Articles Posted in Sex / Marital Status Discrimination

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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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On April 24, 2018, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act. That new law represented a huge step forward when it comes to closing the wage gap between men and women, and the fruits of that new law are starting to be seen. Recent reports of successful outcomes in equal pay litigation cases have started to emerge. If you have been hurt by the wage gap, you should take heart from these recent reports. Armed with this new law and the important new legal options it provides, you have fewer reasons than ever to delay retaining a skilled New Jersey employment attorney if you think you’ve been harmed by discriminatory pay practices.

The Equal Pay Act allows a harmed worker to pursue a civil lawsuit. What is special and noteworthy about this kind of lawsuit is that the Equal Pay Act says that, if you prevail, you may recover treble damages. You may only have heard of “treble” in music class but, in the law, “treble” means triple. So, in other words, if you can prove that you lost out on $200,000 in income due to an equal pay violation, you may be able to recover a damages award of $600,000.

There’s an additional subtle benefit that the possibility of triple damages provides to harmed workers: it gives employers added incentive to settle equal pay lawsuits prior to trial.

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An ancient Chinese proverb says that a “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This wisdom recognizes that, to accomplish any undertaking, you must first take that initial step (and, implicitly, keep taking each step and clearing each hurdle one at a time) until you reach your destination. Your discrimination or harassment case can be a lot like that. It may seem massive, overwhelming and intimidating at first but, with the aid of a skilled New Jersey employment attorney, you can clear all the hurdles and achieve a positive result… one step at a time.

One of the most important steps in any discrimination case is clearing the hurdle presented by the defense’s motion for summary judgment. If you don’t clear this hurdle, then your case is thrown out without a trial and you recover nothing. Additionally, for workers who are open to settlement, it is often the case that employers’ settlement offers will become much larger and fairer after they’ve lost their motions for summary judgment as compared to before that outcome.

Defeating a defense motion for summary judgment does not require providing the court with as much proof as you’d need to win at trial. For example, look at the recently decided case of N.H., a New Jersey college professor.

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In this blog and elsewhere, you may see phrases like “act today” and “don’t delay” when considering contacting an experienced New Jersey employment attorney if you think you’ve been the victim of workplace discrimination and/or harassment. That’s good advice, because, while there are many reasons people might feel the urge to delay taking action, none of them will help, and none will be any comfort, when a potentially winnable discrimination case gets dismissed because it was filed too late.

Consider the lawsuit filed by S.J., a legal administrative assistant in the Morristown office of a major multi-state law firm, as a cautionary tale. According to the woman, I.S., one of the male attorneys working in the office’s labor and employment department began engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct in 2014, including sexually explicit texts and non-consensual touching of her breasts and genitals.

Allegedly, the assistant complained about the attorney to her office administrator but, rather than take action, the administrator told the assistant “that if she was unhappy…, she should look for another job.” Eventually, the firm fired S.J. in June 2017.

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As anyone who’s lived long enough knows, doing the right thing something carries a price in life. However, doing the right thing by standing up in opposition to discrimination and/or harassment at work should not carry a cost when it comes to your job… but too often it does. If you have been the victim of workplace retaliation after you stood up against discrimination – whether that discrimination was targeted toward you or someone else – you may be entitled to recover substantial compensation through a lawsuit. Reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment law attorney right away to find out more about your options.

A recent case settlement making news here in New Jersey allegedly involved an instance of exactly that sort of retaliation. The employee, K.D., first accepted a job with the police department in 1996. K.D. rose to become the first (and only) female lieutenant in that police department, according to a mycentraljersey.com report.

The woman’s lawsuit alleged that department leadership routinely discriminated against women and racial minorities, hiring only 11 women (including K.D.) and 16 African Americans to its 105-member force.

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Part of what makes certain types of harassment and discrimination, such as quid pro quo sexual harassment, so insidious is that they often leave the victim with the sense that she is powerless, and that her harasser has all the power. That is doubly true if the harasser is, in fact, a politically or professionally powerful person. Don’t fall into that trap of hopelessness. If you’ve experienced quid pro quo sexual harassment, you are entitled to sue, and you may be entitled to receive significant compensation. Reach out to a skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorney without fear and without delay to find out what options exist for you.

It’s one thing (and an undoubtedly agonizing thing) when your sexual harasser is some low-level supervisor. Imagine how much more stressful it may be when your harasser is a powerful person like a judge! That was the situation facing C.S., a probation officer, in her discrimination and harassment case.

The alleged harasser was the top trial court judge in the county where C.S. lived. They met at a holiday party and exchanged telephone numbers. According to C.S.’s court papers, she visited the judge’s chambers after hours and, although she didn’t want to, she gave into the judge’s insistence to have sex with him. The judge allegedly called the pair’s sexual interaction a “business relationship.”

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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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In some ways, you can think of your discrimination or harassment lawsuit like a hurdles race in track and field. Your desired goal lies at the finish line, but you must successfully clear each of the numerous hurdles that stand between you and the finish line if you are to arrive at the finish line with the result you want. In your lawsuit, one of the most important hurdles is the “motion for summary judgment.” It is a hurdle you must clear to get to trial and getting past this hurdle may open several new doors for you. As you seek to defeat your employer’s motion for summary judgment, be sure you are armed with legal representation from a skilled and experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

A.F. was a worker involved in one of those kinds of cases. She was a 62-year-old woman working as the director of security for a casino. After more than three decades at the casino, the director began reporting to a new supervisor. That supervisor allegedly indicated to A.F. that he desired to “weed out” all of the “fat and old female security officers.” The supervisor indicated his preference to “get back to youth[ful] enforcement people” and to “get rid of these girls.”

Eventually, the supervisor began making A.F. meet with him more often, moved her office to the operations floor of the casino and moved the director’s assigned parking spot (which she’d maintained for 20 years) to a different lot several blocks away. Additionally, the supervisor allegedly “berated” women in front of A.F. “constantly,” took away her ability to hire workers and threatened to eliminate the director’s assistant’s job.

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Everyone has an idea of what they think gender discrimination looks like. The stereotype many picture involves a female employee, probably working in a job with relatively low prominence (and low income,) being harassed by a supervisor or more senior person who is male. The reality is that gender discrimination is much broader than just this stereotype, and it’s very important to keep that reality in mind. Just because your supervisor is the same gender as you, or just because you are in a job of high authority, power or influence, that doesn’t mean that you cannot be victimized by gender discrimination and it doesn’t mean you can’t win a gender discrimination lawsuit in the federal or New Jersey courts. Regardless of your job title or your gender, if you’ve suffered gender discrimination, you owe it to yourself to consult with a knowledgeable New Jersey gender discrimination attorney to learn more about your options.

The plaintiff in a recent gender discrimination case is a very good example of this. The plaintiff was not a nearly hired mail room clerk; she was a state court judge on the New Jersey Superior Court bench. During the second half of 2015, the judge’s supervisor, who was also a judge and also a woman, allegedly made derogatory remarks about the plaintiff’s gender, her demeanor and her appearance.

The supervisory judge allegedly belittled and demeaned the plaintiff in front of her staff, and was abusive toward her on other occasions, as well. Furthermore, the supervisor launched accusations against the plaintiff asserting that she engaged in multiple forms of judicial misconduct.

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Nearly everyone has an idea of what they think sex discrimination looks like. Maybe it’s an employer that refuses to hire a male applicant because he’s a man, or an employer that refuses to promote a female employee because she’s a woman. Those are clear-cut examples, but sex discrimination goes further than just that. One area of illegal sex discrimination is when you are punished at work for failing to conform to a certain stereotype generally affiliated with your gender. When that happens, you should contact a knowledgeable New Jersey sex discrimination attorney and explore your legal options.

One example of this kind of discrimination was on display in a federal lawsuit filed by an inspector at a food company’s facility. Allegedly, the employee’s supervisors “constantly” called him a wide array of homophobic epithets. One supervisor derided the employee’s car as “something a [gay slur] would drive.” The inspector, despite his allegedly enduring an onslaught of homophobic harassment, actually was heterosexual.

The judge in the inspector’s case said he could go forward with his pursuit of his employer. Federal law, as it currently exists in the Third Circuit (which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware) doesn’t recognize discrimination claims based on a worker’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, but does recognize as illegal discrimination based on ‘gender stereotyping,’ which means punishing a male worker for being insufficiently masculine or a female worker for not being feminine enough. The worker need not be gay or lesbian; in fact, the worker in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on gender stereotyping was a heterosexual woman.

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