Phillips & Associates
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Phillips & Associates
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When you’ve been harmed by workplace discrimination, it is important to act promptly. You only have a limited period of time to decide to pursue a Law Against Discrimination case and to get that complaint filed with the court. The law limits you to two years in which to file. File too late and your employer may be able to use that tardiness to get your case dismissed, which would mean that you would be forever barred from obtaining any recovery for those acts of discrimination.

Part of that prompt action is, with all due speed, consulting with, and retaining, experienced New Jersey discrimination counsel. As a layperson, you are doubtlessly very familiar with all of the rules and requirements of your profession, but it is reasonable to assume that you may not be as versed in the demands of the law. Going it alone can risk making procedural errors like filing too late, or not knowing how best to respond if your employer argues, incorrectly, that your filing came after the deadline.

As an example of a case that came down arguments about when the filing deadline passed, there’s the recently decided lawsuit filed a South Jersey woman. S. T.-B. was the executive director of a community college’s cultural and heritage commission. S. T.-B. was also a 67-year-old African-American woman with disabilities. On January 23, 2015, a vice president at the college notified the director that due to drop in enrollment and in funding, the school was making cost cutbacks, including eliminating the director’s job. The director would, however, continue to receive her regular salary until June 30, 2015.

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Many of us have been there. You’ve just accepted a new job and now you’re going through the “new hire” procedures. You are probably asked to fill out, review and sign many documents. You may also be required to complete certain computerized or online tasks as you get started. Most people probably think of these things as perfunctory and don’t pay exceptionally close attention to the details. But the details can matter a great deal, especially should you eventually find yourself having suffered discrimination or harassment on the job. If you are in that position of needing to pursue a discrimination or harassment case, be sure you have skilled New Jersey employment counsel on your side.

One specific area where these kinds of details matter relates to the arbitration agreement you may have signed with your new job. Take, as an example, the case of a West Trenton-based flight attendant, A.S. When the flight attendant began her employment with a major New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, she was required to complete something called a “training module.” That activity went over various employer policies, including the company’s mandatory arbitration agreement, which was laid out across a series of slides on a computer screen. One screen referred the employee to an internet link that provided the full text of the policy. A separate email provided a series of Frequently Asked Questions and answers to them (FAQs.)

One of the slides contained an interactive button that asked employees to “acknowledge” the policy. Even if the employee did not acknowledge the agreement, she would be “deemed” to have consented to it if she continued working for the employer for 60 or more days, another slide explained.

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You might think that a lawsuit related to the trade-in of a used car would have nothing to do with New Jersey discrimination law, but one recent case of that type offers some potentially useful information. There may be many different tools in the tool belt of a litigation attorney, and not all of them may come directly from court opinions in discrimination cases. The key is finding an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney who knows how to use all of those legal tools for maximum effect for you.

The plaintiff in the vehicle case was a man who had traded in his used vehicle and leased a new one. As part of the transaction, a $75 fee was added that allegedly was never disclosed. This led the man to sue for numerous consumer protection violations. The defendant in that case asked the court to compel arbitration. As part of the pile of paperwork that the consumer had signed during the trade-in process, he had executed an arbitration agreement. The consumer contended that the arbitration agreement was invalid.

The Appellate Division court sided with the consumer. The court explained that any arbitration agreement, like any contract, must be made up of terms that are clear and unambiguous. If an arbitration agreement contains ambiguity or is vague, then that may allow the party seeking to avoid arbitration to do so.

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In a perfect world, discrimination in the workplace would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, employment discrimination remains a reality for lots of people in New Jersey. What’s worse is the extensiveness to which certain groups face this kind of discrimination or harassment simply due to their chosen profession, such as women in STEM careers, where roughly half have experienced discrimination, according to a 2018 report from NBC News. Regrettably, women in STEM are not the only ones who face these sorts of improper hurdles every day on the job. Regardless of your profession, if you’ve been harmed by improper bias at work, contact a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney to discuss your legal options.

In addition to the example of women in STEM careers, another group in New Jersey that appears to be facing substantial problems in terms of employment bias are gay law enforcement officers. Recently, a North Jersey officer found it necessary to litigate based upon the anti-gay bias he was encountering at his job. The officer, J.T., alleged that he was “subject to discrimination and homophobic comments as a police officer in the borough,” according to a NorthJersey.com report.

Unfortunately, J.T. was not alone. In another nearby Bergen County borough, R.D. was allegedly fired in a case of anti-gay bias and retaliation. According to the officer, he objected to a borough councilman’s use of anti-gay slurs in relation to a school board member and, shortly after he complained, the borough trumped up charges against him and fired him, NorthJersey.com reported.

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There’s a lot that goes into producing a successful result in a New Jersey discrimination litigation matter. Certainly, there is the questioning of witnesses and the presentation of persuasive legal arguments at trial, but the work that goes on before your trial is just as important. One of the most important of those pre-trial steps is discovery, which involves obtaining documents and various information from the other side. Sometimes, effective pre-trial actions lay the groundwork for a favorable verdict, while other times, they can produce the possibility of reaching a beneficial settlement and avoiding trial altogether.

Obtaining the information you need in the discovery process involves more than just knowing how to make the right requests; it also involves knowing what to do when the other side rejects your valid request. As you take on this and other parts of your case, make certain you have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney handling your case from the very start.

A case from North Jersey, on which nj.com reported, was an example of the importance of pre-trial efforts. J.T. was a police officer. According to a Law Against Discrimination lawsuit he filed, the officer, who was gay, alleged that he had been the victim of sexual orientation discrimination at work. As a public employee, the officer had multiple options for seeking information that he thought might help his case. In addition to other steps, the officer could seek to lay hands on information using statutory means, such as making an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for disclosure, which is one thing that J.T. did.

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The high visibility of movements like #metoo has changed many things about workplaces when it comes to sexual harassment. Some employers are rightly taking long, hard looks at established practices and assessing whether or not they are healthy or harmful. That includes holiday parties. Some employers are changing the way they do their parties, while others are doing away with them entirely. While eliminating these parties completely may not be necessary, certain changes are potentially helpful in working to stave off the sexual harassment that was a staple at too many work-related holiday events. If you have suffered sexual harassment at a holiday party or anywhere else work-related, be sure to contact a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney about your situation.

CBS News reported that a survey conducted by an executive outplacement firm showed that fully 35% of businesses declined to hold holiday parties in 2018, the highest percentage since 2009, when the U.S. economy was still feeling the effects of the recession. Of the 65% holding parties, more half (58%) “reported addressing the #MeToo movement with their staff this year.”

Many companies holding parties are being proactive to minimize ingredients for harassment. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that some have eliminated alcohol from their seasonal events completely. One business, a California-based employment search website, took that action this year after problems last year. According to the report, the company’s 2017 party included not one but two drunken employees (one female and one male) who groped others at the party.

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When you watch television dramas that center on legal matters, much of the focus falls on the trial itself. Before you even get the opportunity to put on a winning case at trial, though, you have to have engaged in the proper preparatory steps that happen before a single opening statement is given. That includes many things, including conducting insightful, strategic and effective discovery. Doing discovery right is vital to get the information you need to put on that winning presentation in court. To get the best out of all of these steps in a discrimination case, it pays to have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney on your side every step of the way.

Successful discovery means, not only making the right requests, but knowing how to fight effectively when the other side tries to foil your requests for information to which you are entitled. As an example, consider a recent case of an African–American employee of the state’s Juvenile Justice Commission. L.R.’s lawsuit contended that he suffered multiple forms of discrimination that were connected to his race, including harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation for pursuing his rights under the Law Against Discrimination.

L.R. asked for all race-based Equal Employment Opportunity complaints filed by commission employees in the previous five-year period. That was likely a wise discovery request because, in any discrimination case, a very useful and effective type of proof can be evidence that the employer has engaged in similar discrimination in the past.

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There are certain situations where one may understand, just through common knowledge, that discrimination is illegal and can be the basis of a lawsuit. If you’re African-American and incur race-based bias, you can pursue a race discrimination lawsuit. If you’re of Mexican origin, your national origin can be the grounds for your discrimination lawsuit. However, what if you’re American and you suffered employment discrimination at hands of your non-American supervisors – can you undertake a national origin discrimination lawsuit? As one recent federal case highlights, the answer is, yes, you can. To understand more about the extent of your right to be free from national origin discrimination at work, whether under federal or New Jersey law, talk to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney about your situation.

In some ways, the facts of S.M.’s case follow a somewhat familiar pattern. The injured employee was a 44-year-old man hired as a director of facilities engineering for an internationally-based pharmaceutical firm’s Philadelphia-area office in 2001. By 2014, he had been promoted several times and had a new supervisor. His supervisor was a man of a different national origin than him.

The director’s 2014 annual review was the first time S.M. received a negative performance review. Every previous year, S.M. received only grades of “meets expectations” or “exceeds expectations” and received recommended salary increases and bonuses. In June 2015, a team from the company’s home country met with S.M. and his U.S.-based team. Multiple employees on S.M.’s team complained about the culturally-based hostile environment and inappropriate questions about age. S.M. lodged a complaint with human resources. On February 29, 2016, the employer fired S.M.

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It is said sometimes that the “devil is in the details.” Sometimes, though, those devilish details can be your friend in your employment law case. In one long-time employee’s lawsuit, the details of what was – and what was not – in a proposed release agreement proved to be potentially very helpful in her age discrimination case. The alleged flaws in that agreement allowed the worker to pursue, in addition to her Age Discrimination in Employment Act claim, a second claim for violating an addition federal statute. In sum, small details can make big differences, so you should be sure you have a skilled and knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney handling your case.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person has been with their current employer for between 4.5 and 5 years. K.F. was well ahead of that curve, having worked for her employer for more than 30 years when the employer let her go. According to the employer, it was eliminating K.F.’s position. At that point, it placed her on something called “surplus status,” which gave her 60 days to find a new job within the company. Two months later, the employer terminated K.F.’s employment.

The employer offered the worker severance, but only if she signed a release document that said that she forever released the employer from legal claims and waived any assertion of liability against the company. K.F., who was 60 years old, did not sign the agreement. Instead, she filed an age discrimination lawsuit. According to her complaint, the three-step process that included placing workers on surplus status and then terminating them was “infected with age bias.”

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Recent events in the news have triggered a great deal of re-examination when it comes to sexual harassment. One area where that is true is the use of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements against employees who have alleged being victims of sexual harassment. The state Senate recently contemplated, and passed, a bill that would greatly enhance the protection of harassed workers in this type of circumstance. While New Jersey has not yet banned the use of confidentiality agreements in the resolution of sexual harassment cases, you may have certain options available to you if you’ve signed an agreement in your case but desire not to remain silent. As always, be sure to retain an experienced New Jersey discrimination attorney to assess your options.

Recently these issues of sexual harassment and confidentiality were at the center of a lawsuit. A state government employee allegedly was sexually harassed by a supervisor. After the harassment took place, the employee complained. An investigation was launched but the employer’s investigator allegedly did not complete a full and proper investigation into the employee’s claims. (If true in this situation, this is something that, unfortunately, is an all-too-common occurrence.) What the employer did do, however, was to demand that the allegedly harassed employee sign a confidentiality document that prohibited her from discussion the allegations she had made.

Sometime later, the worker told her husband certain details of her case. After she did that, the employer allegedly constructively terminated her. As part of the case, the employee’s counsel took a very important step. The attorney filed a motion asking the judge to issue an order that would block the employer from enforcing any non-disclosure agreements that bar plaintiffs (or would-be plaintiffs) from divulging details of their cases publicly.

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