Articles Posted in Age Discrimination

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The scenario is probably all too familiar for some workers. You work hard to break into your chosen field and then to build a successful career. Then, after having done that, you have the rug pulled from beneath you when your employer decides to replace you with someone younger. Maybe the employer did it because of the replacement’s more youthful appearance or because the replacement was cheaper. Either way, you may have been the victim of impermissible age discrimination and may be able to take action through the courts. Don’t let time run out on you; be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey age discrimination attorney without delay to discuss your legal options.

As noted above, there may be many underlying reasons for age discrimination. Sometimes it is financial. Other times, especially for women in the public eye, the reason may be simply related to physical appearance and the perceived greater business benefit from putting a younger female face before the public.

Two New Jersey women were involved in a high-profile lawsuit and settlement, reported by the New York Times, that implicated the latter set of issues.

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With coronavirus numbers surging, Gov. Phil Murphy has stated that a new statewide lockdown is “on the table,” according to news reports. Whether or not the state enters a new lockdown, the state’s skyrocketing COVID-19 cases will likely lead to more and more employers considering remote work for their employees. That, in turn, will likely mean more and more use of technology platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. However, as we’ve seen from recent headlines and news stories, this type of work environment presents its own risks when it comes to discrimination and sexual harassment. If you’ve suffered discrimination or harassment in a virtual meeting, don’t wait… reach out to an experienced New Jersey workplace discrimination attorney today to discuss your legal options.

The use of new technology like Zoom has proven to be fertile ground for both embarrassing blunders and offensive misconduct. These incidents have included a woman who inadvertently broadcast herself on the toilet during a Zoom call; a Brazilian government worker accidentally captured having sex during a Zoom call, and a prominent TV legal analyst who accidentally broadcast his act of self-gratification during an election simulation call with colleagues from the New Yorker.

Some of these stories may yield laughs from readers, but this actually points to a serious issue. Sexual harassment can occur in many ways and isn’t limited to face-to-face encounters. Being involuntarily exposed to unwanted comments, jokes, or material of a sexual nature can also be a form of sexual harassment, even when it happens over Zoom.

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In some ways, you can think of your discrimination or harassment lawsuit like a hurdles race in track and field. Your desired goal lies at the finish line, but you must successfully clear each of the numerous hurdles that stand between you and the finish line if you are to arrive at the finish line with the result you want. In your lawsuit, one of the most important hurdles is the “motion for summary judgment.” It is a hurdle you must clear to get to trial and getting past this hurdle may open several new doors for you. As you seek to defeat your employer’s motion for summary judgment, be sure you are armed with legal representation from a skilled and experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

A.F. was a worker involved in one of those kinds of cases. She was a 62-year-old woman working as the director of security for a casino. After more than three decades at the casino, the director began reporting to a new supervisor. That supervisor allegedly indicated to A.F. that he desired to “weed out” all of the “fat and old female security officers.” The supervisor indicated his preference to “get back to youth[ful] enforcement people” and to “get rid of these girls.”

Eventually, the supervisor began making A.F. meet with him more often, moved her office to the operations floor of the casino and moved the director’s assigned parking spot (which she’d maintained for 20 years) to a different lot several blocks away. Additionally, the supervisor allegedly “berated” women in front of A.F. “constantly,” took away her ability to hire workers and threatened to eliminate the director’s assistant’s job.

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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.

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Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing two cases of discrimination allegedly suffered by two Catholic school teachers. A victory by the two teachers could represent a very important success for Catholic school teachers everywhere, including the 7,300+ such educators here in New Jersey, when it comes to being free from insidious employment discrimination. Even if your employer is a religion-based one, you may still be able to sue them and recover valuable compensation for discrimination or harassment you’ve suffered. If you’ve been harmed by age, sex, disability or other forms of discrimination by your religious employer, be sure you consult an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney and investigate your legal options.

A. M.-B., who taught at an elementary school in Hermosa Beach, Cal., was let go at age 65 and sued for age discrimination. K.B., who taught at an elementary school in Torrance, Cal., had her employment ended shortly after she informed her employer that she would need to take medical leave to treat her breast cancer, so she sued for disability discrimination.

Both of these teachers might have had very strong cases if their employers had been private companies or public agencies. For employees like teachers at religious schools, it’s more complicated. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that the government cannot interfere in a religious entity’s decisions about who is or is not employed as a minister of that entity. This “ministerial exception” within discrimination law is rooted in the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment.

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On April 7, Gov. Phil Murphy ended the state of emergency for an additional 30 days. While the protective measures currently in places are necessary to flatten the curve and save lives, they are having a negative impact on some businesses. Many employers, due to the recent financial setbacks, have begun (or have begun exploring) furloughing or laying off groups of employees. Even during these difficult economic times, the current pandemic does not give employers the freedom to engage in illegal discrimination. That includes employers engaging in layoffs. If you think you were laid off on an illegal basis, be sure you contact an experienced New Jersey employment attorney promptly.

The EEOC composed a recent document warning employers that they should proceed with care when approaching potential layoffs, so that it does end up engaging in illegal discrimination through its layoff process. New Jersey law is very clear that employer policies or actions that predominantly harm people of a protected group, even if they are neutral on their faces, are often illegal. As the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has stated, if a policy or action “has a disparate impact on a protected group and is not related to [the ability] to perform important job duties, it may be deemed unlawful.”

For example, an employer might prefer to use a reduction in force to reduce salary expenses by laying some of its higher-paid employees. If the employer proceeds incorrectly, its reduction in force may lay off predominantly older employees in favor of younger people.

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While some social media jokes or memes that go “viral” may be harmless fun, others have the potential to perpetuate racism, sexism, ageism or other forms of discrimination. When employers allow that sort of harmful activity to occur in their workplaces, they are potentially allowing for the creation or exacerbation of a hostile work environment. If you’ve been forced to endure a stream of jokes, insults and other comments due to your age, race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status, then you may have been the victim of illegal discrimination and may be entitled to a significant sum in compensation. Contact an experienced New Jersey age discrimination lawyer to find out more.

The latest potentially problematic viral phrase to emerge into popularity is “OK Boomer.” The phrase, which is a reference to people of the “Baby Boom” generation, is intended to poke fun at anyone saying something that is considered outdated or out-of-touch, and has received coverage from sources including the New York Times. It has even reached into the Star Wars universe, with one popular online picture showing Baby Yoda using “OK Boomer” as a snarky comeback to Yoda.

What may be funny when it involves Yoda catching flak from Baby Yoda may be less so when it involves you doing your job. An “OK Boomer“ jab at work potentially indicates that the speaker is saying you are less skillful and less competent at your job simply due to your age. Federal law protects workers who are age 40 or older from age discrimination, meaning that a hostile work environment that includes “OK Boomer” jokes/comments could lead to a potentially successful federal case.

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Weighing a decision to pursue a discrimination lawsuit can be incredibly stressful. If you’re suing your current employer, it may feel terrifying to contemplate taking the entity responsible for your livelihood to court. Even if your discrimination came at the hands of a former employer, you may fear that a discrimination lawsuit will “follow” you around, leaving you blackballed in your industry. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to discrimination but, with the right New Jersey employment attorney, you can succeed and potentially recover a substantial sum in compensation for your damages.

An example of that occurred recently when an employee of New Jersey’s state-owned public transportation system sued her employer… and won. As reported by nj.com, the plaintiff, O.A., was 20+-year employee of NJ Transit who, in 2013, applied for the position of senior director. According to the report, the position required 8 years of transportation experience plus a degree in “bachelor’s degree in planning, engineering, public administration, economics or business.”

O.A., in addition to her two-plus decades of transportation experience, also had the relevant education experience, including two master’s degrees, according to the report. The successful candidate was a woman who had zero prior transportation experience and a bachelor’s degree in political science. The successful candidate was white (O.A. was African American,) and was also much younger than O.A.

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Layoffs… downsizing… reductions in force. All of these words and phrases are prone to bringing anxiety and uncertainty into the lives of workers. Any downsizing can be stressful and scary – and that’s especially true for older workers, as an unplanned job loss may leave them struggling to find a new position quickly that pays what the worker is really worth.

Sometimes, an employer’s reduction in force is more than just an effort to reduce overhead; it’s an attempt to purge older workers from the company’s payroll. When an employer in New Jersey uses a reduction in force to engage in illegal age discrimination, you may have options through the legal system to provide you with compensation for your losses. To find out more, be sure that you speak to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney about the specifics of your situation.

Take, for example, the recent case of C.S., an employee of a company “in the business of moving sensitive data securely between trading partners using encryption software.” In 2012, the company hired a large number of employees in order “enter the electronic medical records market.” Among those new hires was C.S., who was 60 when hired and held the position of Vice President.

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In many of today’s workplaces, it is increasingly rare for discrimination to occur out in the open. A lot of employers, aware of potential legal liability, have sought to eliminate blatant displays of discrimination. That’s not to say discrimination doesn’t still occur as often; it does. Only now, “pregnancy always makes women crazy” or “that’s a man’s job” is replaced by terminations and other discriminatory adverse actions encased in performance evaluation scores and human resources disciplinary policies.

One of the ways to succeed, even when you don’t have a “smoking gun,” is through something called “comparator evidence.” So, even without that “smoking gun” evidence (like your supervisor saying “old people just don’t have what it takes for this job”) you can still win by providing enough proof that you, as an older worker, got fired for a corporate policy violation, even though five younger co-workers violated the same rule and none of them were disciplined. To make sure that you have the proof your case needs for success, make sure you have a New Jersey employment attorney experienced in discrimination actions on your side.

A recent case from the federal courts provided some good news for workers seeking to win discrimination actions in federal court through the use of this “comparator” evidence. S.A., the plaintiff, worked in New Jersey for a chain of nutrition stores, serving as a store manager from 2001 until 2014. During his employment, S.A. received “numerous awards and accolades.” However, S.A. was fired in early 2014 and replaced by a new manager who was in his 20s. S.A. was 57.

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