Today, in business news, one hears a lot about the “global economy.” That can mean a lot of things, from a remote employee who telecommutes halfway across the country to an on-site worker who is employed by a corporate conglomerate based several states away.
How and why does all that matter when you’re the victim of employment discrimination or workplace harassment? It matters because the laws in each state are different and some states, such as New Jersey, offer greater protection to workers than others do. This means that pursuing your case in New Jersey could very possibly be more beneficial than going to court elsewhere and could be the difference between success and defeat. To find out all about seeking compensation under the Law Against Discrimination, be sure you consult an experienced New Jersey employment attorney about your options.
The most recent example of this type of boundary-crossing employment law issue was the case of D.C. D.C. lived in Quincy, Illinois and worked for a Quincy-based company as a vice president of marketing. D.C. also allegedly was the victim of workplace association discrimination. His employer allegedly discriminated against him because of his wife’s disability. (The wife had terminal breast cancer.) That discrimination took the form, first, of a failure to promote and then, later, a wrongful termination, according to D.C.’s lawsuit.
Based on that information, you might think that the vice president’s only legal options would exist in Illinois. However, the evidence in his case was more complicated. D.C.’s employer was the subsidiary of an entity based in Teaneck and several of the vice president’s employment documents said clearly that New Jersey law would govern any disputes and that the employee accepted New Jersey courts as having jurisdiction and being the proper venue for litigation.
The benefits of going to court in New Jersey as opposed to elsewhere
Determining whether New Jersey law or Illinois law governed the case was very important for D.C. The Law Against Discrimination plainly prohibits disability discrimination and case decisions by the courts here have extended that protection to workers suffering discrimination because a close associate (such as a spouse) is disabled. Illinois does not similarly recognize association discrimination as a basis for an employment discrimination lawsuit.
The Appellate Division, in an important win for workers, ruled that the Law Against Discrimination was broad enough to protect even workers like D.C. Many times, employers have tried to use the inclusion of the word “inhabitants” in the Law Against Discrimination’s preamble to argue for a narrower reach of the statute. As the court explained, a thorough reading of the total Law Against Discrimination makes it clear that the law was not designed to protect only legal residents of New Jersey.
The courts have been very clear that, when a dispute over the reach of the law arises, the dispute should be resolved in favor of employees and of giving the law wide breadth. The Law Against Discrimination exists to advance the goal of wiping out all illegal discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and questions regarding the law’s reach should be decided based on which answer will best advance that goal. In this case, that meant allowing D.C.’s lawsuit to go forward, rather than be dismissed.
This worker’s case is yet another good reminder never to assume that you don’t have a case; it may turn out that the law is more helpful than you otherwise would have thought. Always, before just assuming, discuss your options with a knowledgeable attorney first. Reach out to the skilled New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can assist you.