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Achieving Success in a New Jersey Discrimination Lawsuit by Proving the Existence of ‘Disparate Treatment’ by Your Employer

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.

Since Harold pursued his lawsuit as a “disparate treatment” case, that meant that he had to prove to the court that the employer treated him, a member of a protected class, less favorably than a comparable co-worker who was not a member of a protected class. Harold had evidence that the pharmacy manager in his store had also faced an incident of stealing. A pharmacy worker had taken some drugs and 10 needles from the pharmacy, but the pharmacist did not report the worker. This also was a failure to follow the employer’s loss prevention rules, yet the employer did not fire the pharmacy manager (who was heterosexual and younger than Harold).

The employer argued that this was not proof of discrimination because the law requires a comparable employee to be “similarly situated” to the plaintiff, and Harold and the pharmacy manager were not.

The Appellate Division ruled for Harold, though. That ruling explained that the definition of “similarly situated” is broader than this employer contended. Even though the employees had different job responsibilities, worked in different parts of the store, and encountered different forms of stealing (a non-employee as opposed to an employee), they could still be similarly situated under the Law Against Discrimination. Both employees were responsible for following the employer’s rules regarding loss prevention, both failed to follow those policies when confronted with incidents of theft, and each was treated differently. This meant that a jury should have been allowed to decide if the employees were similarly situated and whether or not the employer was liable for illegal discrimination.

If you have suffered from discrimination at work, you need to make sure you have the experienced legal representation you need to present a compelling case for liability and an award of damages. The skilled New Jersey sexual orientation discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates have spent many years working to help our clients pursue the compensation they deserve. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Legal Protections for LGBT People in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Dec. 14, 2017

Third Circuit Allows Employees to Go Forward with Age Discrimination Lawsuit Despite Employer’s Arbitration Policy, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Sept. 19, 2017

Photo Credit: M.O. Stevens, [CC0 License], via Wikimedia Commons

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