Articles Posted in Disability Discrimination

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In early 2021, the governor of New Jersey signed into law a bill that, among other things, protected New Jersey workers from certain adverse consequences as a result of their legal use of marijuana off the clock. If you’ve been fired or suffered other negative consequences as a result of your legal marijuanba use, your employer may have violated the law. Get in touch with an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer right away to protect yourself and your rights.

More recently, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission published workplace guidelines that established protections for legal users. One of the biggest takeaways from the commission’s new guidance is that, while employers may still test for marijuana, they may not punish their workers solely as a result of workers’ testing positive in a drug screen for marijuana metabolites (THC).

The new guidelines say that employers seeking to penalize a worker primarily must look for “behavioral indicators” or “physical signs or symptoms” sufficient to support a reasonable suspicion that the employee has attended work while intoxicated. If the employer has identified one or more of these indicators and/or signs, then a positive test result may also be included as part of the employer’s reasonable suspicion about a worker’s having worked while high on marijuana.

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In April, we discussed incidences of workers enduring harassment and/or discrimination based on current events. That topic has again risen to the forefront in the wake of the 2022 monkeypox outbreak. Regardless of terrorism at home, war abroad, or a disease outbreak, there’s never a valid reason to discriminate against somebody at work because of their national origin, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. If that has happened to you, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer to discuss what steps you can take.

Back in the early 2000s, many people of Middle Eastern ethnicity and/or of the Islamic faith experienced discrimination and harassment in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. More recently, Chinese and other East Asian people encountered mistreatment when the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage across the United States. People of Russian ancestry encountered issues after the events in Ukraine flared up into war.

Now, there’s another current event and another group being targeted. Monkeypox began to break out overseas in May. In June, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that, of those studied, 95% got monkeypox through sex, and 98% of those with the disease were gay or bisexual men, leading some people to consider monkeypox a “gay disease” and engage in harassment and discrimination against LGBT+ people. In an effort to combat this, the Attorney General’s Office announced the release of a FAQ document related to monkeypox.

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Certain instances of workplace discrimination are fairly clear: a Black person who endures a daily deluge of racial epithets, a Muslim employee who hears a seemingly endless line of jihadi, terrorist, and bombing jokes, or an older worker who endures a regular torrent of “OK Boomer” comments. Other times, it’s not so obvious. In either type of situation, you may have a viable claim for a hostile work environment. Also in either circumstance, but especially in the latter, it pays to retain a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer, who can help you make the most of your facts and demonstrate how they satisfy each of the elements of the law.

I.G. was someone whose alleged hostile work environment fell into the latter category. According to his complaint, he experienced a bout of vertigo in 2020, and as a result, the employer forced him to take a week of medical leave from his plant supervisor job.

After he returned, C.C., his supervisor, allegedly was “very cold and negative.” According to the lawsuit, the supervisor began making negative age-related comments about I.G. to other workers, including “it’s time for [I.G.] to retire.”

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There might be various reasons why you’d prefer to litigate your New Jersey discrimination case in a state Superior Court as opposed to a federal District Court. (You may have considered issues of speed, cost, the kind of jury that’ll hear your case, or other factors.) Whatever the reason, you and your knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer undoubtedly contemplated the issue at great length, so you want to do everything possible to ensure that your case eventually proceeds in the court you prefer.

There may be various ways you can shield your state court case from potential removal to federal court. An experienced attorney can help you with pleading your discrimination case in a way that avoids unnecessary exposure to removal.

One of those potential exposures is something the law calls “diversity jurisdiction,” as a recent disability discrimination case from Somerset County illustrates.

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Businesses are always on the lookout for ways to be more efficient. “Work smarter, not harder,” the saying goes. That’s also true in hiring. To that end, many employers have begun using artificial intelligence in their hiring processes. While this might seem like an ideal solution both in terms of increasing efficiency and eliminating biases that result from the introduction of the human element, the reality is far murkier. Many forms of AI are far from perfect and their flaws make them far from unbiased. Sometimes those biases result in violations of anti-discrimination laws. If you think you’ve encountered that kind of hiring bias and been denied employment because of it, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer to discuss your situation.

Most recently, the federal government put out the call to employers to beware when using algorithms and AI in their hiring processes. The U.S. Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission put out a guidance document on May 12 where they laid out ways that these automated systems can unfairly disqualify some people with disabilities.

For example, some employers use automated personality tests or other cognitive screening exams to assess particular “personality, cognitive, or neurocognitive traits.” The problem with these exams is that they potentially can cull people with “cognitive, intellectual, or mental health-related disabilities,” even though those people met the qualifications that the test was supposed to be analyzing and should not have been eliminated from consideration.

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In April 2022, the percentage of workers who worked remotely was at its lowest in two years but, even with these declines, fully 1 in 13 workers (7.7%) remains a remote employee. With remote work comes the question of what to do if you, as a remote worker, experience discrimination or sexual harassment. Who should you sue? Where should you sue? For answers to these and other vital questions, look to an experienced New Jersey workplace discrimination lawyer for the answers you need.

A recent disability discrimination case addressing this issue involved a New Jersey woman who took a job with a New York City investment bank in 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she began her job working remotely from her home. Shocked by the extremely long hours she was working, the employee notified Human Resources that she had an anxiety and mood disorder that required regular sleep. Human Resources and a senior partner worked out an accommodation, and the employee was made exempt from working more than 15 hours on any one day.

Just a few weeks later, the employer fired the woman, allegedly asserting that, among the job’s essential requirements, was “working many 120-hour weeks,” and that her disability rendered her incapable of satisfying the essential duties of the job.

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When you get hurt on the job and become disabled (either temporarily or permanently) as a result, your employer may fear the consequences… on their bottom line. Many of those same (improper) considerations can take place when you step up and act as a whistleblower. If your employer has taken adverse action against you (such as firing you, demoting you, cutting your hours, etc.) because of the disabling injury you suffered or because you engaged in whistleblowing, then your employer very possibly has violated the law. Don’t assume there’s nothing you can do. Instead, fight back by consulting with an experienced New Jersey workplace retaliation lawyer and finding out more about the legal options that exist for you.

Sometimes, an employer can make a good-faith mistake regarding a less-than-clear issue of how far their legal obligations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination do (or don’t) extend. (That doesn’t mean that they aren’t culpable for the harm they caused you, as an unintentional violation is still a violation all the same. A more egregious violation may, however, open an employer up to greater liability.)

A lot of times, though, the alleged missteps an employer makes are more obvious. I.F.’s retaliation case against a New Jersey county government fell more into the latter category than the former.

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One byproduct of the opioid epidemic is the number of people who are in treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) and who are also employed or seeking employment in this state. For that group of people, the laws that prohibit disability discrimination offer certain substantial protections, which means that, if you’ve been denied employment or suffered workplace punishment because of your treatment, you may be able, with the help of a knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination lawyer, to win a lawsuit under federal and/or state anti-discrimination laws.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division reaffirmed and highlighted this aspect of disability discrimination law recently. The division’s new guidance document, entitled “The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Opioid Crisis: Combating Discrimination Against People in Treatment or Recovery,” highlight various ways that employers may run afoul of laws barring disability discrimination, and what those employees can do about it.

The guidance document reaffirmed that OUD is considered to be people with a disability under federal law. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), therefore, bars discrimination against most people with OUD who are not currently using. That includes people taking drugs (like methadone) that a doctor prescribed for them as part of their OUD treatment.

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When you need to pursue a discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey, your case needs several things, not the least of which is something called an “adverse employment action.” This is just one of many essential components your case needs to succeed. To make sure you have everything necessary for a positive outcome, be sure that, before you start, you’ve retained a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer.

Any of a range of actions can be adverse employment actions. It is fairly cut-and-dried that things like terminations, demotions, suspensions without pay, disciplinary “write-ups” or actions, reductions of pay or hours, or negative performance reviews are adverse.

As the recent age and disability discrimination case of one New Jersey woman shows, the array of actions that can qualify as adverse under employment law is not limited only to those listed above.

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As we enter our third year of living with COVID-19, scientists are coming to learn more and more about the virus and its impacts. One critical thing they’ve discovered is that the virus does not harm all of those infected equally. Some may die fair quickly, some may be entirely asymptomatic and some may have non-lethal but long-lasting damaging effects. Recent guidance produced by the courts and by regulatory authorities has come to the conclusion that COVID may qualify as a “disability” under federal and state employment law and entitle those with COVID to workplace accommodations. If you think your employer has failed to make reasonable efforts to accommodate your long-lasting COVID symptoms, then your employer may be in violation of the law and you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination lawyer right away.

One of the more important medical breakthroughs has come with the discovery that, for some, COVID-19 is something that does not simply go away fairly quickly or else become critical. For those, there is something called “long COVID,” “long-haul COVID” or “chronic COVID.” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, long COVID refers to cases where “where individuals experience new, returning, or ongoing health problems four or more weeks after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recognized that long COVID potentially can qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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