Articles Posted in Age Discrimination

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Back in 1994, a popular singer named Aaliyah released a music album entitled “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” The title was a subtle reference to the singer’s youth, as she was only 15. Today, lots of people embracing this same mindset come from the opposite side of the age spectrum. These older individuals recognize that their age does not define them, and they seek employment where they are judged by the merits of their work, not solely by “that number.” With the passage of a new law, older workers age 70+ now have more protections than even against age discrimination in this state. If you think you’ve been denied a promotion, denied employment, or otherwise harmed because of your age, get in touch with an experienced New Jersey age discrimination lawyer to discuss your legal options.

Here in New Jersey, the average life expectancy is 80.7 years, making the Garden State the ninth highest-ranking state in that category. In certain areas of North Jersey, it’s higher still, with some Bergen County communities along the Hudson River averaging nearly 87 years!

The point is, people are living longer… and they are also working longer. That means that many people in their 70s find themselves continuing to pursue their careers instead of retiring. For a long time, however, they faced a huge obstacle in the form of age discrimination that was often completely legal in this state. With a new bill (Assembly Bill 681) signed into law by the governor earlier this month, much of that has now changed.

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In contract law, experienced attorneys know that the key to success (or potentially to defeat) can often lie in the so-called “fine print,” which is why it is well worth going over every detail with great care. That is true, not just in business and commercial contracts, but in most binding agreements generally, including a settlement agreement reached as part of your employment law case. A knowledgeable New Jersey employment lawyer can help you to “sweat the small stuff” and get the settlement agreement that works best for you.

Generally speaking, the most optimal settlement agreement you can reach, if you are an employee, is one that gets you a resolution, gets you compensated, and does so while surrendering as few of your legal rights and options as possible.

An age discrimination case recently before the Appellate Division court shows just how helpful the right agreement can be. In that case, K.R. was a 30-plus-year veteran of a local police department in Union County when, in 2015, two others officers misrepresented facts to a prosecuting attorney to obtain a search warrant in a suspected drunk driving case. K.R. was not one of the officers involved in the misconduct, but one of the ones who was involved told him about the misconduct, and K.R. did not inform the prosecuting attorney’s office, even though he said he would.

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In any kind of civil lawsuit, it is important to recognize what you need at each phase of the process. What do I need in my complaint? What do I need in my opposition to a motion to dismiss? What proof do I need at trial? At each of these critical junctures (and throughout the process) of your discrimination case, it pays to have an experienced New Jersey employment attorney on your side who is well-versed in all the requirements of the law and can guide you along the way.

Recently, a federal ruling from the appeals court whose decisions control cases filed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware provided an important clarification when it comes to federal age discrimination cases and what you, as the discriminated employee, have to allege in your complaint.

Z.M., the employee in the case, was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who agreed to a position with a Pennsylvania hospital in December 2016. Less than one year later, the hospital’s new owners “abruptly terminated” the surgeon, telling him that “the hospital ‘was moving in a different direction and [Z.M.’s] services were no longer needed.’” In place of Z.M., the hospital hired a pair of surgeons, each of whom was younger than Z.M.

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If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, you’ve probably found yourself in a position where you felt like your employer expected you to make actual miracles happen… perhaps even weekly or daily. Feeling that pressure is one thing, but when your employer gives you patently unrealistic performance targets, that’s another thing entirely. That’s especially true if your employer uses your failure to meet these impossible goals as the basis to fire you because of your age, race, gender, etc. When those things happen, your employer may have engaged in impermissible discrimination and an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney may be able to help you in obtaining substantial compensation.

The law actually gives employers wide latitude in setting performance goals for employees, but that wide latitude is not completely a blank check.

The recent age discrimination case of a medical sales professional working for a major international pharmaceutical company is a good example. By 2010, R.R. was a sales director for the company. By 2016, R.R. and his team had begun to fail to meet sales quotas, and R.R.’s supervisor placed him on a “performance improvement plan.”

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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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