Too many people think that, because they have a strong knowledge of the facts of their discrimination case, and perhaps a certain degree of understanding of the law, they can handle their case without representation from a skilled New Jersey employment attorney. That’s almost always a mistake. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of legal or procedural traps that a skilled employment attorney avoids every day but that can readily ensnare you, as a layperson, if you try to “go it alone.”
A recent federal case is a regrettable example. The employee, K.K., was an Asian-American man of Korean origin who worked for a financial services firm. During his time there, he allegedly suffered many forms of harassment, including a coworker “trampling the floor” near him. K.K. complained to a manager, but to no avail.
The employer eventually fired K.K. in 2018. The terminated worker, who was in his late 50s by this time, filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and, later, sued for age discrimination, national origin discrimination and race discrimination in federal court.
K.K. did not hire legal counsel. That decision was unfortunate as it showed in his court filings and harmed him before the judge.
When you file your discrimination complaint at the outset of your lawsuit, the law gives you a certain amount of leeway. You don’t need every metaphorical blank filled in. You do, however, have to give the court some factual allegations. If your assertions in your complaint are just a combination of “conclusory statements” and “threadbare recitals of the elements” of discrimination, then that’s not enough.
By failing to give the court more, you leave yourself vulnerable to having your case thrown out if the defense makes a motion to dismiss. (“Conclusory,” in this context, means statements that draw conclusions without providing any basis for those conclusions. Asserting acts of harassment and then simply stating that those acts of harassment were due to your age or race – without providing facts to support that assertion – is an example of a conclusory statement.)
No connection between the acts and the worker’s age or race
K.K.’s complaint had those kinds of problems. The only specific allegations he provided were the trampling on the floor near him and his supervisors’ failure to take action in response to his complaints. There was never any clear linkage between those alleged acts of misconduct and K.K.’s age or race.
On top of those things, he had another problem. The law says that you have to do what’s called “exhaust your administrative remedies” before you sue in court. That means going through the process of filing with the EEOC.
It is important to have a clear understanding about the nature of your case before you file with the EEOC, as changing your bases between your EEOC complaint and your court complaint could cost you. K.K. asserted in his EEOC complaint that he was the victim of race discrimination and age discrimination. In his court complaint, the employee asserted claims of national origin discrimination, race discrimination and age discrimination. This meant that K.K.’s national origin claim couldn’t go forward because he hadn’t exhausted his administrative remedies with the EEOC on that one.
These flaws that damaged K.K.’s case are all kinds of things that a genuinely skillful attorney would readily spot and avoid making. Whether K.K. had a winning case remains unknown but, because of his case’s procedural errors, he’ll not get his day in court.
Don’t let that happen to you. Give your case the best chance of success by working with the knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys offer many years of experience successfully litigating both state and federal cases across the full spectrum of harassment and discrimination. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we can help.