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When the Discrimination You’ve Suffered Requires You to Go Through an Administrative Hearing and a Trial in New Jersey

If you’ve been the victim of discrimination in New Jersey, there may be certain circumstances where you have to argue your case before multiple bodies. For example, some situations may lead to your arguing in an administrative hearing and then later at a civil trial.

If your discrimination case is one of these procedurally complex matters, it is especially important that you have representation from a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination attorney. Your knowledgeable attorney can help, not only in putting together the factual evidence and legal arguments you need, but also in navigating all of the extra procedural hurdles that may exist in your pursuit of the compensation you need.

J.D.R. was one of those employees facing that kind of challenging case. He was a Hispanic male who worked as a housekeeping supervisor at one of the state’s centers for people with developmental disabilities. During his time working at the center, the supervisor had several absences. Even with his attendance history, the employee received a positive performance evaluation in 2015.

However, J.D.R.’s workplace allegedly was a hostile work environment. He told the center’s CEO that a “group of employees continue to attack me, and I feel it is racially motivated.” The supervisor also allegedly suffered multiple instances of retaliation for complaining about the discrimination he endured. That discrimination included both racial discrimination and disability discrimination based upon the supervisor’s depression and anxiety disorders.

Eventually, the employer terminated the employee, allegedly for the supervisor’s “excessive absenteeism.” This led J.D.R. to sue.

In his lawsuit, the supervisor intended to bring evidence to challenge the employer’s claims about how many days he missed as well as how the employer applied its attendance policy to him. The employer argued that the supervisor could not pursue these areas at trial because those issues had already been covered in a previous administrative action. The employer’s argument was that the legal rules known as preclusion applied. (Claim preclusion says you cannot bring a claim if you brought it, or could have brought it, in the previous action, while issue preclusion says that any issue that was brought, or could have been brought before, is barred.)

The Appellate Division court gave the supervisor an important victory by ruling for the employee. The key reason that the supervisor’s arguments were not precluded (a/k/a prohibited) was that the rules of preclusion say that the issues must have been identical in order for prohibition of an argument to apply, and J.D.R. had evidence that the items were not identical across the hearing and the civil trial.

The issues weren’t identical, so the arguments weren’t prohibited

Specifically, the administrative hearing did not include any arguments about whether the employer “had a duty to reasonably accommodate plaintiff’s disability under the [Law Against Discrimination] by modifying his work schedule, arranging for a transfer, or allowing a leave of absence,” which the supervisor’s lawsuit did.

J.D.R.’s union rep also didn’t argue at the hearing that the supervisor’s termination was based on discrimination or retaliation. These were all things that the supervisor sought to litigate in his discrimination case. Because the disputed items weren’t actually litigated in the previous administrative action, the legal rules regarding preclusion didn’t prohibit J.D.R. from using them in his lawsuit.

The hurdles that you must clear in your disability discrimination case may come in the form of factual challenges, procedural challenges or challenges related to the law. Whatever your hurdles, rely on the skilled New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates to get you where you need to be. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how our experienced attorneys can help you.

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