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Imagine you’ve been the victim of illegal discrimination at work. You sued, you won, you received an award of damages and the court closed the case. Barring an appeal, that’s the end, right? Not always, especially for workers who remain working for the same employer that discriminated against them. Too many times, unfortunately, workers who rightfully assert their right to utilize the legal system to protect themselves against discrimination suffer reprisals by their employers for having done so.

When that happens, that punishment may well be a violation of the law, too, and may entitle the worker to an additional award of compensation. To learn exactly what the law allows you to do as a result of the illegal discrimination and/or retaliation you suffered, be sure to contact an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney to discuss the facts of your situation.

N.J. was a New Jersey worker in that type of difficult circumstance. N.J., an African-American and an employee of a New Jersey state regulatory agency, sued his employer in 2011, alleging that he was the victim of a hostile work environment based upon his race. The employer and employee settled that case, with the employer agreeing to pay the employee a settlement of $125,000.

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Whether it is modern restaurant establishments like “Hooters” (and other similar chains) that rose to fame in the 1990s, or more vintage businesses like the Playboy Clubs of the 1960s, some businesses have offered visitors female employees dressed in tight and/or revealing uniforms for many decades.

Whether they are/were employing “Hooters Girls” or Playboy “Bunnies”, these kinds of employers are obviously seeking to create a certain atmosphere at their businesses. However, is there a point at which the rules imposed by this type of employer may constitute a form of illegal harassment or discrimination under New Jersey law? A recent ruling from the Appellate Division court indicates that the answer may be “yes.”

The recent case involved 21 women who worked as “Babes” at an Atlantic City casino and spa. At the casino, Babes, who worked as beverage servers, could be male or female. The program required all Babes to adhere to strict appearance standards. Male Babes were expected to have broad shoulders and a slim waist. Female Babes were required to maintain a “natural hourglass shape.”

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In a lot of law blogs and other items that come from lawyers and law firms, you’ll probably hear the admonition, “Any time you are signing any legal document, be sure that you understand everything on that document before you put a pen on the paper,” or words to that effect. This warning comes up a lot because it is very good, and very important, advice. Almost any document has certain provisions and clauses that potentially could impact your rights or legal options later. Being sure you know before you sign is one way to avoid getting subsequently caught in a trap. If you are at all unsure about a document your employer is asking you to sign, reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney.

What do we mean by “trapped” later? Here’s a case from Passaic County that’s an example. G.M. worked for the county. G.M. had very severe arthritis. She took strong medications that worked as immunity suppressants, which meant that the employee was at an increased risk of suffering infections due to the drugs’ suppression of her immune system’s natural responses in fighting those infections.

At one point during her employment, G.M. found it necessary to ask for a period of medical leave. She made the request and the employer granted it. As part of that process, though, the employer asked the worker to sign certain documents. One of the documents included a provision that stated that the employee was “unable to perform all essential functions required by [her] employer.” By signing the document, G.M. was acknowledging that this was true. She signed the paper.

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Discrimination can come in many forms. One of those forms is through the policies that an employer creates and enforces. Sometimes, the discriminatory nature of those policies is fairly obvious; other times, it can be much more subtle. Take for example, restrictions on workers’ hairstyles. On the surface, it may appear to be an effort to ensure a professional appearance among all employees. Under the surface, it may be something that actually discriminates against certain races, like African Americans. If you think that you’ve suffered race discrimination at work, whether it was fairly overt or much more subtle, be sure you know your rights and your options. Contact an experienced New Jersey employment attorney promptly about your situation.

Some cities and states have taken action to eradicate this system of discriminating against certain races via hairstyle policies. Late in April, USA Today reported that the California Senate passed a bill that, if also passed by the state Assembly and signed by the governor, would include discrimination based upon an employee or job applicant’s natural hairstyles among the list of impermissible forms of discrimination covered by that state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. This includes hairstyles like Afros, braids or twists, which are commonly worn by African Americans.

The argument for laws like this is that, while employers cannot discriminate against African Americans explicitly, by banning certain hairstyles, they can reject African Americans’ applications, deny their promotions and even terminate their employment on a disproportionate basis. Declaring these types of policies to be a form of workplace race discrimination would protect African-American employees. According to the California senator who authored the new bill, many African-American workers in past generations have been forced to use expensive and potentially damaging chemicals on their hair to make it compliant with some employers’ sets of rules, USA Today reported.

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Followers of national news in late April have likely become aware that the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering two cases that could vastly reshape the face of federal employment discrimination law. One case asks the court to decide whether or not current federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, while the other poses a largely similar question in relation to gender identity.

Fortunately for LGBTQ+ workers in New Jersey, greater protection from workplace discrimination is already in place. So, if you’ve been the victim of employment discrimination because you’re gay, lesbian, trans, etc. in this state, then you should take action promptly to talk to a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney and learn more about your rights, including filing suit and going to court.

In the current cases, a Long Island skydiving instructor sued after he was allegedly was terminated from his job after his employer learned that he was gay. Similarly, a court child welfare services coordinator in Georgia went to court after he allegedly was fired once his sexual orientation became known to his employer. These cases have been combined by the Supreme Court.

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A well-worn phrase opines that it is “not what you say but how you say it.” Believe it or not, your disability discrimination case may be somewhat like that. Sometimes, the key to success is not proving that you were harmed based upon a condition you had, but instead lies with connecting that condition (when it is not itself a recognized disability) with something else that is a recognized disability.

For example, obesity by itself isn’t a recognized disability in New Jersey. However, if you prove that your obesity is actually a symptom of some other physical health or mental health disability, then your disability discrimination case may go from hopeless to a potential success. In other words, there are often more options out there for you than you might have thought. Explore those options by contacting a knowledgeable New Jersey discrimination attorney about your situation right away.

The case of one New Jersey bus driver was an unfortunate example of the importance of this connection. C.D. had worked for the same employer as a bus driver from 2005 to 2015. During that time, he passed all his required physical exams and won several awards for his work. During that decade, the driver weighed between 500 and 600 pounds. In 2015, the employer’s physician did not give C.D. a “pass” on his physical exam. He remained out of work for 10 months before he filed a complaint against the employer.

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Starting or growing your family through a pregnancy should be an exciting and gratifying experience. The same should be true about pursuing your chosen career field, before, during and after your pregnancy. Too many times, that doesn’t happen. An employer’s concerns about the wrong things regarding a pregnant employee – from the well-meaning (Can she handle the physical strain? Will her job duties impact her pregnancy negatively?) to the not-so-well-meaning (How much leave time is she going to take? How much is this going to cost the company?) lead to wrong decisions that harm the employee.

If you believe your employer treated you improperly and did so because of your pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, you probably are angry, you may be scared, and you may feel uncertain about where to turn for answers. Start by reaching out to a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney with experience handling pregnancy discrimination cases.

B.M. was a woman facing this type of situation at work. When this blog last covered B.M.’s case in 2017, the EEOC had just filed a federal civil action in the District of New Jersey against B.M.’s employer. This March, the EEOC announced that it and the employer had worked out a settlement, which included a cash payment to B.M. for the harm she suffered.

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One of the more quickly evolving issues of law and society is marijuana. Marijuana, just a few decades ago, was something seen as only a harmful recreational drug and people associated its users with the stereotype of the lazy “stoner.” Today, it has begun being embraced for multiple therapeutic uses. In New Jersey, marijuana is legal if you’re using it for a medical purpose. So, what should you do if your employer punishes, or fires, you for using medical marijuana that your doctor prescribed for you?

The use of medical marijuana is not explicitly protected by the Law Against Discrimination. Does that mean that, if your employer took an adverse action against you that you can’t possibly have a case for employment discrimination? As one recent case ruling from the Appellate Division highlights, the answer to that is, “No, it doesn’t.” In other words, don’t give up; instead, consult a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney to find out how you may be able to recover compensation.

That recent case involved J.W., a funeral director at a North Jersey funeral home. J.W. used marijuana as part of his cancer treatment and held a license to use under New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Act.

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If your supervisor at work demands that you give him sexual favors or else lose your job, and you report that harassment to your employer and your employer does nothing to the offender, then you may know that you can go to court against both your employer and the supervisor. But, what if the harasser is someone who isn’t employed by your employer? Does that difference mean that you have no case? The answer is no, it does not mean that. Depending on the facts of your case, you may still have options. One option to which you definitely should avail yourself is reaching out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney about your situation.

A recent federal case from neighboring Pennsylvania (Hewitt v. BS Transportation of Illinois, Civ. No. 18-712) tackled this issue of harassment by non-employees. C.H., the allegedly victimized employee, worked as a freight driver for a transportation company. The alleged problems started in 2014, beginning with sexual advances by an employee of a client. Allegedly, the harassment included both sexual comments and gestures and eventually escalated to becoming physical, with the harasser grabbing the driver “by the buttocks with one hand and shoving” him against a freight car.

According to the driver’s lawsuit, he reported the assault. Allegedly, C.H.’s own supervisor told that the matter would be handled, but no action was ever taken against the harasser.

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The situation of pregnant women or new mothers suffering discrimination at work as a result of their pregnancies is, unfortunately, an all-too-common scenario, both inside and outside New Jersey. An employer decides that an employee’s pregnancy has rendered her insufficiently productive when it comes to growing the employer’s bottom line, and so it seeks out an excuse to fire her.

Fortunately, both federal and New Jersey laws prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions against pregnant (or new mother) employees because of their pregnancies or conditions related to their pregnancies. This can include a wide array of things, and the possibility of discrimination doesn’t end with the birth of the baby. An employer can be liable for pregnancy discrimination if it engages in illegal discrimination against an employee based upon her status as a breastfeeding mother, as an example. If you think you’ve been harmed in this kind of way at your job, fight back by reaching out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney about your case.

Once you’ve decided to pursue your pregnancy discrimination case, the timing of events, and proof of that timing, can go a long way toward making your case and entitling you to a positive outcome. The case of a woman named K.J., reported by Business Insider, was an example. K.J. had started in the Monroe Township office of her employer, an insurer, in 2006 as a field service coordinator. In 2008, the employer promoted her to an operations manager position. In 2012, K.J. was promoted again, rising to become Regional Executive Director, according to the report.

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