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What You Can Do in New Jersey if You, as a Woman, Were Fired for Speaking ‘Harshly’ at Work

Many industries, including the practice of law, have codes of “professional conduct” that outline the things practitioners should and shouldn’t do. When you take a principled stand at work, whether due to your professional, ethical obligations or your personal convictions, there could be a professional risk to you if that stand works against the financial interests of your employer. And, sometimes, that blowback from your employer can be worse if you are of the “wrong” gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. If that happens, you may have a potentially winning Law Against Discrimination case, so you should reach out to an experienced New Jersey workplace discrimination attorney right away.

L.P., who was recently successful in defeating a defense request for summary judgment, allegedly was one of those people. She had a job as a senior vice president and “general counsel” (which typically means the #1 in-house attorney) for an Atlantic City casino and resort. According to her lawsuit, the attorney, in the course of doing her job duties, came across some problematic paperwork. The casino’s audit committee allegedly had prepared a report that was to be submitted to the state’s Division for Gaming Enforcement that, the attorney believed, contained factual inaccuracies, according to a Courier-Post report.

Concerned about the potential ramifications of submitting a document with false information to the state regulatory body that governs casinos, the attorney contacted the casino’s CEO. The CEO suggested that the attorney write alternate language that would correct the factual errors, then present that language to the casino’s audit committee, according to the Courier-Post.

The attorney did as instructed and presented her recommended re-wording to the committee. The committee did not accept her recommendations.

Four days after that meeting with the committee, the attorney was unemployed. The casino allegedly told the attorney at the time of her termination that she should have spoken “less harshly” and in a “softer” manner when addressing the audit committee, which was 100% composed of male members, according to the report.

The attorney could have decided to “go along to get along” and let the casino file the allegedly inaccurate paperwork with the gaming authorities. That arguably would have helped the casino by possibly minimizing the chances of any extra regulatory scrutiny from the division. She didn’t… and she lost her job.

What’s more, she allegedly didn’t lose her job just because she stood up in opposition to the false documentation. According to the lawsuit, she lost her job because the way she went about standing up was inappropriate for a woman. The attorney’s lawsuit, in which she named the casino’s corporate owner, two of the audit committee members and others, alleged that the employer told her she should have spoken to the all-male audit committee “softer” and “less harshly.”

One might be hard-pressed to imagine a male senior executive-level employee being fired, or disciplined at all, because he spoke “loudly” or “harshly” in a business meeting, especially one covering the subject matter the attorney’s meeting with the committee covered. That comment, according to the attorney, reflected that the casino treated her in a way that was different than the way the employer would have treated her if she were a man.

With the Superior Court having recently rejected the defense motion for summary judgment in their favor, that means the attorney’s case will keep proceeding toward trial.

If you’ve been disciplined – or fired – from your job because you did not conform to some preconceived notion of gender-appropriate behavior, then you may have suffered illegal sex discrimination. Talk to the knowledgeable workplace discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to learn more about your case, what possible pathways forward exist for you and how we can help you get where you want to be. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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