Articles Posted in Disability Discrimination

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finger pointingWhile many people may associate the phrase “hostile work environment” with sexual harassment cases, that phrase has a broader meaning in New Jersey. In New Jersey, you can be entitled to a judgment and damages based upon a hostile work environment created for many reasons, including a hostile work environment created due to a disability. In order to succeed in such an action, there are several things you, as an aggrieved employee, must show to the court. An experienced New Jersey disability discrimination attorney can help in this and other employment law concerns.

An example of this type of case was a recent federal court action that involved Francis, a “Manager of Strategic Global Accounts.” The manager’s job involved selling commercial office furniture and servicing the accounts of several large multinational companies. The job routinely called for him to travel to customers’ places of business because the employer expected its account managers to “get out into the marketplace and make face-to-face sales calls.”

Francis had experienced back problems for years, and, in the summer of 2012, he underwent spinal fusion surgery. This caused him to take a medical leave of absence from work and go on short-term disability. After four and one-half months, even though Francis wore a back brace, he was without restrictions at work.

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gavelThere are many different ways in which an employer can engage in impermissible discrimination in New Jersey. These can include acts of discrimination based upon your gender, race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, military service, or genetic information, among others. Another illegal basis is a disability or perceived disability. The law requires you to demonstrate to the court several things in order to have a successful disability discrimination case. A knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination attorney can help you if you think you’ve suffered from disability discrimination.

Recently, a South Jersey worker faced such a scenario. The employee in the case, Jeffrey, was a lot attendant at a Mitsubishi dealership in Cherry Hill. His job entailed cleaning up the lot and “general customer service tasks.” In October 2014, the attendant took FMLA leave due to a shoulder injury. In late December, the employee presented his employer with a note from his doctor detailing his work restrictions once he restarted work on Jan. 5, 2015. The attendant’s restrictions included not lifting more than five pounds, performing no overhead activities, and using his right upper extremities and hand only on a limited basis. None of these restrictions would have prevented Jeffrey from doing his job.

However, on Jan. 5, instead of Jeffrey returning to work, the employer laid him off. The employer alleged that, while Jeffrey was out, another employee had managed to complete both his duties and Jeffrey’s duties, so the employer decided to consolidate the two jobs and retain the other man to fill the position.

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footballDisability discrimination can take place in almost any employment setting. Both federal and New Jersey laws require an employer to accommodate, within reason, an employee with a disability unless providing that reasonable accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer. Regardless of the nature of your work, if you believe you’ve suffered from disability discrimination, you need an experienced New Jersey disability discrimination attorney. Disability discrimination can occur in an office, in construction work, or even in professional sports. One alleged instance of the last category involves a federal lawsuit filed against one of this area’s pro sports teams, according to NBC Sports.

The plaintiff was a relatively successful linebacker for the New York Jets in 2015. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 14th-best inside linebacker. Analysts projected him as a starter for the Jets’ team in 2016. Then, in late October 2016, the Jets surprisingly put him on the “Non-Football Injury” (NFI) list, which meant that he could not play for at least the next eight games (which equals half an entire year), even though his team said that he was not injured at all. The team declined to renew the linebacker’s contract in the offseason.

That move by the team has now landed the two sides in court here in New Jersey. The player alleges that he has bipolar disorder and that the team’s manner of handling his condition, including putting him on the NFI list, constituted disability discrimination in violation of New Jersey and federal laws. He asserted in his lawsuit that his damages included the remainder of his 2016 salary, all of the salary he would have earned in 2017, and a roster bonus payment, totaling $3.3 million, according to the New York Daily News.

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nurseIn general, the law opposes employers discriminating against employees based upon a disability or a perceived disability. This isn’t true, though, when an employee’s disability could translate to a risk to herself, her co-workers, or the employer’s customers or clients. The key then, for any employee pursuing a New Jersey disability discrimination case, is to show that such a risk doesn’t exist. For one North Jersey nurse, the fact that there was no proof that she was a “materially enhanced risk of serious harm” to herself, her patients, or her co-workers meant that she was allowed to go forward with her disability discrimination case, according to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The plaintiff was an experienced registered nurse who had begun, in 2000, working in a hospital unit where roughly 50% of the patients were stroke victims. These patients needed considerable assistance with regular daily activities. Starting in 2007, the nurse had several work-related accidents. First, she injured her left shoulder moving a patient. That injury required surgery. Then she injured her right shoulder a year later. That injury required no medical action. Then she re-injured her left shoulder, requiring another surgery. Finally, she injured her cervical spine, which required back surgery.

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truckWhen you’ve suffered from employment discrimination, you may find yourself facing many hurdles on the way to getting your day in court and compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. For one New Jersey truck driver, his hurdles included convincing the courts that his Law Against Discrimination case was not preempted by a federal law related to collective bargaining agreements. In this driver’s case, his state law claims existed outside the parameters of the CBA between his union and his employer, which meant that there was no preemption, and he could go forward with his case.

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gavel and moneySometimes, when you’ve been a victim of workplace discrimination, your civil damages may not be the only monetary award to which the law entitles you. Depending on the facts of your case, you may also have obtained an award of unemployment benefits, disability benefits, or another award. In an important ruling by the Appellate Division from earlier this year, the court clarified that a workplace discrimination victim’s civil damages award should not have been reduced based solely upon his receipt of unemployment benefits.

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gavelWhen you’ve been a victim of discrimination at work, that misconduct may give you an opportunity to hold your employer liable for that action. In some cases, there could be multiple different legal avenues for holding an employer liable for discrimination. Success can sometimes depend on how you use all of the tools at your disposal. In the case of one New Jersey State Police employee who claimed that he was a victim of racial, disability, and whistleblower discrimination, even though he saw two of his claims thrown out by the courts, he still secured a half-million dollar judgment on the basis of a third cause of action.

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Witness standA New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in a police dispatcher’s disability discrimination case has provided valuable guidance and help for any employee pursuing a disability discrimination case under the Law Against Discrimination. The ruling allows employees with disabilities to use the opinion testimony of their treating doctors and potentially avoid the possibly expensive prospect of hiring an expert witness.

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NJ Supreme CourtFor many workers, times are hard and jobs can be scarce. Sometimes, this may place employers in an advantageous position relative to their job applicants. While the law often gives the two sides a lot of freedom in terms of contracting for employment, there are also some distinct limits. A New Jersey Supreme Court case from a few months ago illustrated one such boundary. The high court ruled that an employer and an employee cannot, through a contractual agreement, shorten the length of time an employee has to pursue his rights under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

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