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A Black Worker in New Jersey Suffers Discrimination, Sues, and Settles… Then She Suffers Retaliation and Sues Again, Recovering an Additional $2M

There are certain assumptions people often make about people who endure discrimination or harassment at work. One of those is that, if the employee is not fired, they will leave the job on their own. Reality is often more complicated. For a variety of reasons, you might want or need to keep that job despite what has happened in the past, and therefore stay on. By continuing to stay, you may remain vulnerable as a target for additional discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. If that happens, the law allows you to go back to court and seek additional compensation. An experienced New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer can help you ascertain the best way to go about doing that.

Take, for example, P.W., a Black woman who worked for NJ Transit and who allegedly suffered both race discrimination and workplace retaliation. Back in early 2014, she and six other Black NJ Transit employees sued for racial discrimination. The nature of the alleged discrimination was multifaceted, including receiving lower pay than their white peers and unfair treatment as compared to white coworkers. The allegations also stated that a white supervisor used the N-word and placed a makeshift noose around a Black employee’s neck while commenting that that was “how things were handled in the South,” according to a report.

The plaintiffs in that lawsuit successfully worked out a settlement in that case. The settlement, reached in 2016, called for the workers to receive $3.65 million, reported.

P.W. continued working for NJ Transit. Unfortunately for her, the alleged impropriety and harm did not stop. Following the filing of the first lawsuit, P.W. allegedly went from being a victim of discrimination to being a victim of retaliation.

Both discrimination and retaliation can play out very similarly. In both cases, you generally have to show that you were on the receiving end of one or more adverse employment actions, which can be anything from termination to a suspension to a demotion to a “write-up” or other disciplinary action to a reduction in pay, hours, or benefits to a transfer to a less desirable or less prestigious role, among other things.

In the discrimination realm, it happens because of your membership in a protected class. (In New Jersey, these classes include “race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital/civil union status, religion, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability,” according to the state’s website.)

Retaliation for Speaking Up for Yourself… or for Someone Else

In retaliation cases, that adverse action happens because you spoke up. That action can be lots of things, and it need not necessarily be your own legal action. Protected activity under anti-retaliation law can include things like filing a formal harassment/discrimination claim or complaining to HR or your supervisor (either verbally or in writing.) It also, though, can include things like testifying in a corker’s harassment/discrimination case or answering questions from a coworker’s attorney concerning that coworker’s situation.

In P.W.’s case, she allegedly incurred retaliation for filing a discrimination lawsuit and receiving a settlement payment. These things both represent aspects of litigating a discrimination claim, which is a protected activity.

An Adverse Reassignment and a New Role that ‘Was Literally Making Her Sick’

The alleged retaliation included transferring P.W. from a 9-to-5 job at NJ Transit’s headquarters in Newark to a warehouse in Kearny where her shifts began at 6:30 am, reported. Due to supervisors’ refusal to fill open positions beneath P.W., she was forced to work many 12-hour days without overtime, according to her lawsuit. P.W. finally resigned in early 2018 because, according to her attorney, the “retaliation was literally making her sick.”

When this happens, the law in New Jersey permits you to sue again, which is what P.W. did. Earlier this month, she once again succeeded in reaching a settlement. This time, the employer agreed to pay P.W. $2.2 million in exchange for an end to the second lawsuit.

Sometimes, the harm you suffer on the job does not end when you initially take action. Sometimes, more damage ensues and more legal action is necessary. Whether you are needing to take action against discrimination or harassment, or you are needing to take action against workplace retaliation (because you already took action against discrimination or harassment before,) you need a skilled legal team going to bat for you. For a powerful advocate upon which you can confidently rely, look to the experienced New Jersey employment retaliation attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be the partner you need in pursuing the justice you deserve. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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