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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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There might be various reasons why you’d prefer to litigate your New Jersey discrimination case in a state Superior Court as opposed to a federal District Court. (You may have considered issues of speed, cost, the kind of jury that’ll hear your case, or other factors.) Whatever the reason, you and your knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer undoubtedly contemplated the issue at great length, so you want to do everything possible to ensure that your case eventually proceeds in the court you prefer.

There may be various ways you can shield your state court case from potential removal to federal court. An experienced attorney can help you with pleading your discrimination case in a way that avoids unnecessary exposure to removal.

One of those potential exposures is something the law calls “diversity jurisdiction,” as a recent disability discrimination case from Somerset County illustrates.

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Sometimes, race discrimination at work is “in your face,” like nooses or the use of the N-word. Often, though, it’s subtle. It may be little things, including seemingly facially neutral things, that unfairly hold back Black workers and/or push ahead those employees’ white coworkers. Whether the discrimination that adversely affected your employment was something overt or something less obvious on its face, it’s damaging and it may be the basis of a winning discrimination case. By contacting a knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination lawyer, you can find out what options the legal system has for recouping compensation for the illegal harm you suffered.

T.W.’s race discrimination case was one of the latter kind. She was a Black woman who worked for the Office of the Attorney General in the Law and Public Safety Department, where she held the title of “personnel assistant.” As is common with many public employers, the department had multiple classes or grades of the same job title. In the department, personnel assistants ranged from “PA4,” the lowest rank, to “PA1,” the highest rank.

She began as a PA4 in 2004. By early 2018, she had risen to PA2 but, according to her lawsuit, the department had overlooked promoting her to PA2 for two years. Additionally, the department allegedly slowed her rise to PA1 by removing her subordinate and assigning that worker to a white employee. (That reassignment harmed T.W.’s career because it deprived her of the opportunity to accrue supervisory experience, which the employer required before promoting a personnel assistant to PA1.)

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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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