Articles Posted in Discrimination

Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) prohibits non-disparagement agreements that have the impact of preventing an employee from discussing the facts of their discrimination, harassment or retaliation claim.

Non-disparagement clauses are very common in settlement agreements in employment law cases.  Typically, they prevent the employee from saying anything negative about their former employer.

Court rules non-disparagement agreements violate New Jersey Law Against DiscriminationThe case interpreted a 2019 amendment to the LAD that was passed in response to the #MeToo movement.  Specifically, the legislature amended the LAD to deem that any provision in a settlement agreement that “has the purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment . . . shall be deemed against public policy and unenforceable.”

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that an employee who brings a lawsuit alleging she was transferred to another position for a discriminatory reason does not have to prove the transfer caused her significant harm.

Jatonya Clayborn Muldrow is a police sergeant in the St. Louis Police Department.  She served as a plainclothes officer in the Department’s specialized Intelligence Division. In that position, she investigated public corruption and human trafficking cases, oversaw the Gang Unit, and was the head of the Gun Crimes Unit.  As part of her position, she also was a Task Force Officer with the FBI, which gave her FBI credentials, an unmarked vehicle that she took home, and the right to conduct investigations outside of St. Louis.

Female police officer can proceed with her claim that she was demoted due to her gender.After a new Intelligence Division commander took over the Division, he decided to transfer Sergeant Muldrow out of the unit so he could replace her with a male Sergeant who he considered a better fit for the unit’s “very dangerous” work. As a result, Sergeant Muldrow was reassigned to a uniformed position in its Fifth District.

Recently, the District of New Jersey dismissed an employee’s disability discrimination and failure to accommodate disability claims, but did not dismiss her related retaliation claim.

Female employee can proceed with retaliation claimAmber Ray worked as a Project Manager/Estimator for Elecnor Hawkeye, LLC.  Before she began working for Elecnor, Ms. Ray had been diagnosed with Lupus. However, sometime after Elecnor fired her, she learned she had been misdiagnosis and actually had Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a complex musculoskeletal condition, and several other auto-immune conditions.

On Friday, July 30, 2021, Ms. Ray sent a text message to her supervisor, Hal Meeler, informing him that she would be working from home that day.  In response, Mr. Meeler told Ms. Ray she was required to work in the office, and he would discuss the issue with her on Monday.

A recent decision from the New Jersey Appellate Division affirms a trial court’s order requiring Gerber Products Company to bring a witness from Switzerland to New Jersey, at Gerber’s expense, to testify at a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit.  A deposition is a formal interview under oath used to obtain testimony from witnesses in lawsuits.

Bayer ordered to pay to bring witness from Switzerland to testify in discrimination lawsuit.Denise Willson is a former Vice President of Medical Sales North America for Nestlé Infant Nutrition.  Ms. Willson sued Gerber Products Company, Nestlé Healthcare Nutrition, Inc., Nestlé Holdings, Inc., and Gerber’s President and CEO, William Partyka, alleging they discriminated against her because of her age and gender.  More specifically, she claims they fostered a “boys club” culture, paid her less than her younger male peers, denied her a promotion to the position of general manager, and ultimately fired her in retaliation for her complaints about the discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

As part of her lawsuit, Ms. Willson alleges she spoke to Mr. Partyka’s supervisor, Alexandre Costa, about the retaliatory termination, gender discrimination and Gerber’s failure to promote her.  When Ms. Willson’s lawyers sought to take Mr. Costa’s deposition, the defendants objected. They argued that Mr. Costa lives in Switzerland, claims his meeting with Ms. Wilsson was about sales rather than her allegations of discrimination and retaliation, denies he was involved in the decision to terminate her employment or has any other information pertinent to her case, and that requiring him to come to New Jersey for his deposition supposedly would “create a tremendous burden on [his] business.”  The defendants also argued that neither Mr. Costa nor his employer, Nestlé Enterprises S.A., is a party to the lawsuit.

Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), time off can be a reasonable accommodation for a disability as long as the time off sought is reasonable.  A recent decision from the District of  New Jersey provides a good example of how Courts analyze this issue at the early stage of a case, as well as a dispute about the employee’s ownership interest in the business.

Michaela Wark worked for J5 Consulting, LLC as a senior consultant in New Jersey.  In June 2020, Michael Johnson, who is the Chief Executive Officer and an owner of J5, told Ms. Wark that he was promoting her to a Partner of J5 and making her a 5% owner of the company.

Mr. Johnson provided Ms. Wark a letter confirming her promotion and 5% ownership, which states that she would lose her ownership rights if she was “fired for gross negligence or misconduct.” The letter also say Ms. Wark “must be employed by the company six months prior to sale for the rights of ownership to apply.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that religious institutions can fire an employee for failing to follow the tenets of their religions, such as a Catholic school firing an employee because she had premarital sex.

Catholic school sued for firing unmarried pregnant employeeVictoria Crisitello worked for the St. Theresa School as an art teacher and toddler room caregiver.  St. Theresa’s requires its employees, including Ms. Crisitello, to sign employment agreements that require them to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.  For example, they had to agree to follow the Policies on Professional and Ministerial Conduct adopted by the Archdiocese of Newark.

Among other things, those Policies forbid engaging in “[a]dultery, flagrant promiscuity or illicit co-habitation.”  Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church prohibits sex outside of marriage, which the Church considers to be a sin.

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy and Childbirth

On June 27, 2023, a new federal employment law, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, went into effect.  The Act prohibits employers from:

  • Pregnant woman needs a reasonable accommodation.Denying an employee a reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions unless the employer can show the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business;

Evangelical christian postal worker wins in Supreme CourtLast month, the United States Supreme Court made it easier for employees to prove a claim that their employer failed to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Gerald Groff worked for the United States Postal Service (“USPS”). Mr. Groff is an Evangelical Christian whose religious belief is that Sunday should be a day for worship and rest, rather than for work or transporting worldly goods.

Initially, Mr. Groff’s job as a Rural Carrier Associate generally did not require him to work on Sundays.  However, in 2013, after USPS entered into an agreement with Amazon, it began requiring employees to make Sunday deliveries. Accordingly, Mr. Groff requested a transfer to another location that did not make deliveries on Sundays.

A recent decision by the Appellate Division recognizes that, under the right circumstance, an employee can establish an employment discrimination claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) after her employer was acquired by another company, even though she did not apply for a job with the acquiring business.

Rosemary Beneduci worked as a bookkeeper for a law firm, Graham Curtin, P.A., for almost 30 years.  In 2017, when she was 66 years old, Ms. Beneduci took two medical leaves due to problems with her knees.

Bookkeeper not hired while on medical leave.In the meantime, Graham Curtin began the process of closing the firm. The firm’s managing partner, Peter Laughlin, eventually reached an agreement to merge with another law firm, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLC (“McElroy”).  McElroy agreed to make Mr. Laughlin a partner as part of the merger.

A new ruling from the Appellate Division addresses when an employer can be liable for unlawful harassment by one of its employees toward a customer or patron.

The case was brought by Darien Cooper, who is gay.  Mr. Cooper received a massage at Rogo Brothers, Inc., which does business under the name Elements Massage (“Elements”).  The masseuse, Justine Middleton, asked Mr. Cooper about a tattoo on his arm.  During their ensuing conversation, Ms. Middleton told Mr. Cooper that she is Christian.  When Mr. Cooper later referred to his boyfriend, Ms. Middleton made demeaning and discriminatory comments about homosexuality.  For example, she told Mr. Cooper that gays “do not follow God’s design,” compared being gay with pedophilia, and implied she believes being gay is a choice.  Mr. Cooper found these comments humiliating.

Mr. Cooper sued Elements, alleging it engaged in sexual orientation discrimination against him in a “place of public accommodation,” in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).  In addition to prohibiting workplace discrimination, the LAD also prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation, such as a “retail shop, store, establishment, or concession dealing with goods or services of any kind.”  As a result, places like Elements cannot discriminate against their customers based on their sexual orientation (or, for that matter, based on their race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or nationality).

Contact Information