Articles Posted in Racial Discrimination

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arbitrationArbitration agreements can be a common part of workplace life. As with any potentially legally binding contractual agreement, it is extremely important to understand the exact legal ramifications of what you’re signing before you do anything. It is also important to understand exactly when your employer can claim that you’ve assented to the arbitration agreement by doing nothing. When it comes to these and other legal issues that can impact you as a worker, you should be sure you have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney to provide you the advice and advocacy you need.

One case originating in Union County provided some useful information on arbitration agreements, as well as on what does (or doesn’t) qualify as a valid passive assent to an agreement. The case followed a fact pattern that is probably similar to what occurs at many workplaces. The employer decides to establish an optional arbitration agreement. The employer sends the affected employees an email containing the policy. The email explains that the policy is not mandatory and includes instructions for opting out of the arbitration agreement. The email also includes a requirement that the employee acknowledge having reviewed the agreement.

In the summer of 2017, the assistant store manager at a wireless employer’s Union store filed a lawsuit alleging that the employer had engaged in racial and gender discrimination. The employer then asked the trial court to order the case to arbitration. The employer asserted that it was entitled to an order compelling arbitration because the manager had never completed the “opt out” requirements. According to the employer, it had asked the manager to acknowledge reviewing the agreement. Allegedly, the manager initially did nothing, but eventually acknowledged reviewing the agreement. She allegedly took no further action.

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Legal News GavelWhile most discrimination cases involve minorities as the victims, New Jersey law is clear that any form of racial discrimination can be illegal if it is severe or pervasive enough. One of the key differences between a “stereotypical” racial discrimination case (in which the victim is a person of color) and a “reverse discrimination” case (in which the victim is white) is that the white person who alleges discrimination has to clear a higher hurdle than a person of color in order to pursue his case. While that hurdle is higher, it is not impossible. If you are a white employee and believe that you were clearly a victim of racial discrimination, reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination lawyer about your situation.

In one recent case, a white firefighter was able to land a $450,000 settlement in his race discrimination case, according to nj.com. The case, filed by a firefighter named Jeffrey, arose from employment practices within the fire department in one Union County city. The fire chief was African-American. Allegedly, the chief asked African-American firefighters their feelings about taking orders from a white man, but he never asked white firefighters their opinions about taking orders from an African-American. The chief also allegedly committed other discriminatory acts, such as facilitating extra overtime for African-American firefighters while scaling back Jeffrey’s overtime.

The lawsuit further alleged that the chief engaged in tactics meant to block Jeffrey from becoming chief because he did not want a white person in that position, according to the report. Ultimately, the city settled the case, agreeing to pay Jeffrey nearly a half-million dollars in exchange for his ending the discrimination litigation.

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Legal News GavelObjective assessment devices can be very helpful tools for employers in selecting new hires or making promotion decisions. For employees, one additional indirect benefit of these techniques is that, sometimes, they expose discriminatory motives on the part of employers. This was allegedly the case for one North Jersey police lieutenant who was denied a promotion despite “acing” the captain’s exam. The denial ultimately led to litigation, and litigation led to the city paying the lieutenant $1.2 million at the end of a trial. The case is a reminder of the substantial harm that can result from improper discriminatory conduct by an employer. If you’ve been harmed at work due to your employer’s discrimination, you should a skilled New Jersey race discrimination attorney about your options.

The lieutenant in this case, as reported by nj.com, was an African-American man who had been a member of the police department for more than two decades when he qualified to take the captain’s exam. He didn’t just do well – he got the highest score of all of the individuals who took the exam at that time, according to court documents. He also allegedly did not have any history of disciplinary actions during his years with the department, according to the nj.com report.

Shortly after taking the exam, however, the police chief (who was white) allegedly leveled several disciplinary infractions against the lieutenant. Those disciplinary actions left him ineligible for a promotion to captain.

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Legal News GavelA multi-year veteran of a New Jersey police department recently obtained a $300,000 settlement in order to end his racial discrimination case. The officer’s complaint centered on a combination of racially offensive behaviors and the department’s failure to take proper action in response to his reporting those inappropriate actions. If you’ve been a victim of racial discrimination, you should contact an experienced New Jersey race discrimination attorney, who can help you pursue your case and also make vital decisions like whether to accept or decline a settlement offer from your employer.

The officer in the case, Washington, was a lieutenant in the police department. The lieutenant, who was African-American, had been with the police department since 1989 but began noticing certain problems on the job. There was the racist graffiti allegedly scrawled in the police headquarters bathroom. There was also a white officer’s alleged statement that he would never take orders from an African-American sergeant, which was problematic because the officer didn’t say “black”; he used a racial epithet instead, according to a report by northjersey.com.

Washington brought these incidents of racially hostile behavior to Internal Affairs, but the department did very little, according to the lieutenant. The department allegedly took no action against the epithet-using officer other than to transfer him to another assignment.

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Legal News GavelWhen a co-worker, a supervisor, or even someone who is on-site but doesn’t work for your employer uses racial slurs or epithets, that potentially creates a hostile work environment. As an African-American employee, you do not need to have suffered daily slurs and abuse for months or years in order to have a hostile work environment case. Sometimes, even a single utterance may be severe enough to prove the existence of a hostile work environment if that utterance was the N-word. The important thing is to retain an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney to represent you and help you in protecting your right to be free from an abusive or hostile work environment.

Some people may have heard the words “severe” and “pervasive” when it comes to hostile work environment law and may mistakenly believe that, in order to win a discrimination case, an employee has to show that the discriminatory acts were both bad (severe) and ongoing for a period of time (pervasive). That’s incorrect. The law says that misconduct that is either severe or pervasive can be enough to demonstrate a hostile work environment and create a viable racial discrimination case.

So what exactly is needed to show misconduct that was severe or pervasive? If your only proof is a single racial slur, can you win a discrimination case? Potentially, yes! Last summer, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings cover New Jersey in addition to Delaware and Pennsylvania) ruled in favor of a pair of workers who suffered discrimination at work. A supervisor instructed two African-Americans to fix a fence and told them that if they jerry-rigged the job, they’d be fired. The supervisor, however, didn’t use the word “jerry-rigged,” but instead a similar hyphenated word that included the N-word epithet.

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Legal News GavelIf you have been harmed at work because your employer discriminated against you due to your sex, race, religion, or some other illegal basis, you are probably frustrated and upset. You also likely want justice for the harm you’ve suffered. You may desire to take your case to court, but you may be concerned about the cost of legal fees. As many real-life examples of self-represented workers in race discrimination cases illustrate, though, you can’t afford not to have a knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination lawyer on your side to litigate your case. Your skilled attorney can guide you through what to do, and what not to do, in the pursuit of your damages.

An example of a self-represented worker who did not meet with success was Willie, a registered nurse who, in the fall of 2011, took a job at a substance abuse and mental health treatment facility near Newark. Willie’s primary assignment placed her on a floor dedicated to rehab patients. Sometimes, though, the hospital would send her to work on another floor dedicated to the hospital’s detox program. Working in the detox unit was apparently a more unfavorable assignment than working on a rehab floor.

The nurse became frustrated with her assignments to the detox floor. She believed that the hospital frequently sent her to the detox floor because of her race and color. According to Willie, the hospital sent her to the detox program twice as often as Mikola, a white nurse assigned to the same rehab floor as Willie. This led Willie to file a claim with the EEOC and, subsequently, to sue her employer for race discrimination in violation of Title VII.

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Legal News GavelIt is said that an “ounce of prevention is worth of a pound of cure.” Unfortunately, sometimes in life, prevention simply isn’t possible. When these circumstances arise, especially when it comes to your employment situation, the most important thing is to make sure that your response is the right one. This is one of many areas where the advice of an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney can be key. Take for example, the case of two art institute employees, whose federal discrimination lawsuit survived their employer’s attack based upon its institution of an arbitration policy. The lawsuit survived because the men promptly and explicitly rejected the policy, according to a recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision that is binding in federal courts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

The employees, LaMont and Michael, were two men working as assistant directors of admissions at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. In 2012, after each received “inexplicably harsh and unfair quarterly” performance reviews, complete with ratings of “below expectations,” each man filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Michael alleged that the review was a pretext for age discrimination. LaMont’s assertions were similar but alleged that the basis in his case was age and race discrimination.

Less than two months after the men filed with the EEOC, the institute’s parent company instituted a company-wide alternative dispute resolution (ADR) policy. The policy established multiple tiers of dispute resolution, with the final tier being binding arbitration. The policy stated that it covered, among other things, all employee claims of discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination.

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Legal News GavelDiscrimination and harassment based upon race can take different forms and patterns in the workplace. In some situations, it may be more subtle and frequent, with veiled or oblique comments or actions occurring often. Sometimes, the frequency is much less, but the discrimination or harassment is far from subtle or oblique. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed the latter scenario, entering an important ruling on behalf of future New Jersey race discrimination and harassment victims in the workplace. The ruling clarifies that an employee may have a case if he proves that the improper conduct was pervasive or was severe, and, depending on other circumstances, even a single use of the most extremely offensive racial slur could be enough to meet the standard for “severe.”

Atron and John were two African-American men hired as general laborers to work on an energy company’s pipeline project. One day, while the men were working on a fence removal task, a supervisor allegedly told them that, if they completed the work in a particularly shoddy manner, they would be fired. The supervisor didn’t use the word “shoddy,” though, instead using a descriptor that incorporated the N-word. The alleged statement was made in front of other non-African-American workers.

The men reported this slur to a superior. Shortly thereafter, they were fired. After their terminations, the men sued for harassment, racial discrimination, and retaliation. The federal District Court assigned to the case threw it out, concluding that the law required proof that the alleged misconduct was “pervasive and regular,” and these men’s case, which rested primarily upon the one-time use of the N-word, could not possibly meet this legal hurdle.

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Legal News 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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Legal News GavelIn an important win for employees throughout New Jersey, the state’s highest court ruled in favor of workers victimized by discrimination. The court upheld rulings by a trial court and the Appellate Division, allowing a jury’s award of emotional damages to stand in favor of two employees who suffered ethnic discrimination on the job. The ruling serves as a clear reminder that New Jersey law allows workers who suffer employment discrimination to recover for the degradation, humiliation, and mental anguish they suffer, even if that suffering doesn’t trigger “severe emotional or physical ailments.”

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