Articles Posted in Racial Discrimination

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Even here in 21st Century New Jersey, race discrimination in workplaces persists. One form of discrimination that crops up too often is grossly improper attempts at “humor.” Despite what some may say, lynching “jokes” simply are never funny and they have the potential to inflict massive harm upon Black workers in that workplace. Whether it was the N-word, a noose, a monkey image, a lynching joke, or some other discriminatory joke or comment, it’s not something you should have to put up with at work. Get in touch with an experienced New Jersey race discrimination lawyer to protect yourself and your rights.

The recent settlement of a race discrimination case from South Jersey is yet another example. As reported by nj.com, L.J., the plaintiff in the case, was a worker with the parks department of a township in Gloucester County. L.J. was also an African-American man who allegedly endured, during his employment with the parks department, a relentless onslaught of racially discriminatory comments at work.

According to the employee’s complaint, the comments included references to his propensity to steal (solely due to his race,) usage of the racially offensive “boy,” and statements that L.J. (as a Black man) looked “like someone in Philadelphia with his hood on [who] was looking for rape.” Additionally, the man’s coworkers allegedly made comments about lynching, making reference to placing a chain around L.J.’s neck and “letting him swing.”

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Many times, appeals court rulings reaffirm well-established concepts of law. Sometimes, though, these rulings may stake out new territory or expressly clarify something for the first time, making them particularly noteworthy developments in the law. For you, as a worker who may have been harmed by workplace discrimination, it is vital to have a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer on your side who is fully versed on all of the law’s latest advances and updates so that those new developments in the law can be put to full use on your behalf.

A recent case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the federal appeals court whose rulings directly impact federal cases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, represented one of those significant developments. In that late July ruling, the court announced for the first time that race-based “associational discrimination” was a viable form of discrimination under which a worker could pursue a Title VII discrimination case.

The employee, J.K., a captain at the county jail in Pittsburgh, had allegedly endured a considerable amount of racially offensive conduct, including comments with racial slurs like “monkey” and text messages with “racially offensive” content.

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In the world of trial practice, there is something that lawyers sometimes call a “swearing match” or “swearing contest.” It refers to a case that hinges heavily, if not almost entirely, on the jury’s credibility determination between two witnesses whose testimony was nearly diametrically opposite. This is a scenario where the right New Jersey discrimination lawyer can help immensely. The right legal team can come up with, and deploy, crucial techniques that poke holes in the credibility of your opponent, while also helping you make your own testimony even more relatable, believable, and persuasive.

The Appellate Division recently rendered a ruling in one of those cases. The race discrimination plaintiff, R.M., was a Black woman and a supervisor at a skilled nursing facility in Bound Brook. In the fall of 2016, the facility’s interim administrator allegedly told her that “I don’t want a black person walking around here in a suit as a VP. I want you in scrubs, flats, and a lab coat.”

Not long after this contentious alleged incident, the facility fired R.M., ostensibly for failing to alleviate the backlog of grievances, accident reports, and incident reports that existed at the facility. K.K., a white woman, took over handling R.M.’s duties at the facility.

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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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In recent months, we’ve heard many socially conscious and/or politically active people call for a more robust effort to “police the police” or to “investigate the investigators.” One may view these as important reminders that no one should be above the law. An ongoing equal pay and race discrimination lawsuit against the State of New Jersey is another illustration of that. One thing you can take away from this race discrimination action is that, if you’ve been harmed because your employer engaged in illegal discrimination, don’t be afraid to take action, regardless of who your employer is. Reach out to a determined New Jersey employment attorney and get started pursuing what you deserve.

What makes the current case here in New Jersey somewhat unique is that the employer being sued is the same organization responsible for investigating and taking on many instances of discrimination: the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

The employees who alleged discrimination were three deputy attorneys general. At the time, these  employees filed their legal action, the OAG had more than 700 deputy attorneys general. Of those, 44 were African American, and only a few of those held senior management jobs, according to the lawsuit.

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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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One need not be a “psychic” to have seen it coming. The particulars of the coronavirus were something that clearly lent itself to triggering race discrimination and harassment. The state government even took proactive steps to warn employers to avoid such discrimination and harassment in their workplaces. However, as is too often the case, not even warnings from the Attorney General will stop harassment from occurring at some workplaces. Whether coronavirus-related or not, if you’ve suffered workplace discrimination because of your race, you should contact a knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination attorney and discuss your legal options.

Back in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting to explode here in the United States, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office issued an important guidance and press release. The guidance specifically warned against coronavirus-related harassment in the workplace targeting people of East Asian origin.

That included the importance of employers being pro-active “to stop harassment of one employee by another employee if the employer knows or should have known about it: for example, if one employee has east-Asian heritage and a coworker repeatedly harasses her by claiming that Asian people caused COVID-19 or calling this ‘the Chinese virus.’”

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When you sue for race discrimination, two of the main avenues you can follow to pursue your case are either disparate impact or disparate treatment. Under federal law, disparate impact discrimination occurs when your employer had policies or practices that had a disproportionately negative impact on people of your race. Disparate treatment occurs when you (or you plus others of your race) were treated less favorably than other workers in similar situations who were not members of your race. Each kind of case requires accumulating the right amount and the right kind of proof, and knowing how to use that evidence to its maximum effect, so be sure you have a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney handling your case.

A recent federal case from here in New Jersey is a good example of how a disparate treatment discrimination claim can work. J.D. was a security supervisor at a popular Atlantic City casino. The casino fired him after an incident with a verbally aggressive and apparently intoxicated panhandler.

In that encounter, J.D. used a “leg sweep” move to take the man’s legs out from under him. The panhandler was not physically injured in the takedown. However, the employer nevertheless fired J.D. for using excessive force. J.D., who was African-American, sued the employer for race discrimination.

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As all of America has come to re-assess the way in which minorities and other marginalized people are treated, many have concluded that it is not enough merely to refrain from engaging in harmful biased behavior; one must also be an active participant in stamping out such bigotry. However, what about at your workplace? If a coworker or supervisor is using offensive language that dehumanizes a group, what are your options? Are your options fewer if you’re not a member of that group? Fortunately, whether you are a member of the targeted group or are just an ally, you have some clear rights in New Jersey, so be sure to reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney right away if you are punished at work for speaking up.

Let’s use an example from current events, reported by the New York Times, as a starting point. Very recently, an announcer for a Major League Baseball team, during a moment that was supposed to be off-air but was inadvertently broadcast, used an offensive anti-gay slur. He was later suspended by the TV network that employed him. Even though the slur may have occurred in a moment the announcer believed was off-air, it was undeniably said at the announcer’s workplace while he was “on the job,” and was clearly audible by fellow broadcasters and members of the network’s broadcast production team.

Lots of New Jersey workers can probably relate to having to put up with supervisors or coworkers who regularly shower the workplace with racist, anti-LGBT, anti-woman or other slurs and epithets. But do you really have to “put up with it”?

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A recent survey completed by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and Taft Communications revealed several interesting insights but one undeniably regrettable trend. The survey’s findings suggest that people are reportedly hearing more offensive comments at work. From a legal perspective, an offensive comment may not always be enough to establish a winning Law Against Discrimination case, but it can be an integral ingredient and, sometimes, just a single slur may be all the proof you need to win your case. A knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney can help you analyze the facts of your case and determine what evidence you need to succeed.

The annual “State of Diversity Survey” asked workers how often they heard comments “that could be seen as offensive to racial and ethnic minorities; women; Muslims; Jews;” and LGBTQ+ people. Specifically, the survey asked workers, “have you overheard things at work that might be considered offensive to certain groups” during the past year?

The number of respondents, in all categories, who reported hearing these offensive comments either “occasionally” or “very often” was at the highest levels since the poll launched, and every category had a marked increase from last year. Workers who heard comments potentially offensive to racial and ethnic minorities rose 12% from last year to 28%. Respondents reported hearing misogynistic comments (up 10% to 24%), homophobic comments (up 11% to 23%), Islamophobic comments (up 13% to 23%) and anti-Semitic comments (up 10% to 20%), all of which were the highest levels ever recorded in the survey, which began in 2016.

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