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A New Jersey Police Lieutenant Secures a Post-Retirement Promotion as Part of the Settlement of Her Sex Discrimination Case

Sex discrimination can occur in many different forms. Some of it is relatively “in-your-face” like inappropriate (and sexually discriminatory) comments connected to gender. Other forms, such as a failure to promote, failure to hire, or unequal pay, can be more subtle. Whatever form they take, they are illegal employment actions and you should waste no time in contacting an experienced New Jersey sex discrimination lawyer when it happens to you.

J.S. was someone who allegedly knew firsthand what it was like to be a woman in a “boys’ club” place of employment and suffer sex discrimination as a result. In her case, that place of employment was the police department of a borough in Union County. J.S. had worked for the department since the early 1990s, had risen to the rank of lieutenant and, by 2017, was the #1-ranked non-veteran on the list of candidates eligible for promotion to captain. She did not, however, receive a promotion in 2017.

The next year, she again was ranked #1 on the same list, but again was denied the promotion. Each time, the department chose instead to promote lower-ranking eligible candidates. Each time, the lower-ranking candidates who received promotions were men and, according to the lawsuit, were “cronies” of the borough’s police chief, reported.

By 2019, J.S. retired. According to her lawsuit, that decision was not truly voluntary but rather she was forced to retire.

Eventually, J.S. was able to reach a successful settlement in her sex discrimination case. The settlement she obtained is an example that, sometimes, a successful outcome may be about more than just the amount of the cash payout. J.S. received a relatively modest settlement sum ($14,000,) but she also received a promotion to captain. That presumably helped her in other ways, including the pension payout she received.

A failure to promote you to a higher position — like what happened to this police officer — is considered to be an “adverse employment action” in New Jersey. That’s very important because, for many types of discrimination cases, you’ll need proof that you suffered such an action to take your case to court.

Be aware that not every failure to promote you where you were a member of a protected class (and the promoted individuals were not) is illegal. To present a potentially winning case, you have to clear several hurdles. First, you have to lay out a basic case of discrimination. For example, if your case alleged race discrimination under the Law Against Discrimination, you would need proof that you were a member of a protected class and the promoted persons weren’t. So, if you were Black and the promoted people were white, that could be a viable “prima facie” case of discrimination.

Next, the burden shifts to the employer to provide a legitimate reason for doing what it did. Once the employer does that, the burden returns to you. This time, you have to establish that the legitimate reason your employer stated was a bogus one (a “mere pretext”) and the real reason was discrimination.

Ways to Show that the Employer’s Reasons Were Pretextual in Nature

There are actually several different potential avenues you can travel to demonstrate pretext. One example of how you might succeed is if the employer keeps changing its explanation. If, at one point in the case, it asserted that it did not promote you because you had received workplace discipline in the past for misusing paid time off, then later asserted that you weren’t promoted because you lacked a certain professional certification, then even later asserted that you lost your promotion due to insubordination towards supervisors, then that inability by your employer to keep its story straight may make for strong proof that its legitimate reasons were merely pretextual and the real reason was discrimination.

Another example is when your employer engaged in biased discipline. Say that the employer stated that it declined to promote you because you had disciplinary “write-ups” in your personnel file. You might still have a winning race discrimination case if you can prove that white employees who committed similar or identical rules violations (as the one(s) for which you, as a Black worker, were written up) routinely were given only verbal reprimands and not written up.

Whatever form it takes, discrimination at work is not something you should tolerate. You likely have many questions and concerns. For the knowledgeable answers you need, turn to the experienced New Jersey sex discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. We have a long track record of successfully helping workers just like you and are eager to get to work on your case. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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