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What You Need to Overcome a Defense Motion for Summary Judgment in Your New Jersey Discrimination Case

An ancient Chinese proverb says that a “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This wisdom recognizes that, to accomplish any undertaking, you must first take that initial step (and, implicitly, keep taking each step and clearing each hurdle one at a time) until you reach your destination. Your discrimination or harassment case can be a lot like that. It may seem massive, overwhelming and intimidating at first but, with the aid of a skilled New Jersey employment attorney, you can clear all the hurdles and achieve a positive result… one step at a time.

One of the most important steps in any discrimination case is clearing the hurdle presented by the defense’s motion for summary judgment. If you don’t clear this hurdle, then your case is thrown out without a trial and you recover nothing. Additionally, for workers who are open to settlement, it is often the case that employers’ settlement offers will become much larger and fairer after they’ve lost their motions for summary judgment as compared to before that outcome.

Defeating a defense motion for summary judgment does not require providing the court with as much proof as you’d need to win at trial. For example, look at the recently decided case of N.H., a New Jersey college professor.

N.H. was hired to be a visual performing and media arts professor and also the chair of her department. However, in 2013, after a run-in with a dean about whether or not to discipline one of N.H.’s subordinates, the professor allegedly began experiencing discrimination and harassment at the hands of that dean. It escalated to the point that N.H. was removed from her position as department chair in December 2014.

After that, she sued for gender discrimination and harassment under the Law Against Discrimination. The college fought back by filing a motion of summary judgment.

It’s very important to understand what is happening at this phase of your case and what significance it holds for you. In a summary judgment situation, the defense’s argument is that, no matter what facts you might prove at trial, there is no scenario in which you could possibly be entitled under the law to a judgment in your favor.

In N.H.’s case, she alleged that the dean who supervised her would set up meetings with her and then no-show, would tell her about other meetings at the last moment in order to minimize her ability to prepare for those meetings, would set and then  change his expectations, had stopped communicating with her, had ignored reports from her, had taken control of theater productions from her and gave her a poor performance evaluation in 2014.

That may not sound like a lot but, under the law, it’s enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment and to allow a plaintiff like this professor to continue pursuing a Law Against Discrimination case. While none of what N.H. offered was direct proof of gender discrimination or harassment, it did represent a potentially viable case that the dean “bullied, humiliated and demoralized” the professor because of her gender, which could lead to a judgment for the plaintiff.

What this professor had was not a metaphorical “smoking gun.” What she did have, though, was enough to keep moving forward toward the possibility of a successful judgment or settlement.

When you’ve suffered sex/gender discrimination and/or harassment at work, obtaining compensation will be a journey of many steps. The first step is to reach out and obtain skilled legal counsel. Look to the knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates and our many years of experience in successfully representing workers to provide you with the effective advocacy you deserve. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we can put the power of this office to work for you.

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