’re probably feeling a lot of things – anxiety, anger, confusion and fear may be among them. Amidst all that stress, there’s also a harsh calculation many such victims must make: do I report or don’t I? What happens if I do report? Will I be ostracized, demoted, fired or blacklisted?

Of course, it is extraordinarily unfair that victims have to think this way, but retaliation is a terrible reality in the workplace. However, if you suffer reprisals after you decide to file a harassment or discrimination complaint, that retaliation is, in itself, a potential basis for a successful outcome in court. Whatever kind of misconduct you’ve been the victim of, you shouldn’t suffer in silence and you shouldn’t go it alone. Reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney who can help you carefully identify all of your options and assess which one is best for you.

One of the important things to know is that you don’t have to win your underlying discrimination or harassment case in order to win your retaliation case. S.M.’s lawsuit is a good example. S.M. worked for a New Jersey-based bank for 36 years. She received several promotions and rose to the rank of “First Vice President” in 2004.

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Police officers — and law enforcement agencies generally — have come under increased scrutiny in recent months and years. Major news sources have focused extensively on the misuse of deadly force in interacting with suspects.

While that problem affects members of the community generally, there is an additional very real problem that affects some of the service-minded people who work, or desire to work, in law enforcement. That problem is discrimination and sexual harassment, and it affects a wide swath of people who wear a badge or seek to do so, including women and LGBT people. If you’ve suffered illegal discrimination or harassment while working in law enforcement (or applying for a law enforcement position,) then you should act promptly to reach out to an experienced New Jersey sex / gender discrimination attorney about your legal options.

One group that is especially affected by the harassment and discrimination that goes on inside law enforcement is women. Even today, very few women are employed as police officers. Nationally, that number is somewhere between 10 and 15%. In many New Jersey cities and towns, that number is lower. For example, in North Brunswick, where one female officer recently sued for discrimination and sexual harassment, mycentraljersey.com reported that only five of 85 officers (6%) were females.

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Non-disclosure obligations in cases involving sexual harassment have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months and years, and deservedly so. Some non-disclosure rules can potentially aid survivors by shielding their privacy. However, if written too broadly, these rules run the risk of harming, not helping, survivors of harassment. For example, under the current rules, if you’re a New Jersey state employee, you risk losing your job if you discuss a sexual harassment complaint – even if you were the victim. The state recently announced that it had re-drafted the rule in the hopes of avoiding creating a “chilling effect” on victims’ reporting their harassment, nj.com reported.

Whether you are a government employee or work in the private sector, if you’ve been sexually harassed at work, you may have various options to receive the compensation you deserve for the harm you suffered. Contact an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to find out more.

As an example of how the state employee rule, prior to its re-drafting, could hurt victims of sexual harassment consider the case of V.U., as reported by nj.com. V.U. was a woman who worked as a procurement specialist for the state’s Department of Treasury for two years, from 2014-16. According to the specialist, her supervisor subjected her to “pervasive sexual harassment,” including stalking, unwelcome physical contact and sexual propositions.

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In some workplaces, employers may be very hesitant to fire employees. Sometimes, the employer may try to goad certain employees into resigning by making the job so unpleasant or unsatisfying that the employee quits. These employers hope that, by securing a resignation as opposed to issuing a termination, they’re dodging certain types of legal exposure, including liability for employment discrimination or harassment.

However, just because you resigned your job as opposed to being fired, that doesn’t automatically mean that you cannot win a discrimination case using the circumstances of your exit as the required “adverse employment action.” Sometimes, an employment setting may be so horrible that a reasonable person would see quitting as the right way forward. When that happens, that’s called a “constructive discharge,” and, as one recent case showed, it potentially can be just as effective in helping you win your discrimination case as if you’d been fired. To learn more about all the options you may have if you’ve suffered workplace discrimination, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney about your situation.

What does constructive discharge look like? The U.S. Supreme Court said in 2004 that constructive discharge occurs when the employees has proof that “the abusive working environment became so intolerable that … resignation qualified as a fitting response.”

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