Articles Posted in Discrimination

In a recent opinion, a federal judge ruled that nine retired Jersey City Police Sergeants who prevailed in their employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuits should have their economic damages awards increased to offset the negative tax consequences of receiving a lump sum payment rather than receiving higher salaries and pensions over time.

Discrimination Lawsuit Against Jersey CityThe opinion stems from two lawsuits that were consolidated for purposes of trial.  Between the two cases, nine retired Police Sergeants sued Jersey City, its former Mayor, Jerramiah Healy, and its former Police Chief, Robert Troy, for failing to make any promotions to Lieutenant from a 2003-2006 promotional list.  They alleged Jersey City’s decision to do so constituted discrimination based on political affiliation and expression discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment, and was retaliation because one of the Sergeants, Valerie Montone, objected about gender discrimination, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

The case went to trial and the jury found that Jersey City had discriminated and retaliated against all nine of the plaintiffs.  It awarded economic damages totaling more than $2.2 million, or an average of more than $240,000 per person.

In a recent opinion, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an employer’s failure to promote an employee was not legally actionable discrimination where the employer promoted the same individual to the same job approximately one month later.

Evon Grossberg worked for the Hudson County Department of Social Services as a Human Resources Specialist.  Ms. Grossberg is African American.  In July 2013, she applied for a promotion to the position of Training Technician.  At the time, Ms. Grossberg was 58 years old.

Employee passed up for promition brings discrimination claimIn early August 2013, Hudson County promoted another employee who was in her low to mid-twenties and Egyptian, rather than African American, to the position of Training Technician.  When Ms. Grossberg asked her supervisor why she had not received the promotion, her supervisor told her to speak to her union representative. Ms. Grossberg then filed a complaint with her union representative.  She also submitted an online intake form to the United States Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) as part of the process to file a Charge of Discrimination.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) prohibits discrimination in the workplace.  But does it protect employees who work for New Jersey companies remotely, such as telecommuters?  A recent ruling by New Jersey’s Appellate Division makes it clear that an employee does not have to physically live or work in New Jersey to be protected by the LAD.

Susan Trevejo worked for Legal Cost Control (“LCC”) for 12 years.  After LCC fired her, Ms. Trevejo sued for age discrimination in violation of the LAD.  LCC is a New Jersey company which has its headquarters in Haddonfield, New Jersey.  However, Ms. Trevejo is a resident of Massachusetts who has never lived in New Jersey or worked in LCC’s office in New Jersey aside from a few meetings she attended earlier in her tenure with the company. Rather, she worked remotely from her home.

Early into the case, LCC filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the LAD does not apply to Ms. Trevejo because she is not an “inhabitant” of New Jersey.  The trial court denied LCC’s motion, and instead permitted the parties to engage in some limited discovery (the process of exchanging information in a lawsuit) about Ms. Trevejo’s right to bring a claim under the LAD.

Governor Murphy signed into law on April 24, 2018 a law known as the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act.  It amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) to expand and strengthen the rights of employees to be paid equally for their work without regard to their gender, pregnancy, race, age, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, marital status, civil union and domestic partnership status, and sexual orientation—which are known as protected classes.  As a result, New Jersey may have the strongest state law in the country which prohibits discrimination in pay.

New Jersey passes strong equal pay lawThe new law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2018, makes it unlawful for an employer to pay an employee lower compensation than it pays employees for substantially similar work because of the employee’s membership in a protected class.  The judgment whether work is substantial similar is based on looking at the skill, effort and responsibility which the jobs involve.  The comparison of wage rates will be based on rates in all of the employer’s operations and facilities.

Employers are prohibited from correcting unequal compensation by reducing the pay rate of any employee. Instead, the employer must increase the pay of the lower paid employee to the level of the higher paid employees who performs substantially similar work.

US Supreme Court rules in employment law caseLast week, the United States Supreme Court issued an interesting ruling in an employment law case that impacts the statute of limitations.

By way of background, when a case is filed in (or removed to) federal court based on the fact that the plaintiff has asserted a federal claim, the plaintiff can bring related state law claims in the same case.  For example, if an employee brings a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), a federal anti-discrimination law, he also can assert related claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).  This is called “supplemental jurisdiction.”

Under the Supplemental Jurisdiction Statute, if you bring state law claims in federal court, and all of your federal claims are dismissed, then the Court has the option to let you continue to pursue your state law claims in federal court.  However, if the federal court chooses not to hear your state law claims, then you have the right to re-file your state law claims in state court.

Mothers can breastfeed at work in New JerseyLast week, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) was expanded to prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of breastfeeding and to require employers to provide certain reasonable accommodations for nursing.

The LAD is New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law.  It prohibits discrimination and harassment based on age, color, disability, gender (sex), marital status, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran or military status.

On January 8, 2018, Governor Christie signed into law an amendment to the LAD to include breastfeeding as a new legally-protected category.  As a result, now employers, unions, landlords, real estate agents, banks, and places of public accommodations, among others, cannot discriminate against women because they are breastfeeding.

On August 8, 2017, Governor Chris Christie signed into law an amendment to the New Jersey law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) that provides additional protection to members of the United States military.  The amendment went into effect immediately.

New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Protects Members of US MilitaryPrior to the amendment, the LAD included “liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States” as a legally protected category, but only in the context of employment and entering into contracts.  The LAD defines “liability for service in the Armed Forces” to mean being subject to being: (1) ordered into “active service in the Armed Forces of the United States by reason of membership in the National Guard, naval militia or a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States,” or (2) “inducted into such armed forces through a system of national selective service.”

Among other changes, under the new amendment the LAD now prohibits discrimination to this category of members of the Armed Services in the context of housing, making loans and providing access to places of public accommodation.  Places of public accommodations are places that are generally accessible to members of the public such as restaurants, hotels, stores, parks, hospitals, theaters, colleges and universities.

On August 3, 2017, New Jersey’s Appellate Division reversed a trial court’s opinion that had dismissed an employee’s pregnancy discrimination case, finding enough evidence from which a jury could conclude that the company’s claim it fired her for insubordination was a pretext for (excuse to cover up) discrimination.

Employee wins appeal in pregnancy discrimination caseSandra Roopchand worked as a medical technician for Complete Care, a medical office, from January 2013 through July 2014. The business was run by two brothers-in-law, Richard Schaller, M.D. and Robert Fallon, D.C.  Ms. Roopchand’s job duties included patient care, administrative responsibilities and cleaning and restocking the exam rooms. Up until the day she was fired, Complete Care had never disciplined Ms. Roopchand or criticized her about her job performance.

In early July 2014, Ms. Roopchand learned she was pregnant.  Since she suffers from hypothyroidism, her pregnancy was considered high-risk.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently recognized that a supervisor’s single use of a racial epithet can be enough, on its own, to create a hostile work environment under federal law.  This is consistent with longstanding president under both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the New York State Human Rights Law.

Racial Harassment Based on Single Discriminatory RemarkThe case was brought by Atron Castleberry and John Brown, both of whom worked as laborers for Chesapeake Energy Corporation through a staffing-placement agency, STI Group.  Mr. Castleberry and Mr. Brown are African American.

Mr. Castleberry and Mr. Brown allege they were exposed to racist behavior at their job.  For example, they claim that someone wrote “don’t be black on the right of way” on the sign-in sheet several different times. They also indicate that, despite having more experience working on pipelines, Chesapeake did not permit them to work on pipelines other than to clean them.

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Supreme Court clarified how to determine whether an employer fired an employee because of a disability in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

Nurse wins appeal in disability discrimination caseMaryanne Grande, RN, worked for Saint Clare’s Health System for approximately 10 years.  During that time she suffered four separate work-related injuries that required her to take significant time off and led to additional periods during which she only could work light duty.

In February 2010, while moving an obese patient from a stretcher to a bed, Ms. Grande had to grab the patient to prevent him from falling.  She injured her cervical spine and needed surgery which required over four months of recovery and rehabilitation.  When she finally returned to work she had to work light duty for several weeks.

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