As anyone who’s lived long enough knows, doing the right thing something carries a price in life. However, doing the right thing by standing up in opposition to discrimination and/or harassment at work should not carry a cost when it comes to your job… but too often it does. If you have been the victim of workplace retaliation after you stood up against discrimination – whether that discrimination was targeted toward you or someone else – you may be entitled to recover substantial compensation through a lawsuit. Reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment law attorney right away to find out more about your options.
A recent case settlement making news here in New Jersey allegedly involved an instance of exactly that sort of retaliation. The employee, K.D., first accepted a job with the police department in 1996. K.D. rose to become the first (and only) female lieutenant in that police department, according to a mycentraljersey.com report.
The woman’s lawsuit alleged that department leadership routinely discriminated against women and racial minorities, hiring only 11 women (including K.D.) and 16 African Americans to its 105-member force.
Of the 16 African Americans and the other 10 women, none held a rank higher than sergeant, according to the lawsuit. K.D., in her capacity at the department’s recruiting officer, allegedly developed a long history of advocating “for female, African American and Hispanic officers in the department who have been treated less favorably than white male officers.”
Obviously, standing up for coworkers who are harmed by race or sex discrimination is the right thing but, allegedly, it carried a steep price for K.D. Due to K.D.’s history of standing up for other female, Latino/a and African American employees, department officials began a campaign of retaliation, according to the complaint.
The retaliation allegedly escalated into a “bogus, manufactured Internal Affairs” investigation that resulted in her being sent for a fitness-for-duty examination and ultimately being placed on an administrative leave of absence.” That ultimately triggered K.D. to file her lawsuit.
Retaliation and ‘protected activity’ under the Law Against Discrimination
In New Jersey, an employee has a valid claim of workplace retaliation if she has proof that her employer took adverse action (demotion, termination, reduced hours, lost benefits, bogus disciplinary investigation, etc.) because she engaged in a “protected activity.”
What’s “protected activity” in New Jersey? It encompasses many things, but they generally fall into one of two categories, which are: (1) opposing illegal employment practices like discrimination and/or harassment, or (2) filing complaints or assisting others in their complaints regarding discrimination and/or harassment.
So, you can put together a valid case of retaliation based on your taking action against discrimination and/or harassment directed at you, or based on your helping someone else victimized by harassment and/or discrimination. In K.D.’s situation, she alleged that she was the victim of retaliation after she engaged in both sorts of protected activities.
That case ultimately led the township to settle. In September, the township agreed to pay K.D. $300,000, in addition to keeping her on paid administrative leave until June 2021, when she will be eligible to retire and receive her full Tier 1 service retirement, according to the mycentraljersey.com report.
If you’ve been fired, demoted or otherwise harmed because you stood up against discrimination or harassment at work, you may be entitled to significant relief, including a sizable award of damages. Contact the knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates to find out more. Our attorneys offer many years of experience in successfully helping workers harmed by retaliation. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we can help you.