When you get hurt on the job and become disabled (either temporarily or permanently) as a result, your employer may fear the consequences… on their bottom line. Many of those same (improper) considerations can take place when you step up and act as a whistleblower. If your employer has taken adverse action against you (such as firing you, demoting you, cutting your hours, etc.) because of the disabling injury you suffered or because you engaged in whistleblowing, then your employer very possibly has violated the law. Don’t assume there’s nothing you can do. Instead, fight back by consulting with an experienced New Jersey workplace retaliation lawyer and finding out more about the legal options that exist for you.
Sometimes, an employer can make a good-faith mistake regarding a less-than-clear issue of how far their legal obligations under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination do (or don’t) extend. (That doesn’t mean that they aren’t culpable for the harm they caused you, as an unintentional violation is still a violation all the same. A more egregious violation may, however, open an employer up to greater liability.)
A lot of times, though, the alleged missteps an employer makes are more obvious. I.F.’s retaliation case against a New Jersey county government fell more into the latter category than the former.
I.F., who held a position as a corrections officer with the county, injured his knee in 2017, nj.com reported. He was allegedly doing a “vertical jump test” as part of a job-related training exercise when the injury occurred, according to his complaint. In fact, several colleagues allegedly witnessed the incident, and a sergeant who was videoing the training captured the injury.
After the man sought treatment, his doctor recommended surgery. That surgery, however, had to wait until the man received approval from the county. During that period, and while the officer was still on a restricted “light duty” assignment, the county allegedly required him to take a departmental physical exam.
According to the lawsuit, the officer told HR about his knee injury and asked to postpone the physical but HR told him they “cannot reschedule anyone at this point.” Allegedly fearing he’d lose his job if he didn’t show up, he participated in the physical exam. Unsurprisingly, he failed.
Two months later, the county fired him. The employer allegedly asserted that the man’s injury did not happen on the job, despite the evidence to the contrary.
I.F. took legal action, seeking both workers’ compensation benefits and also damages based on his employer’s retaliation against him.
Several months later, a workers’ compensation judge agreed with I.F. that the knee injury he suffered was something that occurred as part of his employment with the county. That ruling was very powerful in helping to advance the officer’s retaliation case. Armed with that decision, the officer recently obtained a favorable settlement ending the retaliation case. In that settlement, the officer received a payment of $315,000.
Settling a Whistleblower Retaliation Claim
I.F.’s case is far from unique. Illegal retaliation is occurring at numerous workplaces around New Jersey. Recently, a newly retired police officer in Ewing settled her retaliation case.
The officer, L.L., was a whistleblower who exposed unpunished misconduct, including possible criminal actions by fellow officers and conduct that potentially constituted sexual harassment or sex discrimination. This included an allegation from L.L. that other officers had used excessive force, stomping on a Black teen and shoving his face into the snow, but were not disciplined for their conduct.
According to the lawsuit, the department retaliated by initiating a bogus action against her on the false basis that she was suicidal and unfit for duty. The police officer, like the corrections officer, was eventually able to secure a settlement and a payment in exchange for ending her case.
In many cases, even if you are (as these workers were) open to the possibility of a resolution via a settlement, you’ll have to litigate to a certain point. Often, employers facing discrimination and retaliation lawsuits will only begin to engage in the settlement negotiation process fairly and reasonably after they have filed, litigated, and lost a motion for summary judgment that, had it succeeded, would’ve gotten your case thrown out.
Whatever motivates your employer to end your employment, it shouldn’t be because you had a disability or because you engaged in protected workplace activities. When that happens, look to the skilled New Jersey workplace retaliation attorneys at Phillips & Associates for help. Our attorneys are highly knowledgeable and provide aggressive, experience-driven advocacy for each of our clients. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.