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A Muslim Cook from Egypt Wins a Renewed Chance to Pursue His Claims of Discrimination Based on Religion and National Origin in New Jersey

Muslims in this country face many challenges, including at work. One hurdle that Muslims of Middle Eastern origin should not, but too often do, have to face is discrimination because of their religion and/or national origin. Too many face workplace jokes and taunts where they are labeled as close associates of terrorists or terrorists themselves just because of where they originate and what they believe.

If you are someone who has found yourself victimized by employment discrimination due to your religion (whether it’s Islam or some other faith) or due to your national origin, then you may be entitled to sue and to recover compensation under the Law Against Discrimination. To ensure you’re pursuing your case in the most effective way possible, be sure you have representation from an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

One New Jersey worker who allegedly experienced this kind of discrimination was A.M., a cook who worked at a country club a half-hour west of Newark. A.M. was Egyptian and a Muslim.

As examples, the cook alleged that, in 2012, his supervisor allegedly presented him with a news article about former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was in jail at the time. The supervisor wrote a note that implied that the cook had close connections and affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood when, in reality, the cook considered the Muslim Brotherhood to be terrorists.

Additionally, there allegedly was teasing about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean and was piloted by an Egyptian. There was also teasing about A.M.’s observance of Islam’s diet rules, such as abstaining from eating pork, according to the complaint.

Furthermore, there was the usual refrain that too many Muslim workers know all too well. The cook allegedly received many joking questions implying that he knew Islamic terrorists on a personal basis. His supervisor once asked him, before the supervisor traveled to New York City, if the cook could “call somebody, see if there is any bombing in the train, in the subway, and it’s safe or not?” The supervisor also joked that A.M. was one of the terrorist “sleeper cells,” according to the cook.

The discrimination allegedly started when the cook began the job in 2003 and continued until 2015. That timeline proved to be very important to A.M.’s case because he filed his lawsuit in November 2015.

The appeals court ruled in favor of the cook, concluding that his filing did not occur too late, as the employer had argued. New Jersey law gives workers two years to sue under the Law Against Discrimination. Although many of A.M.’s alleged acts of discrimination happened before November 2013, that was not the end of the story for this worker’s case. Even though some events were too old, the entire group of discriminatory actions comprised something that New Jersey discrimination law calls a “continuing violation,” according to the court.

What a ‘continuing violation’ means and how it may help you achieve success

In discrimination law, there can be two different types of violations. There can be “discreet” acts for which the relevant date is clearly tied to the day on which that individual event took place. For example, if an employer says, “Wait… you’re gay? You’re fired!” then the applicable date, for purposes of the Law Against Discrimination’s deadline for suing, is the date of termination.

A continuing violation, though, is different. It happens when a collection of acts, taken together, form one employment law violation. For example, if a Hispanic employee regularly received jokes about being a member of the MS13 gang, and those jokes continued for many years, then that could be a continuing violation of discrimination law.

When a continuing violation happens, the law establishes the deadline for an employee to sue to be two years from the last act in the collection of acts that make up the continuing violation. In A.M.’s case, the alleged continuing violation continued at least until early 2014 (if not later.) The Malaysian Airlines flight disappearance occurred in March 2014, as did the alleged jokes the cook received about it.

In other words, based on his evidence, the cook had a viable continuing violation that continued into at least 2014. As a result, a lawsuit filed in November 2015 was well before the deadline for suing under New Jersey law.

To ensure that you are timely taking the action you need to protect your ability to recover the compensation you deserve, be sure you have knowledgeable legal counsel working for you. The skilled New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help. Reach out to us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and find out how our experienced attorneys can assist you.

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