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The Importance of Clearing the Summary Judgment Hurdle as You Pursue Your New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Case

In some ways, you can think of your discrimination or harassment lawsuit like a hurdles race in track and field. Your desired goal lies at the finish line, but you must successfully clear each of the numerous hurdles that stand between you and the finish line if you are to arrive at the finish line with the result you want. In your lawsuit, one of the most important hurdles is the “motion for summary judgment.” It is a hurdle you must clear to get to trial and getting past this hurdle may open several new doors for you. As you seek to defeat your employer’s motion for summary judgment, be sure you are armed with legal representation from a skilled and experienced New Jersey employment attorney.

A.F. was a worker involved in one of those kinds of cases. She was a 62-year-old woman working as the director of security for a casino. After more than three decades at the casino, the director began reporting to a new supervisor. That supervisor allegedly indicated to A.F. that he desired to “weed out” all of the “fat and old female security officers.” The supervisor indicated his preference to “get back to youth[ful] enforcement people” and to “get rid of these girls.”

Eventually, the supervisor began making A.F. meet with him more often, moved her office to the operations floor of the casino and moved the director’s assigned parking spot (which she’d maintained for 20 years) to a different lot several blocks away. Additionally, the supervisor allegedly “berated” women in front of A.F. “constantly,” took away her ability to hire workers and threatened to eliminate the director’s assistant’s job.

At first, you might notice what was not alleged in A.F.’s case. The director did not allege that she was demoted, that the supervisor called her misogynistic slurs or other common hallmarks of a hostile work environment. However, as A.F.’s case demonstrates, you do not always have to have those sorts of forms of proof in order to have a case strong enough to get you your day in court.

What is required to beat your employer’s motion for summary judgment

The law says that, in order for your employer to receive a summary judgment and get your hostile work environment case thrown out before trial, there must be no dispute of fact that is even possibly valid. That wasn’t true in A.F.’s case. The employee had evidence that, in just over one month’s time, her “ability to hire staffing was removed from her, her long term parking spot was changed to an area that was less secure, she now was more regularly supervised—even though she had no disciplinary history— and older and heavier women were to be weeded-out.” That, according to the Appellate Division court, was enough that a reasonable jury could possibly find that it qualified as an alteration of the “conditions of employment,” meaning that A.F. had a potential case of hostile work environment.

This hurdle of summary judgment is particularly important for many reasons. For those workers focused solely on getting their day in court, getting over this hurdle is a must as there is no trial if the employer successfully obtains summary judgment in its favor. For workers considering the possibility of settlement, an employer’s settlement offers will probably become much fairer and more reasonable after losing its motion for summary judgment as opposed to before that happens.

Whether you are contemplating whether to sue, how to defend against your employer’s summary judgment motion, whether to settle, or how best to proceed at trial, you need serious legal skill and experience on your side. For that kind of effective representation, rely on the New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys offer many years of experience in successfully litigating age discrimination and hostile work environment cases. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we may be of service to you.

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