Articles Tagged with New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”)

As a New Jersey employment lawyer, I have had numerous clients tell me their employer has asked or required them to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination.  However, anti-discrimination laws limit when an employer has the right to send an employee to a medical exam.

Protection Under Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) both prohibit employers from sending employees for a fitness-for-duty exam unless the exam is “job-related” and “consistent with business necessity.”

A recent case recognizes that an employer’s decision to remove an employee from her job and give her an opportunity to search for another position within the company is an adverse employment action.  In other words, if it is done for a discriminatory reason, doing so can violate the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

Kathleen Fowler, who has epilepsy and is a cancer survivor, worked for AT&T for 30 years and is over 60 years old.  In December 2015, AT&T announced a plan to reduce the Technology Planning and Engineering business unit for which Ms. Fowler worked by eliminating numerous positions.  AT&T placed the employees impacted by this reduction in force on “surplus status,” meaning they were given the choice to accept a severance package and leave the company, or remain employed for 60 days to search for another job within AT&T.  If an employee on surplus status was not offered another position within those 60 days, then she would receive the severance benefits.

Employee's discrimination claim derailed despite suffering adverse employment actionMs. Fowler elected to go onto surplus status.  During that period, she was offered two positions, one in New Jersey and the other in Texas.  Even though she was better qualified for the position in Texas, Ms. Fowler accepted the job as a senior system engineer because it was in New Jersey and she did not want to interrupt her cancer treatment.

In a recent employment law case, New Jersey’s Appellate Division ruled that an employer had waived its right to compel arbitration by waiting 10 months before it sought to do so.

Tevin Welcome worked as a van driver for Huffmaster, Inc.  Before Huffmaster hired him, Mr. Welcome completed an online application.  The application included an arbitration provision, which indicated that if he accepted a job with the company, then he would have to resolve any dispute with the company, including claims of discrimination or retaliation, through arbitration instead of in court.

Van driver fired after objecting to violations of COVID-19 mask mandateWhen Huffmaster hired Mr. Welcome, he moved from Texas to New Jersey for the job.  However, he quickly discovered that few of his coworkers and the clients who rode in the van he drove complied with New Jersey’s COVID-19 mask mandate.  Mr. Welcome was particularly concerned that he could get COVID and give it to his six-year-old son who has health problems.

Discriminator hiring decisionThe New Jersey Supreme Court recently recognized that an employer can be held liable for discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) based on an employment decision that was influenced by a subordinate’s discriminatory animus, whether or not the subordinate intended to get the employee fired.

Michele Meade was the Township Manager for Livingston Township.  She was involved in disciplining Police Chief Craig Handschuch and Police Sergeant Kenneth Hanna for their failure to alert the Livingston Community Center about training exercises being conducted in the Center’s parking lot by the Emergency Services Unit (“ESU”).  As a result, when someone spotted a man wearing camouflage and carrying a rifle bag in the parking lot, the Community Center locked down three preschool classes, and the Police Department dispatched two detectives to the scene.

Following the incident, Sergeant Hanna filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Meade, claiming she violated the law by using “unreasonably loud and offensive coarse or abusive language” when she publicly addressed him about the incident, including by asking him “what kind of f—ing operation are you running here?”  Sgt. Hanna filed a second criminal complaint in which he alleged Ms. Meade had “purposely com[e] into physical contact with officers and civilians in an attempt to obstruct and stop an authorized ESU training exercise.”  Ms. Meade eventually was acquitted of both charges.

sexual harassment violates New Jersey lawA recent decision by New Jersey’s Appellate Division makes it clear that a court must have clear proof an employee agreed to arbitration before an employer can force an employee to arbitrate her case.

Nikki Cordero applied for a job with Fitness International, LLC, also known as LA Fitness International.  A few days later, LA Fitness interviewed Ms. Cordero and offered her the position.

On Ms. Cordero’s first day of work, the Gym’s General Manager, Ryan Farley, had her electronically sign a series of documents that he said she needed to sign before she could start her training.  According to Ms. Cordero, she did so without seeing what she was signing.

Older-worker-forced-retirement-300x200

Older worked forced to retire

New Jersey has an extremely broad anti-discrimination law, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).  The LAD became even broader last Tuesday, October 5, 2021, when Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a new amendment that increases the statute’s protections against age discrimination by removing several loop holes and exceptions.

More specifically, the amendment makes four changes to the LAD:

Earlier this month, in Pritchett v. State, the New Jersey Supreme Court confirmed that the state of New Jersey and municipalities remain subject to punitive damages under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

Shelley Pritchett worked for the State of New Jersey as a Senior Corrections Officer at the Juvenile Justice Center (“JJC”).  In 2011, Officer Pritchett suffered back, knee and neck injuries when she broke up a fight between two inmates.  She went on a workers’ compensation leave as a result.  Her doctor subsequently diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis. As a result, she sought to extend her medical leave by approximately 4 ½ months.  However, the JJC denied her request, and instead offered to extend her leave by only about a month and told her that if she was not medically cleared to return to work by then she would have to resign.

Female Correction Officer Disability Discrimination AppealOfficer Pritchett was unable to return to work within the additional time JJC had granted.  However, she told the JJC she did not want to resign.  In response, JJC told her that if she did not resign by the end of the week, it would initiate disciplinary proceedings to fire her, and she would lose her pension.  In response, Officer Pritchett applied for a disability retirement.

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.

Yesterday, a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that two racially offensive slurs uttered by a supervisor can be enough to create a hostile work environment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”).

Armando Rios, Jr. is Hispanic.  He worked for Meda Pharmaceutical, Inc. as its Director of Brand Marketing.  His immediate supervisor, Tina Cheng-Avery, was Meda’s Senior Director of Commercial Operations.

Two Racial Slurs Enough to Create Hostile Work EnvironmentMr. Rios claims Ms. Cheng-Avery made two racial slurs toward him.  First, he claims that when he was discussing his plans to purchase a new house, Ms. Cheng-Avery said “it must be hard for a Spi*k to have to get FHA loans.”  Second, he claims that the following month, when he and Ms. Cheng-Avery were casting actresses for a television commercial for one of Meda’s products, Ms. Cheng-Avery said one of the actress auditioning “would work … if she didn’t look too Spi*ky.”  Ms. Cheng-Avery denies she made either of those comments.

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