Articles Posted in Ethnicity / National Origin Discrimination

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Many times, employers prefer to resolve employees’ claims of discrimination or harassment through arbitration rather than litigation. To that end, they often place arbitration clauses within the employment documents that new hires sign at the start of their employment. Sometimes, those provisions are clearly written and properly presented to provide the new employee with fair notice of the clause’s terms. However, when they’re not, then you as an employee may be able to use those facts to escape arbitration. If you’re pursuing an employment discrimination case and you need to defeat an arbitration provision, an experienced New Jersey national origin discrimination lawyer can show what avenues may be available to you to get that done.

The national origin discrimination case of G.R. is an example of a dispute that turned on the arbitration clause he signed.

G.R., a man of Turkish and European descent, accepted a role as the Director of Human Resources at a pharmaceutical company’s US headquarters in Berkeley Heights. As part of the acceptance process, G.R. signed several papers, including an acceptance letter and something labeled a “Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement.” The latter was six pages long and contained an arbitration clause situated at the top of page five.

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Success in an employment discrimination lawsuit in New Jersey is a series of steps that you have to navigate successfully, one at a time, to get to a successful outcome. Before you can have your day in court at a trial, you probably will need to defeat your employer’s motion for summary judgment. One of the key things to know about your case at the summary judgment stage is that you don’t have to present definitive proof that illegal conduct undoubtedly occurred. You simply have to offer enough to demonstrate that legitimate “questions of fact” exist regarding why your employer took its adverse action against you. As long as you have enough for a “rational factfinder” (a/k/a a jury in a jury trial or a judge in a bench trial) to find that the employer’s stated reasons were mere pretexts for discrimination, then your employer loses its motion and you get to proceed toward trial. Whatever phase your case is in, advice and advocacy from an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer can help you enhance your odds of success.

For an example of what you do — and don’t — need, there’s this recent national origin discrimination case from North Jersey.

N.O., a Nigerian woman living in New Jersey, taught elementary school in an Essex County school district from 2014 to 2017. N.O.’s job was a non-tenured one and, at the end of the 2016-17 school year, the district elected not to renew her contract, thus terminating her employment in June 2017.

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Discrimination takes many different forms. Obviously, things like the “N-word” are extremely harmful and clearly racially discriminatory. However, the discriminatory conduct you endured does not necessarily have to be something as overt as that to be the basis for a successful discrimination case. If you think the mistreatment and harm you’ve endured at work was the result of your race, ethnicity, national origin, or other protected characteristic, then you should get in touch with an experienced New Jersey race discrimination lawyer to discuss your circumstance.

The religious and racial discrimination that M.T. allegedly endured illustrates this point well. The man, a Muslim born in India, worked as a software engineer for a temporary staffing agency. During that employment, M.T. worked on an assignment for a network of hospitals headquartered in North Jersey.

The engineer allegedly received many offensive comments and questions based on his religion. According to his complaint, these included “are you a jihadist” and “are you hiding a bomb?” The same coworker also allegedly told him to “shut up,” to “be quiet,” that “no one wants to know what you have to say,” that “nobody’s listening (to you),” and that coworkers don’t “understand your accent.”

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Twenty-nine years ago last month, Saturday Night Live debuted a skit where a white New Yorker (played by John Goodman) engages in numerous acts of vandalism because of his mistaken beliefs about the Middle Eastern ancestry of a store’s owner. The skit is a reminder that harming someone solely because of their national origin or ancestry is never right. If the person or entity doing that to you is your employer, it could be illegal and you can potentially recover substantial damages in a discrimination lawsuit. If you have encountered that kind of mistreatment, don’t delay in contacting an experienced New Jersey national origin discrimination lawyer to discuss your situation.

The SNL skit takes on renewed relevance this spring as incidents of discrimination against people of Russian origin or ancestry have increased dramatically following the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

Japan Times reported about anti-Russian discrimination in that country, including an inn that refused to house guests from Russia or Belarus. Russians have also been banned from participating in major events like the Wimbledon tennis tournament and the Eurovision international song contest.

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Race discrimination and color discrimination can come in many different forms. It may be based upon your race, or it may be based on your family and other close relationships (like having a biracial child or a partner of a different race), or it may be based on something else altogether. Any of these kinds of discrimination, if they have harmed you at work, can potentially be the basis for a successful lawsuit under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. If it’s happened to you, you should get in touch with an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer right away.

Most all of us are familiar with what the term “racism” means. What is less well-known, but can be just as injurious, is “colorism,” when one person or group discriminates based upon skin color as opposed to racial classification. Generally, it involves situations where people of darker skin are treated less favorably than people of lighter skin. (In other words, favoring a lighten-skinned Black person over a darker-skinned Black person, or favoring a lighter-skinned Latino person over a darker-skinned Latino.)

Other times, a person may suffer discrimination due to their darker skin, even if they are not a member of any sort of racial minority. Even if you’re not Black or Latino, it can still be illegal discrimination, as allegedly was the case with a police dispatcher in Monmouth County recently.

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Back in the 19th Century, an English children’s rhyme declared that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, But words shall never hurt me.” Today, we have a more nuanced and complete recognition of the power of words to inflict real damage, especially slurs directed at historically disadvantaged people. That includes the use of those epithets in the workplace. Even if the word isn’t used a lot, it may still be enough to “alter the terms and conditions” of your job. When that happens, you may have the proof you need to win an employment discrimination case in New Jersey.

The courts have already addressed the “N-word” and its potentially discriminatory impact on Black workers. Back in 2017, the federal Third Circuit court, whose appellate rulings impact federal cases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, said that even just one use of that word by a supervisor, while obviously not pervasive discrimination, was enough to qualify as severe discrimination in violation of federal law.

While that slur is widely recognized as perhaps the vilest epithet, the New Jersey courts have addressed cases involving other words and other groups and whether isolated use of other racial/ethnic slurs can be severe enough to qualify as actionable discrimination. Recently, this state’s highest court decided that answer was “yes.”

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Immigrants – both those who are documented and those who aren’t — face potential discrimination in a variety of forms and fashions. Some types – like comments about how immigrants should “go back to where they came from” or are “taking our jobs” – are obvious. Others are more subtle, though just as potentially damaging… and possibly even more so. Regardless of whether the discrimination that harmed you was obvious discrimination or subtle discrimination, it still may have been actionable discrimination, and you should talk to a knowledgeable New Jersey workplace discrimination attorney about your options.

The job application process is one place where subtle and insidious forms of discrimination can occur. They are insidious because the immigrant applicant may not even know that the employer has engaged in illegal practices, even though that’s exactly what has occurred.

One example of that, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, occurred right here in North Jersey. An IT staffing company based in Basking Ridge was caught by the federal government engaging in improper hiring practices.

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If you are familiar with commercial airplanes, then you probably know the name “McDonnell Douglas” from its many well-known jets, including the DC 10. For people, such as an experienced New Jersey employment attorney, who are knowledgeable about discrimination law, the name “McDonnell Douglas” is familiar for a different reason. That’s because, in a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case bearing the company’s name, the high court created an important framework that victims of workplace discrimination, including those in New Jersey, still use today in their lawsuits.

The “McDonnell Douglas framework,” as it is called, comes in three parts. The first hurdle involves you, as the worker who was harmed by discrimination, establishing a “prima facie case” of discrimination.

A prima facie case of discrimination involves showing that you were a member of a protected class (like age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.), that you were qualified for the job you held, and that you suffered an adverse employment action (such as demotion, termination, reduction in hours, etc.) because of your membership in that protected class.

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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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Crises often bring out the best in people. Many recent COVID-19 (a/k/a novel coronavirus)-related stories have highlighted countless acts of selflessness to help people working in the healthcare industry, families with food insecurity, seniors and others. Crises also bring out the worst in people, including fear, anger, hate and discrimination. Just as the September 11th attacks brought about a wave of discrimination against people of the Islamic faith and people of Middle Eastern or Arabic heritage, COVID-19 also represents a regrettable opening for discrimination against people with health issues and people of East Asian ancestry. If you have been harmed by COVID-19-related discrimination or harassment at your job, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney for help.

To help minimize incidents of coronavirus-related discrimination, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights recently published a guidance document entitled “Civil Rights and COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions.” That document, as it related to employment discrimination, focused primarily on two areas of potential harassment and/or discrimination: disability and race/ethnicity (or national origin.)

When it comes to discrimination or harassment based on disability or perceived disability, improper action related to COVID-19 might look different than other disability discrimination actions in the past, but the underlying concepts are the same. Just as your employer generally cannot fire you simply because your supervisor saw you take a hypertension drug and believes (without any supporting factual evidence) that the stress of the job is “too much” for you, your employer similarly cannot terminate your employment simply because, as the FAQ cited, “you coughed at work and they perceived you to have a disability related to COVID-19.”

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