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New Jersey State Police Employee Receives $500K For Employer’s Failure to Accommodate His Disability

When you’ve been a victim of discrimination at work, that misconduct may give you an opportunity to hold your employer liable for that action. In some cases, there could be multiple different legal avenues for holding an employer liable for discrimination. Success can sometimes depend on how you use all of the tools at your disposal. In the case of one New Jersey State Police employee who claimed that he was a victim of racial, disability, and whistleblower discrimination, even though he saw two of his claims thrown out by the courts, he still secured a half-million dollar judgment on the basis of a third cause of action.

The employee in this case, an African-American male, worked for the New Jersey State Police, first as a trooper and later as a member of the police’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Unit. The employee, while working at the unit, expressed concerns that the police generally disciplined African-American troopers more severely than white troopers.

The employee also had ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. According to the employee, despite the employer’s knowing about his disease, it moved him into an organized crime unit, where his new duties involved long stretches doing surveillance in a vehicle, even though his medical condition required him to have regular access to a bathroom.

When the employee finally sued, he had multiple possible causes of action. He asserted that the employer improperly denied him promotions because of his race and because of his complaints regarding allegedly racially biased disciplinary practices. He also asserted a disability discrimination claim as a result of his employer’s failure to accommodate his ulcerative colitis in an appropriate way. He asserted his claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.

At the trial’s conclusion, the employee won. The jury found the employer liable on the whistleblowing and disability discrimination claims, and it awarded a judgment in his favor. As the case made its way through the appeals process, there were many twists and turns. The Appellate Division issued a ruling largely in favor of the employer. That court concluded that the rules related to sovereign immunity required dismissing the man’s ADA claim. The court also reversed the CEPA judgment and sent that matter back to the trial court.

The New Jersey Supreme Court reached a somewhat different result. That court agreed regarding the dismissal of the ADA claim and the remand of the CEPA claim, but it ruled that the lower courts should not have thrown out the employee’s LAD claim for the failure to accommodate his disability (and the jury verdict that went with it). Based upon this, the high court ordered the trial court to reinstate the jury verdict on the LAD claim and the man’s $500,000 award of damages under that claim. In this case, the man’s diligent assertion of all of his potential claims allowed him to achieve, at a minimum, success on at least one of those claims and a substantial judgment arising from that success.

Whether the discrimination you’ve suffered at work is related to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, contact the New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys are experienced in all types of employment discrimination cases in this state and have the tools to help. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled and experienced attorneys.

More blog posts:

New Jersey Supreme Court Ruling Allows Treating Physicians to Give Opinion Testimony in Disability Discrimination Cases, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, March 29, 2017

New Jersey Supreme Court Upholds $1.4M Emotional Damage Award in Race Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, March 16, 2017

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