Articles Posted in Racial Discrimination

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On April 7, Gov. Phil Murphy ended the state of emergency for an additional 30 days. While the protective measures currently in places are necessary to flatten the curve and save lives, they are having a negative impact on some businesses. Many employers, due to the recent financial setbacks, have begun (or have begun exploring) furloughing or laying off groups of employees. Even during these difficult economic times, the current pandemic does not give employers the freedom to engage in illegal discrimination. That includes employers engaging in layoffs. If you think you were laid off on an illegal basis, be sure you contact an experienced New Jersey employment attorney promptly.

The EEOC composed a recent document warning employers that they should proceed with care when approaching potential layoffs, so that it does end up engaging in illegal discrimination through its layoff process. New Jersey law is very clear that employer policies or actions that predominantly harm people of a protected group, even if they are neutral on their faces, are often illegal. As the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) has stated, if a policy or action “has a disparate impact on a protected group and is not related to [the ability] to perform important job duties, it may be deemed unlawful.”

For example, an employer might prefer to use a reduction in force to reduce salary expenses by laying some of its higher-paid employees. If the employer proceeds incorrectly, its reduction in force may lay off predominantly older employees in favor of younger people.

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There are certain employment practices that are obviously discriminatory. An employer who openly refuses to hire any LGBT+ person, a supervisor who jokes about all Mexicans being lazy or an HR manager who opines that “pregnancy always makes a woman crazy” are all obvious things. A lot of instances of discrimination aren’t nearly this obvious. Something as seemingly benign (and non-discriminatory) as a letter from the federal government about a worker’s employment eligibility verification paperwork can be the trigger for that employer to engage in illegal practices. If your employer has taken adverse employment action against you (such as forcing you onto unpaid leave or firing you) because it received a “no match” letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA), your employer may have violated the law. Contact a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney promptly to find out what you can do.

In March 2019, the federal government began sending “Employer Correction Request” notices, which are often more commonly known as “no match” letters, to employers. This March, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, Department of Labor and the Attorney General published a joint “Dear Employer” guidance letter to provide employers and employees with useful information and to help employers steer clear of actions that potentially violate New Jersey law.

On the federal employment eligibility verification form, also known as the I-9 form, is something that most all of us have filled out at some point when starting a new job. An employee discloses their name and Social Security number. “No match” letters, which the federal government stopped entirely in 2012 but restarted last year, are letters from the Social Security Administration that inform an employer that the name and the number contained on an employee’s I-9 form don’t match.

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When you have been the victim of discrimination on the job in New Jersey, it is very important that you take action right away. Make sure that starts with speaking to an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney. You only have a limited amount of time to file your discrimination claim and, if you wait too long, you could lose out entirely. Your knowledgeable attorney can help you identify exactly when that deadline is in your case and help you get everything you need together and submitted before that deadline passes.

Even if your case potentially seems to be endangered by that filing deadline, there may be options that still allow you to proceed. Take, for example, S.M., a teacher’s assistant. She had some pretty strong evidence in her race discrimination case, including proof that, during her 23 years in the school district, her supervisor reassigned her 19 times, which was allegedly an “unheard of” number of reassignments “given the large number of available employees.”

The employee also asserted that the district passed her over for a promotion that went a Caucasian employee who was “much less experienced and capable.” S.M.’s supervisor also allegedly had a racially biased approach to disciplining employees, taking negative actions against African American employees more often than against white employees.

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The original spark may not have come from a New Jersey workplace, but the final outcome will be something that will benefit thousands upon thousands of New Jersey workers. That outcome is that, as nj.gov reported, on Dec. 19, 2019, New Jersey became the third state to ban discrimination based upon a person’s natural hairstyle when Governor Murphy signed the CROWN Act into law. This is an extremely important new law for workers, many of whom in the past have been forced to choose between taking costly and sometimes drastic measures to alter their hair or else face workplace punishment or even termination due to their failure to conform to workplace grooming rules.

As several lawmakers have pointed out recently, no one should face adverse action in employment simply because of the way in which their hair grows naturally. Now, the law will make it clear that imposing such unfair rules is against the law and entitles the worker to pursue financial compensation in court with the assistance of a New Jersey race discrimination attorney.

One year to the day before the governor signed the act, on Dec. 19, 2018, a South Jersey high school wrestler was on the verge of competing when he was approached with what many would consider a “Hobson’s choice.” A referee told the student that he must shave off his dreadlocks, or else he must forfeit his match. The student eventually wrestled, but not before suffering the humiliation of having his head shaved right there in the gym. That terrible incident served as the “flashpoint” that set New Jersey on the road to banning discrimination based on natural hair.

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A popular TV commercial features a famous current football player debating a famous retired player regarding which was more important – a good offense or a good defense. A knowledgeable employment discrimination attorney will tell you that, when it comes to pursuing a discrimination case successfully, it is vitally important to have both – powerful evidence that persuasively bolsters the arguments you’re making, as well as effective proof that will blunt the arguments the other side will inevitably make during your litigation.

For an example of what this means, look at the case of R.M., which was reported by northjersey.com. The employer, a nursing facility in Bound Brook, fired R.M., an African American vice president at the facility, from her job in late 2016. According to the employee, the termination was the result of racial discrimination.

R.M. had strong proof that she used both in support of her case and in opposition of the defense’s case. In a discrimination case, one of the most effective forms of circumstantial evidence of your employer’s discriminatory motive that you can have is timing. If, for example, you’re pursuing a pregnancy discrimination or a disability discrimination case, and you have evidence that your employer fired you one week after you notified the employer of your pregnancy or disability, then that timing evidence is very strong in pointing toward discrimination as the real reason for your firing.

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If you’ve been the victim of discrimination in New Jersey, there may be certain circumstances where you have to argue your case before multiple bodies. For example, some situations may lead to your arguing in an administrative hearing and then later at a civil trial.

If your discrimination case is one of these procedurally complex matters, it is especially important that you have representation from a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination attorney. Your knowledgeable attorney can help, not only in putting together the factual evidence and legal arguments you need, but also in navigating all of the extra procedural hurdles that may exist in your pursuit of the compensation you need.

J.D.R. was one of those employees facing that kind of challenging case. He was a Hispanic male who worked as a housekeeping supervisor at one of the state’s centers for people with developmental disabilities. During his time working at the center, the supervisor had several absences. Even with his attendance history, the employee received a positive performance evaluation in 2015.

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Weighing a decision to pursue a discrimination lawsuit can be incredibly stressful. If you’re suing your current employer, it may feel terrifying to contemplate taking the entity responsible for your livelihood to court. Even if your discrimination came at the hands of a former employer, you may fear that a discrimination lawsuit will “follow” you around, leaving you blackballed in your industry. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to discrimination but, with the right New Jersey employment attorney, you can succeed and potentially recover a substantial sum in compensation for your damages.

An example of that occurred recently when an employee of New Jersey’s state-owned public transportation system sued her employer… and won. As reported by nj.com, the plaintiff, O.A., was 20+-year employee of NJ Transit who, in 2013, applied for the position of senior director. According to the report, the position required 8 years of transportation experience plus a degree in “bachelor’s degree in planning, engineering, public administration, economics or business.”

O.A., in addition to her two-plus decades of transportation experience, also had the relevant education experience, including two master’s degrees, according to the report. The successful candidate was a woman who had zero prior transportation experience and a bachelor’s degree in political science. The successful candidate was white (O.A. was African American,) and was also much younger than O.A.

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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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