When one hears the phrase “reverse discrimination,” it can be easy to fall into misconceptions regarding how anti-discrimination laws work. While these laws play an essential role in eliminating discrimination against traditionally marginalized and oppressed groups (such as Black people, women, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, etc.,) the intent and the goal of these laws in New Jersey goes further. The courts in this state have been clear that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination exists to eradicate the “cancer” of discrimination in all its forms when that discrimination occurs based on a protected characteristic. So, even if you were the target of discrimination because you were White, male, straight, an American citizen, etc., you have just as much protection under the law and, with the assistance of a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer, just as much opportunity to recover compensation for the harm you suffered.
The age and race discrimination case of two North Jersey school employees was a reminder of this truth for one Essex County school system. As nj.com reported, one of the educators, A.D., was a White woman in her 60s working at a Newark high school where the student population was 90% Black. The other educator, D.S., also was a White woman in her 60s and served as the chair of the math department at a high school where the student population was 78% Latino.
In 2013, when the educators were in their 50s, they applied for vice principal positions. Both were rejected. D.S., in fact, got transferred to a different school and demoted to lunch aide, according to the lawsuit. A.D. allegedly got reassigned, which carried with it a pay cut.
The candidates the district hired into those vice principal positions were people of color who were also younger, less experienced, and less qualified, according to the women’s complaint.
The jury in the case concluded that the school district discriminated against the women based on their race and their age and awarded more than $1.3 million in damages.
These women’s success is an example of several things worth keeping in mind. One, the sole fact that the jurors who will hear your discrimination case may look different from you is not, by itself, necessarily a reason to shy away from taking your case to trial. The eight-member jury who returned a judgment for these White educators included four Black people and one Latina woman… and just three White people.
Assessing the ‘Value’ of Your Employment Discrimination Case
Additionally, these Newark educators’ success is a reminder that, with a properly presented case, you can potentially recover substantial damages, even if others’ cases might have been worth less. In law school, students learn about the doctrine of the “eggshell plaintiff,” which teaches that people who engage in misconduct – be it negligence, recklessness, or a statutory violation – are responsible for the harm their misconduct caused to the actual victim, even if that victim suffered vastly more harm than most people would have incurred.
For example, in the Newark discrimination case, the math educator allegedly retired shortly after her demotion because that employment action caused her to suffer a nervous breakdown. When the district moved the other woman to a teaching position, that reassignment triggered a reduction in pay, which in turn meant she could no longer afford the mortgage on her home, which forced her to move to Florida, according to the complaint.
Obviously, the employment actions this school district took would not normally have such dire consequences in most instances. Most people wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown or be forced to relocate out of state, but that doesn’t matter. The women were entitled to recover compensation based on the harm the employment action actually caused to them, not what those actions would have inflicted on an average person. That meant that each woman was entitled to more than $600,000 in damages, with one receiving $608,000 in lost income compensation and the other receiving $417,000 in lost income damages plus another $200,000 for pain and suffering compensation.
Discrimination based on race is both illegal and it is wrong. That’s true whether you’re Black, White, or someone of mixed race. If you’ve suffered harm at work because of your race, you’re entitled to take action and seek compensation from those responsible. When it comes time to take that action, the knowledgeable New Jersey race discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to be your trusted advocate and advisor at every step along the way. To find out more, contact us online or at (833) 529-3476 to set up a free and confidential consultation today.