Phillips & Associates
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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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When New Jersey first enacted its paid family leave program in 2009, it was the second state in the country to do so, following only California. As the program approached a decade in existence, problems remained. Some lawmakers believed that too many families were still unable to take needed family leave because they could not afford it, meaning that the program was failing to address the problem it was designed to alleviate.

To address that issue, New Jersey’s lawmakers have again taken action. nj.com reported that, back in mid-February, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law an important new bill regarding paid family leave in New Jersey. The new legislation now makes the state’s paid leave law one of the most generous in the country. The new law will be a very helpful one for many workers, allowing them to avoid a terrible situation in which they must choose between keeping their jobs and making ends meet or spending time caring for a new baby or ailing loved one. As always, if you are unsure about your rights or entitlement to benefits under New Jersey law, or believe that your employer has violated the law, reach out right away to retain the services of a knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorney.

The expansion created by the new law helps in two vital ways, as it extends the amount of time during which workers can be on paid leave and also increases the portion of their regular income that they receive. Under the new law, eligible caregivers or new parents may receive as much as 12 weeks of family leave benefits, an increase from six weeks under the old law. The old law said that an employee on family leave would receive 2/3 of his/her regular income; under the new law, it’s 80%. The original program capped the maximum weekly benefit at $650; under the expanded program, that figure will rise to $860, according to the nj.com report.

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Modern technology can be both a great help and a hindrance sometimes. One way in which it is potentially beneficial is by providing a means for recording things in a moment’s notice, which may be extremely helpful if a situation evolves into a lawsuit. In an auto accident, you may use your device to record the accident scene, which may help your personal injury attorney later. In an employment dispute, your smartphone may help you record conversations that will later be key proof that you were fired, not for some legitimate reason, but due to illegal discrimination. Whatever amount and type of evidence you may have recorded, a skilled New Jersey employment attorney can help you take the proof and use it to your maximum benefit.

An example of modern technology in action was the case of T.S., an activity aide at a nursing home in South Jersey. According to the Attorney General’s Division on Civil Rights, T.S.’s employment transpired like this: She started her activity aide job in July 2017. On her second day at work, the aide told her employer that she was pregnant. Her supervisor allegedly told her that day that “it would be a ‘liability’” for her to stay and that she should go home, nj.com reported.

According to T.S., she then contacted the employee who gave her hours for the first two days. That employee allegedly told her not to return to work and that she’d been terminated as a result of her pregnancy.

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One common form of socio-political discussion is to make reference to the current year as a precursor to asserting that we, as a society, should be past certain un-evolved behaviors. Regrettably, the news keeps reminding us that this, too often, isn’t true. One area where the news provided yet another stark reminder of that was the case of the highly offensive and discriminatory anti-LGBT conduct allegedly taking place at one New Jersey police department, as reported by nj.com and other sources.

There are many types of discrimination one can encounter at work. Unfortunately, being a member of certain groups and working in certain professions further increases that risk. Even though, here in 2019, we might like to believe that we’ve moved past that, the opposite is true too many times in too many places. If you’ve suffered as a result of this kind of discrimination or harassment at your job, be sure to fight back with strong representation from a skilled New Jersey discrimination attorney.

This blog has discussed previously the disappointing prevalence of anti-LGBT discrimination at New Jersey law enforcement agencies. A settlement reached recently by seven officers at one central New Jersey police department, and reported by nj.com, was just one of the latest examples.

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A civil litigation action can possibly take years to resolve. However, despite that potentially very elongated time period, the difference between success and defeat can be as narrow as just a few days–maybe even one day. Your Law Against Discrimination case needs knowledgeable New Jersey employment counsel who can provide you with the diligence and skill to help you navigate the legal system and avoid all the pitfalls that would otherwise be “show stoppers” in your pursuit of the compensation you deserve.

As an example of just how big a difference a few days can make, look at the case of J.M. J.M. was a sales manager for a major telecommunications company. In the fall of 2016, though, he sued the employer for its alleged violations of the Law Against Discrimination. As is true for quite a few employees, J.M. had signed an arbitration agreement as part of his employment with the telecommunications employer. The employer asked the trial judge to enter an order sending the case to arbitration. The trial judge sided with the employer and ordered arbitration.

When something like that happens, and you have decided that, in order best to advance your interests in your case, you definitely should avoid arbitration, then it is of the utmost importance to be sure you take action with appropriate speed. New Jersey’s court rules only give you a very limited number of days to ask the trial court to reconsider a ruling like an order compelling arbitration.

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If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or discrimination at work, you may be entitled to sue and receive compensation for the damages that you suffered. That you may have already known. You also have the right to settle your action out of court, in which you receive a payment from the other side in exchange for your dismissing your case. This, too, you may have already known. What you may not have known, however, is that New Jersey in on the cusp of changing the way that settlements in these situations are drawn up. Specifically, the state is close to enacting a law that would make any provisions in such agreements that require the harassed or discriminated employee to remain silent to be unenforceable.

As nj.com has reported in early February, the bill that would erect such a rule has passed both houses and needs only Governor Murphy’s signature. Back in 2017, the legislative body proposed similar legislation banning so-called “gag” or non-disclosure provisions in cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination. That bill did not become law.

The state senate tried again in 2018, proposing Senate Bill 121. Senate Bill 121’s enactment into law would mean that New Jersey workers would have one of the broadest umbrellas of protection against these sorts of non-disclosure agreements, protecting all workers asserting any kind of claim of discrimination, harassment or retaliation under the Law Against Discrimination.

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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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