Articles Posted in Disability Discrimination

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If you’ve been the victim of discrimination in New Jersey, there may be certain circumstances where you have to argue your case before multiple bodies. For example, some situations may lead to your arguing in an administrative hearing and then later at a civil trial.

If your discrimination case is one of these procedurally complex matters, it is especially important that you have representation from a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination attorney. Your knowledgeable attorney can help, not only in putting together the factual evidence and legal arguments you need, but also in navigating all of the extra procedural hurdles that may exist in your pursuit of the compensation you need.

J.D.R. was one of those employees facing that kind of challenging case. He was a Hispanic male who worked as a housekeeping supervisor at one of the state’s centers for people with developmental disabilities. During his time working at the center, the supervisor had several absences. Even with his attendance history, the employee received a positive performance evaluation in 2015.

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Sometimes, the facts in your disability discrimination case may seem to be unfavorable, or may seem to you to present an insurmountable hill to climb to reach a successful outcome. Don’t let those “difficult” facts scare you. It may turn out that what seems to you to spell doom is actually nota “deal-breaker” for your case. A skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney may know how to take those facts, difficult ones and all, and still guide your case to get you your day in court.

Check out this case. A.C. was an employee working for a major cable television provider. In 2013, three months after her divorce, A.C. sent a copy of her final divorce judgment to her employer’s human resources department. She also sent HR paperwork about her application to change her name and get a new Social Security.

According to A.C., she thought that was all she needed to do, and that HR would handle everything else the employer needed to do from there, including taking her (now ex-)husband off her employer-provided insurance. Two years later, the employer fired A.C. after 15 years on the job. The firing took place three weeks after A.C. returned to work from gallbladder surgery.

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Succeeding in any kind of civil lawsuit, including a discrimination and/or harassment action, requires a careful understanding of the law and in-depth knowledge of the procedural rules. Often times, though, the difference between success and failure is the factual evidence in your case. Whether it is getting your persuasive evidence in or keeping your opponents’ damaging evidence out, winning these evidentiary battles can frequently be the key to a favorable outcome and are just one more (of the many) reasons why you need to have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney advocating for you.

A recent case involving a sheriff’s department employee was an example of exactly this. J.I. had diabetes, having been diagnosed with Type I at the age of six. Twelve years into his employment, J.I. underwent a pancreas transplant due to his diabetes. After that procedure, J.I. allegedly endured a long string of taunts and insults. The disparaging nicknames included “Half-Dead,” “Mr. Magoo,” “Stevie Wonder,” “Jerry’s Kids,” “Eye Lab,” and “Walking Dead,” according to the employee. All of these taunts about his condition created a hostile work environment, so the employee sued in 2015.

At the trial, the county wanted to introduce evidence about a disciplinary case against J.I. and his partner, in which J.I. was suspended for misconduct and for untruthfulness. The county wanted to argue that J.I.’s displeasure about that internal affairs investigation was the real reason he sued. The employee, however, successfully persuaded the judge that the evidence would do more to create unfair prejudice than it would shine a light on deciding an issue that was before the jury.

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In some workplaces, employers may be very hesitant to fire employees. Sometimes, the employer may try to goad certain employees into resigning by making the job so unpleasant or unsatisfying that the employee quits. These employers hope that, by securing a resignation as opposed to issuing a termination, they’re dodging certain types of legal exposure, including liability for employment discrimination or harassment.

However, just because you resigned your job as opposed to being fired, that doesn’t automatically mean that you cannot win a discrimination case using the circumstances of your exit as the required “adverse employment action.” Sometimes, an employment setting may be so horrible that a reasonable person would see quitting as the right way forward. When that happens, that’s called a “constructive discharge,” and, as one recent case showed, it potentially can be just as effective in helping you win your discrimination case as if you’d been fired. To learn more about all the options you may have if you’ve suffered workplace discrimination, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney about your situation.

What does constructive discharge look like? The U.S. Supreme Court said in 2004 that constructive discharge occurs when the employees has proof that “the abusive working environment became so intolerable that … resignation qualified as a fitting response.”

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It is a general rule of the law that, if you have a disability (or a perceived disability) and your employer imposes an adverse employment action against you (such as termination, demotion, reduction in pay, reduction in hours, reassignment of duties, etc.) because of that disability, then you can pursue a disability discrimination action.

However, what if your employer never inflicted any of those things against you? Does the absence of that fact mean that you are “out of luck” when it comes to seeking much-needed compensation for disability discrimination? According to a recent Appellate Division ruling, the answer is “no.” This important employee victory in court is a reminder that, if you think you’ve been harmed on the job due to your disability, you should always take the time to contact an experienced New Jersey employment attorney and discuss the options that may exist for you.

In that recent case, M.R. was a middle school teacher in a school district in Bergen County who had Type I diabetes. During the 2012-13 school year, her schedule called for her to take lunch starting at 1:05 pm. The teacher believed that, due to the drugs she took for her diabetes, eating lunch that late could negatively affect her blood sugar levels.

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Whether it is modern restaurant establishments like “Hooters” (and other similar chains) that rose to fame in the 1990s, or more vintage businesses like the Playboy Clubs of the 1960s, some businesses have offered visitors female employees dressed in tight and/or revealing uniforms for many decades.

Whether they are/were employing “Hooters Girls” or Playboy “Bunnies”, these kinds of employers are obviously seeking to create a certain atmosphere at their businesses. However, is there a point at which the rules imposed by this type of employer may constitute a form of illegal harassment or discrimination under New Jersey law? A recent ruling from the Appellate Division court indicates that the answer may be “yes.”

The recent case involved 21 women who worked as “Babes” at an Atlantic City casino and spa. At the casino, Babes, who worked as beverage servers, could be male or female. The program required all Babes to adhere to strict appearance standards. Male Babes were expected to have broad shoulders and a slim waist. Female Babes were required to maintain a “natural hourglass shape.”

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In a lot of law blogs and other items that come from lawyers and law firms, you’ll probably hear the admonition, “Any time you are signing any legal document, be sure that you understand everything on that document before you put a pen on the paper,” or words to that effect. This warning comes up a lot because it is very good, and very important, advice. Almost any document has certain provisions and clauses that potentially could impact your rights or legal options later. Being sure you know before you sign is one way to avoid getting subsequently caught in a trap. If you are at all unsure about a document your employer is asking you to sign, reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney.

What do we mean by “trapped” later? Here’s a case from Passaic County that’s an example. G.M. worked for the county. G.M. had very severe arthritis. She took strong medications that worked as immunity suppressants, which meant that the employee was at an increased risk of suffering infections due to the drugs’ suppression of her immune system’s natural responses in fighting those infections.

At one point during her employment, G.M. found it necessary to ask for a period of medical leave. She made the request and the employer granted it. As part of that process, though, the employer asked the worker to sign certain documents. One of the documents included a provision that stated that the employee was “unable to perform all essential functions required by [her] employer.” By signing the document, G.M. was acknowledging that this was true. She signed the paper.

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A well-worn phrase opines that it is “not what you say but how you say it.” Believe it or not, your disability discrimination case may be somewhat like that. Sometimes, the key to success is not proving that you were harmed based upon a condition you had, but instead lies with connecting that condition (when it is not itself a recognized disability) with something else that is a recognized disability.

For example, obesity by itself isn’t a recognized disability in New Jersey. However, if you prove that your obesity is actually a symptom of some other physical health or mental health disability, then your disability discrimination case may go from hopeless to a potential success. In other words, there are often more options out there for you than you might have thought. Explore those options by contacting a knowledgeable New Jersey discrimination attorney about your situation right away.

The case of one New Jersey bus driver was an unfortunate example of the importance of this connection. C.D. had worked for the same employer as a bus driver from 2005 to 2015. During that time, he passed all his required physical exams and won several awards for his work. During that decade, the driver weighed between 500 and 600 pounds. In 2015, the employer’s physician did not give C.D. a “pass” on his physical exam. He remained out of work for 10 months before he filed a complaint against the employer.

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One of the more quickly evolving issues of law and society is marijuana. Marijuana, just a few decades ago, was something seen as only a harmful recreational drug and people associated its users with the stereotype of the lazy “stoner.” Today, it has begun being embraced for multiple therapeutic uses. In New Jersey, marijuana is legal if you’re using it for a medical purpose. So, what should you do if your employer punishes, or fires, you for using medical marijuana that your doctor prescribed for you?

The use of medical marijuana is not explicitly protected by the Law Against Discrimination. Does that mean that, if your employer took an adverse action against you that you can’t possibly have a case for employment discrimination? As one recent case ruling from the Appellate Division highlights, the answer to that is, “No, it doesn’t.” In other words, don’t give up; instead, consult a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney to find out how you may be able to recover compensation.

That recent case involved J.W., a funeral director at a North Jersey funeral home. J.W. used marijuana as part of his cancer treatment and held a license to use under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Act.

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When you’ve been harmed by workplace discrimination, it is important to act promptly. You only have a limited period of time to decide to pursue a Law Against Discrimination case and to get that complaint filed with the court. The law limits you to two years in which to file. File too late and your employer may be able to use that tardiness to get your case dismissed, which would mean that you would be forever barred from obtaining any recovery for those acts of discrimination.

Part of that prompt action is, with all due speed, consulting with, and retaining, experienced New Jersey discrimination counsel. As a layperson, you are doubtlessly very familiar with all of the rules and requirements of your profession, but it is reasonable to assume that you may not be as versed in the demands of the law. Going it alone can risk making procedural errors like filing too late, or not knowing how best to respond if your employer argues, incorrectly, that your filing came after the deadline.

As an example of a case that came down arguments about when the filing deadline passed, there’s the recently decided lawsuit filed a South Jersey woman. S. T.-B. was the executive director of a community college’s cultural and heritage commission. S. T.-B. was also a 67-year-old African-American woman with disabilities. On January 23, 2015, a vice president at the college notified the director that due to drop in enrollment and in funding, the school was making cost cutbacks, including eliminating the director’s job. The director would, however, continue to receive her regular salary until June 30, 2015.

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