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Articles Posted in Discrimination

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause bars employees who work for religious institutions from bringing any employment discrimination claims against their employers if their jobs include performing “vital religious duties.”

Religious teachers not subject to anti-discrimination lawsThe decision stems from lawsuits filed by two elementary school teachers, Agnes Morrissey-Berru and Kristen Biel.  Ms. Morrissey-Berru worked for a Catholic school, Our Lady of Guadalupe School.  Ms. Biel worked for another Catholic school, the St. James School.  Although neither Ms. Morrissey-Berru nor Ms. Biel had the title of minister, they each taught all subjects, including religion, and were required to develop and promote the Catholic faith as part of their jobs.

Our Lady of Guadalupe reduced Ms. Morrissey-Berru from full-time to part-time, and subsequently decided not to renew her employment contract.  Ms. Morrissey-Berru filed a lawsuit in which she claimed the school did so because of her age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). The school claims it made those decisions because Ms. Morrissey-Berru had difficulty administering a new reading and writing program that it implemented.

A recent United States Supreme Court opinion, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, rightfully received a lot of attention because it recognizes that federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation.

Federal law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination Although New Jersey and New York law both expressly prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the primary federal anti-discrimination law, does not.  Bostock recognizes that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of gender discrimination, and thus violates Title VII.  That is a huge victory for gay and lesbian rights, since it extends the prohibition of sexual orientation discrimination to all 50 states.

While the holding of Bostock relates to sexual orientation discrimination, its reasoning makes it easier to prove all forms of unlawful discrimination.  Specifically, it explains that you can prove discrimination merely by showing you would not have been fired (or would not have experienced another adverse employment action, such as being demoted or not being hired) but-for your membership in a legally-protected category such as your gender, race, religion or national origin.

Unemployed due to CoronavirusOur New Jersey employment lawyers understand that times are extremely difficult for pretty much everyone right now.  But, fortunately, you still have significant rights in the workplace.

Being sheltered in place or quarantined and having to engage in social distancing have become the new normal.  The economy has taken an enormous hit, and things that used to be simple like buying groceries and finding supplies like toilet paper and paper towels suddenly have become challenging.

Your Employment Law Rights Are Not on Hold

Today, in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot discriminate against employees for using prescribed medical marijuana while off-duty.  Rather, doing so constitutes disability discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirms a March 17, 2019 Appellate Division opinion.  The Supreme Court’s opinion makes it clear that the Compassionate Use Act does not require employers to accommodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.  It also noted that the Compassionate Use Act does not permit anyone to operate or control any “vehicle, aircraft, railroad train, stationary heavy equipment or vessel while under the influence of marijuana.”  But the Supreme Court’s opinion holds that the LAD prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for using prescribed medical marijuana outside of work.

For more information about the case, please see my previous article:  New Jersey Employers Can’t Discriminate for Medical Marijuana Use Outside of Work.

The New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Last month, New Jersey’s Appellate Division analyzed the New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”).  The PWFA is an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) that prohibits pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Among other things, the PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to women who are pregnant.  For example, this can include providing bathroom breaks, rest breaks, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring, and temporary assignment to less strenuous or less hazardous work.  However, employers do not have to provide an accommodation if it would impose an undue hardship on it.

US Supreme Court Allows Title VII Discrimination Lawsuit to ProceedEarlier this month, the United States Supreme Court ruled that filing a Charge of Discrimination is not required for a court to have jurisdiction over a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil of Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.  It requires employees to file a Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), wait at least 180 days for the EEOC to investigate the claim, and then receive a “Right to Sue” letter before they can file a lawsuit.

Lois Davis worked for Fort Bend County, Texas.  She made an internal sexual harassment complaint to the County’s human resources department.  After Fort Bend subsequently reduced her job responsibilities, she filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC claiming she was the victim of retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment.

A recent decision by New Jersey’s Appellate Division recognizes that, under the doctrine of apparent authority, a company’s attorney can bind it to a settlement whether or not the employer actually authorized him to settle the case.

Employment Lawsuit Settles in CourtJesus Gonzalez filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, Electronic Integration Services, LLC, also known as Panurgy OEM.  More specifically, he claimed Panurgy fired him in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FLMA”) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”).

Shortly before a trial, Panurgy’s lawyer conveyed an offer to settle the case for $175,000.  Mr. Gonzalez accepted the offer, and the judge placed the terms of the settlement on the record.

A recent decision by New Jersey’s Appellate Division demonstrates that under the right circumstances an employee can prove disability discrimination from the fact that her employer fired her shortly after she had surgery.

Employee prvails in age and disability discrimination appealAda Caballero worked for Cablevision Systems Corporation for 15 years.  In 2013, she was divorced.  A few months after her divorce was finalized, Ms. Caballero submitted a copy of the divorce judgment to the company’s human resources department.  However, Cablevision did not remove her ex-husband from its health insurance plan.

On Ms. Caballero’s 2014 performance evaluation, Cablevision gave her a rating of “strong performance.”

A recent decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals helps clarify who is a “similarly situated” employee in discrimination cases under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).  This is important since one way to prove discrimination is by showing the employer treated other similarly situated employees more favorably than the employee who is claiming he or she was the victim of discrimination.

Age discrimination at work.Santos Andujar worked for General Nutrition Corporation (“GNC”) as a store manager for 13 years. After failing the company’s Critical Point Audits four years in a row, he received a failing score through the company’s Performance Evaluation Process (“PEP”).  On the day Mr. Andujar received his failing PEP score, GNC placed him on a “Red Store Action Plan” which gave him days to improve his job performance. Approximately one month later, the company fired him for failing to meet the Action Plan.  GNC replaced Mr. Andujar, who was 57 years old, with someone in his twenties.  Mr. Andujar then filed a lawsuit alleging that GNC had engaged in age discrimination in violation of the LAD.

The case went to trial.  GNC argued that it fired Mr. Andujar because of his poor performance and not because of his age.  However, Mr. Andujar presented evidence that five other store managers between 25 and 34 years old had failing PEP score, but GNC did not put any of them on an Action Plan, let alone fire them.

A recent decision by New Jersey’s Appellate Division recognizes that an employer can violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) if it discriminates against a disabled employee because he uses medically prescribed marijuana to treat a disability outside of the workplace.

Law Prohibits Discrimination for Medical Marijuana Use Outside of WorkJustin Wild worked as a licensed funeral director for Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc. (“Carriage”).  Mr. Wild has cancer.  Pursuant to New Jersey’s Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act, Mr. Wild has been prescribed marijuana to help with the associated pain.  The Compassionate Use Act decriminalizes the use of marijuana for certain medical reasons including pain relief for individuals with cancer.

In 2016, while working for Carriage, Mr. Wild was in a car accident and had to be taken to the emergency room.  He was prescribed pain medication and released from the hospital the same day.  At home, Mr. Wild took the pain medication and used medical marijuana.