Articles Posted in Racial Discrimination

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In recent years, lawmakers have started to address a subtle, but nevertheless insidious, form of race discrimination. That discrimination occurs when employers, as part of their dress and grooming policies, forbid the wearing of certain hairstyles that represent “natural” hairstyles of African-Americans. Complying with these rules can be not only emotionally stressful, but also physically painful and financially expensive for some African-American workers.

Lawmakers in New York and California have begun debate on ending this practice. Now, New Jersey is taking steps to follow suit. A bill is pending in the New Jersey Senate that would include discrimination based on these types of hairstyles among the forms of illegal discrimination barred by the Law Against Discrimination, nj.com has reported. Whether or not you are someone who potentially faces this kind of discrimination, the introduction of this bill is a reminder of the importance of having an experienced New Jersey employment attorney on your side who is up-to-date on all the most recent changes and evolutions of discrimination law in the Garden State.

The senate bill, as it is currently written, would ban discrimination based upon “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” (A “protective” hairstyle refers to any hairdo that preserves hair from damage. For African-Americans, that can mean many styles, including twists, braids, Afros and Bantu knots, among others.)

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A New Jersey police officer received good news regarding his civil service claim alleging racial discrimination recently. The Appellate Division gave his case new life, asserting that when a civil service employee provides proof of discrimination as strong as this worker did, then a hearing should be held to determine each side’s credibility, and failure to hold that hearing is arbitrary and unreasonable.

There are several hurdles to clear in order to succeed in any discrimination claim. You should be sure you have a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination attorney on your side at every step in the process.

The employee, R.B., was a police officer with a force in South Jersey for 16 years. He applied several times for promotion to sergeant but was not successful. In 2014, he was fourth on the civil service exam result list and was bypassed for a white officer who was first. In 2016, he was second on the exam results list, and was rejected in favor of the first, third and fourth-highest examinees. The officer, who was African-American, sued for racial discrimination.

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Sometimes, you may run across a story about an employee who was harmed in a situation similar to your own. If, at the end, that employee loses her case, it may easy to become discouraged. Don’t give in to that impulse. Each case has its own unique set of facts. It may turn out that the facts in the unsuccessful employee’s case were especially unfavorable or there were important things that were different from your own circumstance. To get the best sense of the strengths or challenges involved in your potential discrimination or harassment claim, what you need is the advice of an experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

M.B. was a worker who lost her case, but her setback can be very instructive for other workers who suffer employment discrimination. M.B. worked as a manager for a fitness center in New Jersey from 2011 until Aug. 19, 2016. She was fired, allegedly, for “poor performance, undocumented absences, and insubordination.” The manager, though, identified a different reason for her termination: her race. So, she filed a Law Against Discrimination action.

The employer asked the judge to order the two sides to arbitration, and employee contested going to arbitration. The courts ruled for the employer.

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Imagine you’ve been the victim of illegal discrimination at work. You sued, you won, you received an award of damages and the court closed the case. Barring an appeal, that’s the end, right? Not always, especially for workers who remain working for the same employer that discriminated against them. Too many times, unfortunately, workers who rightfully assert their right to utilize the legal system to protect themselves against discrimination suffer reprisals by their employers for having done so.

When that happens, that punishment may well be a violation of the law, too, and may entitle the worker to an additional award of compensation. To learn exactly what the law allows you to do as a result of the illegal discrimination and/or retaliation you suffered, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney to discuss the facts of your situation.

N.J. was a New Jersey worker in that type of difficult circumstance. N.J., an African-American and an employee of a New Jersey state regulatory agency, sued his employer in 2011, alleging that he was the victim of a hostile work environment based upon his race. The employer and employee settled that case, with the employer agreeing to pay the employee a settlement of $125,000.

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Discrimination can come in many forms. One of those forms is through the policies that an employer creates and enforces. Sometimes, the discriminatory nature of those policies is fairly obvious; other times, it can be much more subtle. Take for example, restrictions on workers’ hairstyles. On the surface, it may appear to be an effort to ensure a professional appearance among all employees. Under the surface, it may be something that actually discriminates against certain races, like African Americans. If you think that you’ve suffered race discrimination at work, whether it was fairly overt or much more subtle, be sure you know your rights and your options. Contact an experienced New Jersey employment attorney promptly about your situation.

Some cities and states have taken action to eradicate this system of discriminating against certain races via hairstyle policies. Late in April, USA Today reported that the California Senate passed a bill that, if also passed by the state Assembly and signed by the governor, would include discrimination based upon an employee or job applicant’s natural hairstyles among the list of impermissible forms of discrimination covered by that state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. This includes hairstyles like Afros, braids or twists, which are commonly worn by African Americans.

The argument for laws like this is that, while employers cannot discriminate against African Americans explicitly, by banning certain hairstyles, they can reject African Americans’ applications, deny their promotions and even terminate their employment on a disproportionate basis. Declaring these types of policies to be a form of workplace race discrimination would protect African-American employees. According to the California senator who authored the new bill, many African-American workers in past generations have been forced to use expensive and potentially damaging chemicals on their hair to make it compliant with some employers’ sets of rules, USA Today reported.

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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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When you watch television dramas that center on legal matters, much of the focus falls on the trial itself. Before you even get the opportunity to put on a winning case at trial, though, you have to have engaged in the proper preparatory steps that happen before a single opening statement is given. That includes many things, including conducting insightful, strategic and effective discovery. Doing discovery right is vital to get the information you need to put on that winning presentation in court. To get the best out of all of these steps in a discrimination case, it pays to have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney on your side every step of the way.

Successful discovery means, not only making the right requests, but knowing how to fight effectively when the other side tries to foil your requests for information to which you are entitled. As an example, consider a recent case of an African–American employee of the state’s Juvenile Justice Commission. L.R.’s lawsuit contended that he suffered multiple forms of discrimination that were connected to his race, including harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation for pursuing his rights under the Law Against Discrimination.

L.R. asked for all race-based Equal Employment Opportunity complaints filed by commission employees in the previous five-year period. That was likely a wise discovery request because, in any discrimination case, a very useful and effective type of proof can be evidence that the employer has engaged in similar discrimination in the past.

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Arbitration 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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While 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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Objective 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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