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New Jersey Auto Dealership Employee Wins Important Battle in Disability Discrimination Case Against the Employer Who Fired Him

There are many different ways in which an employer can engage in impermissible discrimination in New Jersey. These can include acts of discrimination based upon your gender, race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, military service, or genetic information, among others. Another illegal basis is a disability or perceived disability. The law requires you to demonstrate to the court several things in order to have a successful disability discrimination case. A knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination attorney can help you if you think you’ve suffered from disability discrimination.

Recently, a South Jersey worker faced such a scenario. The employee in the case, Jeffrey, was a lot attendant at a Mitsubishi dealership in Cherry Hill. His job entailed cleaning up the lot and “general customer service tasks.” In October 2014, the attendant took FMLA leave due to a shoulder injury. In late December, the employee presented his employer with a note from his doctor detailing his work restrictions once he restarted work on Jan. 5, 2015. The attendant’s restrictions included not lifting more than five pounds, performing no overhead activities, and using his right upper extremities and hand only on a limited basis. None of these restrictions would have prevented Jeffrey from doing his job.

However, on Jan. 5, instead of Jeffrey returning to work, the employer laid him off. The employer alleged that, while Jeffrey was out, another employee had managed to complete both his duties and Jeffrey’s duties, so the employer decided to consolidate the two jobs and retain the other man to fill the position.

The attendant sued, alleging that the employer laid him off, not because of business reasons, but because he took Family and Medical Leave Act leave and “was perceived as disabled” by the employer. The attendant’s lawsuit alleged violations of both federal law (the FMLA) and state law (the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination).

Specifically, the attendant alleged that the employer engaged in a discriminatory firing on the basis of the employee’s disability or his perceived disability. When you are pursuing a case based upon your employer’s alleged discriminatory termination based upon your disability, the law requires you to demonstrate four key things to the court:  that you qualified as disabled under the law, that you were qualified to do the job you held, that you incurred “an adverse employment action,” and that your employer “sought someone else to perform the same work.”

This attendant cleared all of these four hurdles well enough to defeat the employer’s request for summary judgment, which, if it had been granted, would have ended the attendant’s case before it even got to trial. His shoulder injury qualified as a valid disability, and he was qualified for the job (as established by the fact that he held the job for 13 years without ever being laid off). While the employer tried to argue that it laid off Jeffrey due to downsizing, the court concluded otherwise. In showing that an action was an adverse employment action, timing can often be a vital part of your proof. In this attendant’s case, the employer laid him off exactly one week after he presented the doctor’s note detailing his work restrictions. This proximity in terms of time was close enough that a jury could decide that the employer’s stated reason was simply a pretext to engage in impermissible discrimination, the court ruled.

The skilled New Jersey disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates have been fighting for many years to protect the rights of workers when it comes to discrimination. If you believe you’ve suffered due to illegal treatment by your employer, contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

NFL Linebacker Sues Former Team in New Jersey for Allegedly Engaging in Illegal Discrimination Based Upon His Bipolar Disorder, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 5, 2017

Making Sure You Get the Full Benefit of Your New Jersey Discrimination Damages Award, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, May 12, 2017

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