Phillips & Associates
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worker with wheelchairIf you have a disability, you obviously face certain unique challenges in your life. Being allowed a fair chance to do a job for which you are qualified should not be one of them. The law says that employers may not discriminate against workers with disabilities, and part of that requirement means the employer must, in most situations, provide an employee with the reasonable accommodations she needs in order to do her job, as long as those accommodations do not place an undue burden on the employer’s business (and most do not). If you’ve been harmed at work because your employer rejected the reasonable accommodation that you requested, you may have a case and may have a right to compensation for disability discrimination. Talk to an experienced New Jersey disability discrimination attorney to learn more about what your next steps should be.

Both federal law and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination are very clear about certain things. One of these is that, if you have a disability, the employer is required to give you a reasonable accommodation of your disability, unless it can prove to a court that the accommodation is unduly burdensome. In other words, it is mandatory, and the employer generally cannot deny you an accommodation unless it meets the high hurdle of proving an undue burden. The employer is not obligated to give you exactly the accommodation that you sought; instead, your employer must engage in a good-faith “interactive process” to arrive at an appropriate accommodation. (If the employer fails to engage in the interactive process, or fails to do so in good faith, that in itself can be a basis for a disability discrimination case.)

Many accommodations sought by employers are genuinely modest and reasonable, and clearly fall short of constituting an undue burden on an employer. An employee with inflammatory bowel disease might ask her employer for an accommodation in the form of extra bathroom breaks or a work station close to the bathroom. An employee who requires the use of a wheelchair might ask for an adjusted desk in his work space to better reach the desktop. An employee with depression might need an extended period of leave to seek treatment.

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Rite AidIn discrimination cases, you can attempt to prove the existence of discrimination by showing that your employer’s practices and policies disproportionately harmed people of a protected class, which is called “disparate impact.” Alternatively, you can show that the employer treated you, a member of a protected class, less favorably than a comparable co-worker who was not a member of a protected class, which is “disparate treatment.” Each of these techniques requires presenting certain types of evidence to the court. To ensure that your discrimination case is as persuasive as possible, make sure that you have retained a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney to represent you.

One example of a disparate treatment case was a lawsuit filed by an employee named Harold. Harold was a store manager at a pharmacy. At some point while on the job, Harold suspected a photo technician’s daughter of shoplifting. Harold did not report the shoplifting to his supervisors at first. Only when the daughter stole a customer’s wallet did Harold take action, contacting police. This was a failure to follow the company’s “loss prevention” policies. Allegedly due to Harold’s failure to follow those policies, the employer terminated Harold’s employment.

The manager sued his employer for discrimination. According to his claim, the failure to follow the policy was only a pretext for the real reasons he lost his job. Harold, a 61-year-old gay man, asserted that age and sexual orientation discrimination were the real motivators for his firing.

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wheelchairThe law in New Jersey gives people with disabilities certain rights and protections. One area in which these rights and protections apply is in the area of employment. As a New Jersey worker or candidate for employment, you have the right to be judged on your individual merits, rather than based upon your disabilities. If you believe that your employer (or potential employer) has taken an adverse employment action against you because of your disability, you may be entitled to sue and to receive compensation. Your skilled New Jersey disability discrimination attorney can advise you regarding the legal consequences of your employer’s actions and the options available to you.

One thing that is worth keeping in mind is that not all disability discrimination laws are created equal. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination offers a very strong and wide-ranging protection for workers with disabilities, including defining “disability” considerably more broadly than the federal law does. In this state, a physical “disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement” qualifies. So does a mental, psychological, or developmental issue if it prevents the “normal exercise of any bodily or mental function or…can be shown to exist though accepted clinical or laboratory tests.”

Furthermore, you do not even have to have a disability at all, even under the broad definition established by New Jersey law, to be entitled to pursue a case of disability discrimination in this state. New Jersey law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or prospective workers if that discrimination happened because the employer mistakenly thought you were disabled (even if you weren’t). You can also bring a disability action if the discrimination was a result of a disability you had in the past, or might have in the future (or that the employer thinks you had in the past / might have in the future – even if that belief is wrong).

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pregnant womanYou have experienced one of life’s greatest joys – you found you are pregnant. You are looking forward to tackling the challenges of pregnancy as you continue to handle the challenges of your job. To make it happen, though, you need your employer to partner with you by providing you with certain reasonable accommodations. What, you may wonder, are your employer’s obligations under New Jersey law? Furthermore, you may wonder, what are my rights if my employer does nothing to accommodate my pregnancy? If you find yourself denied an accommodation in this position, you may be entitled to compensation through Law Against Discrimination litigation. Talk to a skilled New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney about your situation to find out what the legal system can do for you.

Pregnant workers in New Jersey, especially when it comes to their getting reasonable accommodations, have received a substantial boost in recent years. In January 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed into law the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act. The 2014 law explicitly included pregnant workers as one of the protected groups when it comes to workplace discrimination.

The law went further, though. It said that if you, as a pregnant worker, ask your employer for an accommodation based upon the advice of your doctor, your employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation unless the employer can demonstrate accommodating you would create an “undue hardship” for its business.

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pregnant womanUnfortunately, pregnancy discrimination still goes on in this country, including in workplaces in New Jersey. Some varieties of pregnancy discrimination can be somewhat more obvious, like firing a woman because she’s pregnant or refusing to hire a candidate due to her pregnancy. Others, like demanding that a current employee take a leave of absence from work, due to her pregnancy, before she’s ready may be less so. However, in all three of these examples, the employer’s conduct may amount to impermissible pregnancy discrimination in New Jersey. If you think that your employer treated you unfairly as a result of your being pregnant, you may have a case and may be entitled to compensation. You should act without delay and reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney about your situation.

The most fundamental thing to remember when it comes to pregnancy discrimination is that pregnant workers are entitled to the same treatment from their employers as non-pregnant workers are. Just as an employer is not entitled to demand that a worker take leave solely because that worker has a medical condition, an employer similarly cannot force an employee to begin taking leave strictly because she has notified the employer that she is pregnant.

New Jersey law says that a pregnant worker, just like any other worker, is entitled to remain on the job and reject a request that she take leave, as long as she remains capable of performing the essential functions of her job. That, in turn, means that the point in the pregnancy at which the employer can demand that the employee stop working and start using her leave will vary depending on the specific facts of that pregnancy and that job.

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policeThe recent news from a small Union County borough was genuinely shocking. Several employees of the borough’s police brought a Law Against Discrimination action against the borough, asserting that several fellow employees, including the chief, had engaged in numerous actions that created a hostile work environment. The array of allegations ranged from absurd to dangerous to repugnant. If proven, the allegations would almost certainly amount to a hostile work environment. The allegations are a reminder that a hostile work environment can happen in a variety of settings, and, if it has happened to you, you should reach out to a skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorney about your situation.

The complaint, filed on May 11 and reported by nj.com a week later, put forward some serious allegations. According to the plaintiffs, the misdeeds included the extensive use of a blue sex toy in various jokes (and associated homophobic comments), the department’s top detective’s penchant for removing all of his clothes and trying to surprise co-workers in the locker room while he was naked, and a grotesque practice involving one officer’s genitals, the food or drink of unsuspecting co-workers, and photographic images of the combination. Furthermore, there was an allegation of an employee asking to sniff a female employee’s chair.

Then there were homophobic, sexist, and racist jokes, according to the complaint. In addition, the plaintiffs had photographic proof of the detective’s use of the sex toy and video of one male employee being harassed with the same toy.

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doctorFor the vast majority of workers in New Jersey, the law with regard to paid sick leave is about to change. On May 2, 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that will take effect on Oct. 29, 2018 and require almost all Garden State employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to their workers. The law makes New Jersey the 10th state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to have a paid sick leave law on the books. The Governor’s Office declared the law to be “one of the most expansive paid sick leave programs in the nation.” As with any employment right guaranteed by New Jersey law, it may sometimes be necessary to go to court to protect and enforce those rights. Whether it is paid sick leave, overtime, minimum wage, discrimination, or sexual harassment, if you think you have been harmed on the job by illegal conduct, contact a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney about your situations and the options available to you.

The new law will allow workers to accumulate one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, up to a maximum of 40 hours. Most employers already offered paid sick leave to their workers, but one-third of the state’s workforce (approximately 1.2 million people) didn’t have access to paid sick leave, according to nj.com.

The new law will allow workers to use their paid sick leave for a variety of purposes. Seeking a diagnosis, care, treatment of, or recovery from your own mental illness or physical condition is obviously included. So is preventative care. You can also use your leave for the diagnosis, treatment, recovery, or preventative care of a loved one. If you or a family member has been a victim of domestic violence or sexual violence, the process of seeking services related to that violence is something for which you can use your paid sick leave. A “public health emergency” also qualifies. Thus, if, for example, officials close your office or your child’s school due to a flu outbreak, you can use your leave for this. “A school-related meeting or event with regard to” your child is also on the list.

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taxTax laws can be complicated in some areas. There may be various reasons why you owe taxes on a particular sum, even though that might seem counter-intuitive or just plain wrong. For example, what about attorneys’ fees and court costs in a successful workplace discrimination lawsuit? Currently, you could owe taxes on sums even though that money went to someone else. However, if a group of New Jersey legislators are successful, that will change. Senate Bill 784 would change the tax laws and end the double-taxation of attorneys’ fees in your employment discrimination case. Whether or not this new bill becomes law, you should not let the tax laws discourage you from seeking to protect your rights if you’ve suffered from discrimination at work. Contact a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss which options are available to you.

Imagine it:  you were harmed professionally due to workplace discrimination. You retained skilled counsel to represent you. You sued in court under the Law Against Discrimination, and you won. The trial court awarded you compensation for your damages. Your attorney, having represented you diligently and successfully, was owed for the work he or she provided, and you happily paid. However, when tax time comes around, you discover that you owe taxes for an amount that never went to you but instead went to your attorney. (FYI, not only did you pay taxes on that amount, but your attorney did as well.)

SB 784, sponsored by three Republicans and one Democrat, would change that. The federal government has already taken action to fix this problem in federal litigation. In 2004, President Bush signed into law the Civil Rights Tax Relief Act, a bill that gave litigants a tax deduction that wiped out the tax obligations they previously owed. Under the modified federal law, attorneys’ fees in cases like employment discrimination actions are subject only to single taxation, which is paid by the attorney who actually received that money.

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cell phoneOutside New Jersey, entertainment giant ESPN made headlines recently when one of its former employees filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer. The woman asserted, as the basis for her sexual harassment claim, that one of the network’s well-known on-air male personalities sent her sexually harassing texts, including an unsolicited one in which the man was shirtless, according to the Chicago Tribune. Inside the state, recent New Jersey sexual harassment actions have included allegations of texts requesting oral sex and attaching pictures of the sender’s uncovered genitals. With all of this sexting in the news, it is important as an employee to know:  when does sexting become workplace sexual harassment? The answer often depends on the exact facts of your case. If you think you have been sexually harassed at work through texts, emails, or other electronic correspondence, you should reach out to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney promptly.

The most recent news was the sizable settlement in a state government worker’s sexual harassment case against a supervisory employee, according to an nj.com report. Latrece was an employee for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. She was presumably focused on the division’s mission of ensuring “the safety, permanency, and well-being of children.” The manager of the Paterson office, however, was apparently focused on something else, according to Latrece’s lawsuit. In addition to various other sexually harassing actions (that included lifting her clothes, grabbing her breasts, and exposing his genitals), the manager texted lewd messages to Latrece, according to the woman’s complaint. The manager also allegedly sent the employee images of his naked genitals via text message.

The state settled the case, agreeing to pay Latrece $350,000.

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emailThe New Jersey Law Against Discrimination provides protection to many types of New Jersey workers. Most people know that you can sue for discrimination based upon race or gender. However, what discrimination based upon being a divorcee? Or being a recovering drug addict? A recent case involving a semi-famous investment broker offered some useful knowledge in this area of less-well-known protected classes, as well as situations in which you can take your claim to court even if your employer put an arbitration agreement in place. Both of these issues come back to one fundamental lesson: if you believe you were the victim of improper discrimination at work, contact a knowledgeable New Jersey discrimination attorney right away. Even if you are not sure if you have a case, your attorney can give you beneficial information and also potentially provide advantageous strategies for your case.

The employee in the recent discrimination case, Craig, had been many things in his life. In his younger years, he was a somewhat notorious event crasher, having “crashed” the Grammy awards, the opening night of The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and backstage at the Live Aid benefit concert in Philadelphia. Craig was a successful broker, having amassed a decades-long Wall Street career. Craig was also a recovered addict. Having achieved a degree of notoriety for his crashing adventures, Craig decided to publish his biography in 2017.

Before the book was released, the broker, who was a manager at his employer’s Red Bank office, presented the memoir to the investment bank. Even though the broker’s intoxicated exploits happened in the 1980s and he entered recovery in 1990 (16 years before he started working for the employer,) the employer responded very negatively to the book. The employer allegedly demanded changes to the manuscript and also made threats to the broker’s employment. Just a few months later, the employer fired the broker.

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