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African-American WorkerDiscrimination and harassment based upon race can take different forms and patterns in the workplace. In some situations, it may be more subtle and frequent, with veiled or oblique comments or actions occurring often. Sometimes, the frequency is much less, but the discrimination or harassment is far from subtle or oblique. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed the latter scenario, entering an important ruling on behalf of future New Jersey race discrimination and harassment victims in the workplace. The ruling clarifies that an employee may have a case if he proves that the improper conduct was pervasive or was severe, and, depending on other circumstances, even a single use of the most extremely offensive racial slur could be enough to meet the standard for “severe.”

Atron and John were two African-American men hired as general laborers to work on an energy company’s pipeline project. One day, while the men were working on a fence removal task, a supervisor allegedly told them that, if they completed the work in a particularly shoddy manner, they would be fired. The supervisor didn’t use the word “shoddy,” though, instead using a descriptor that incorporated the N-word. The alleged statement was made in front of other non-African-American workers.

The men reported this slur to a superior. Shortly thereafter, they were fired. After their terminations, the men sued for harassment, racial discrimination, and retaliation. The federal District Court assigned to the case threw it out, concluding that the law required proof that the alleged misconduct was “pervasive and regular,” and these men’s case, which rested primarily upon the one-time use of the N-word, could not possibly meet this legal hurdle.

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interview sampleSometimes, if you are pursuing a case alleging employment discrimination in the hiring process, the existence of an employer’s formal and objective system for selecting new hires can be a major hindrance to your case. Other times, though, it can actually help. In the recent case of two employment candidates in their 50s and 60s, the latter was true after they were able to prove that the employer passed over them to hire lower-ranking candidates who were in their 30s and 20s. The deviation from the ranking system was enough to give the men a viable claim of age discrimination, according to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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scales of justiceThe case of a Delaware professor, who claimed that her employer fired her in retaliation for making a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint, got new life after the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the matter recently. Although the case might require proof that the employer would not have fired her but for the complaint, that level of proof wasn’t required to make a prima facie showing of retaliation, so she should have been allowed to proceed.

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law booksA sales employee for a large corporation lost her job at age 45 when her employer terminated her and replaced her with another employee who was only 38. Although the two employees’ age difference was less than 10 years, the fired employee still was able to go forward with her Age Discrimination in Employment Act case in federal court. The judge, in denying summary judgment to the employer, pointed out that previous rulings from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes New Jersey) have found that age gaps as small as five years can sometimes qualify as “sufficiently younger” and satisfy the ADEA, Bloomberg BNA reported.

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pregnantIt is fairly well-known that an employer who undertakes an action harmful toward an employee simply because that employee is pregnant is liable for impermissible discrimination. However, what happens when the employer allegedly acts out of concern for the mother-to-be or her unborn child? The answer, in short, is that if an employer’s action is professionally adverse for the pregnant employee, regardless of the reasons, the action is discriminatory. A debt collection company employee and the revocation of her promotion recently served as a case in point.

The facts underlying this case are something that takes place unfortunately too often. Carolyn was a successful employee with a debt collection company in Hackensack. Things were probably exciting for Carolyn because she had just earned a promotion to collections manager with the company. On the personal side, she was also pregnant.

When the employee announced her pregnancy to her employer, things changed dramatically. The employer took back the promotion. The employer concluded that the woman’s pregnancy, which would last through the employer’s busy tax season, would be a problem. Additionally, the employer unilaterally decided that the stress and long hours involved in being a collections manager with their company were not conducive to the overall health of a pregnant woman. Instead, the employer told Carolyn to “focus on her health,” according to an HR Daily Advisor report.

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Transgender PrideA headline-making new federal court ruling regarding discrimination and the rights of transgender people in the workplace may not immediately affect workers in New Jersey, but it could play a role in the not-too-distant future. The ruling, which allowed a trans woman to pursue a disability discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, is not binding in New Jersey federal cases right now, but it could become so if the Third Circuit of Appeals reaches the issue and adopts the lower court’s conclusion.

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gavel and bookIf you’re familiar with federal age discrimination law, you’ll probably know that the “magic number,” so to speak, in terms of the group of age-protected employees is 40 years of age. So what happens when a group of workers, all of whom are over 50, pursue an Age Discrimination in Employment Act claim accusing their employer of discrimination specifically against 50+ employees? According to an important decision issued by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, the ADEA allows them to go forward with their disparate impact claim, even though they were only a sub-group of all age-protected employees.

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truckWhen you’ve suffered from employment discrimination, you may find yourself facing many hurdles on the way to getting your day in court and compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. For one New Jersey truck driver, his hurdles included convincing the courts that his Law Against Discrimination case was not preempted by a federal law related to collective bargaining agreements. In this driver’s case, his state law claims existed outside the parameters of the CBA between his union and his employer, which meant that there was no preemption, and he could go forward with his case.

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fine printEveryone generally begins a new job hoping it will be a complete success, and it is generally while filled with these high hopes that an employee signs his employment contract, complete with all of its “fine print.” In the case of one pharmaceutical company employee, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an important ruling in favor of workers, concluding that the law allowed him to bring his Wage Payment Law action and that the arbitration clause in his employment contract was unenforceable.

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gavel and moneySometimes, when you’ve been a victim of workplace discrimination, your civil damages may not be the only monetary award to which the law entitles you. Depending on the facts of your case, you may also have obtained an award of unemployment benefits, disability benefits, or another award. In an important ruling by the Appellate Division from earlier this year, the court clarified that a workplace discrimination victim’s civil damages award should not have been reduced based solely upon his receipt of unemployment benefits.

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