Articles Posted in Discrimination

A recent decision from the District of New Jersey concludes that, when an employer claims it fired an employee as part of a corporate restructuring, but has no documents to prove there was a restructuring, can be enough to prove age discrimination in violation of New Jersey law.

Employee-fired-due-to-age-discrimination-300x200In 2014, Talbird Reeves Sams began working for Pinnacle Treatment Centers, Inc.  His job was to find new locations for new facilities, and to help Pinnacle open those facilities.

In 2016, Pinnacle’s Chief Development Officer, Robert O’Sullivan, told Mr. Sams that his position was being eliminated due to “corporate restructuring” and his employment was being terminated as a result.  At that time, Mr. Sams was 58 years old.

Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that an employee does not need to suffer an adverse employment action to win a claim based on the employer’s failure to accommodate her disability under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

Teacher denied reasonable accommoation for her disability.Mary Richter is a teacher for the Oakland Board of Education.  Ms. Richter has Type 1 diabetes.  She repeatedly asked the school principal to allow her to change her schedule so she could eat lunch earlier to help her manage her blood sugar levels.  However, the school did not accommodate her an accommodation for her diabetes.

Ms. Richter subsequently experienced a hypoglycemic event in a classroom.  As a result, she fainted, hit her head on a table, and sustained very serious permanent injuries, including:

Older employee fired due to his ageAn employee bringing an age discrimination claim does not need to state the age of the individuals who replaced him in the lawsuit.  Rather, at that early stage, it is sufficient to assert that his replacement was “significantly younger” than him.

That was the ruling of the Third Circuit Court of appeals earlier this year.  The Third Circuit is a court that handles appeals from the District of New Jersey.

The case was brought by Zeferino Martinez, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon.  Dr. Martinez’s former employer, UPMC Susquehanna, fired him in 2017.  At the time, Dr. Martinez was 70 years old.

Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court addressed the New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) for the first time.  The PWFA is an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) that prohibits pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnant worker experiences discrimination at jobKathleen Delanoy is a police officer.  She filed a lawsuit in which she alleged her employer, the Township of Ocean, discriminated against her because she was pregnant.  However, the trial court dismissed her case on a motion for summary judgment.

As discussed in my previous article, Appellate Court Recognizes Employers Must Accommodate Pregnancy, the Appellate Division subsequently reversed that ruling.  Ocean Township asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to review that decision.

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.