When your workplace becomes hostile.
We have seen this scenario in all its variations. Perhaps you’ve been discriminated against due to your race, are being unfairly harassed by your boss or have been the victim of retaliation because you reported a safety violation (whistleblower). As a lay person, it can be difﬁcult to know whether what you’ve experienced is unlawful. Yet there are extensive laws that prohibit specific behaviors.
Here is a quick primer for your review.
The following situations are illegal for the workplace in the state of New Jersey, which means they can constitute grounds for a valid discrimination claim.
The law specifically prohibits stereotyping or unfair treatment of anyone because of age. These laws were put in place to protect older workers, yet age discrimination can occur against workers of any age. For example, with young workers, it could manifest as unequal pay for equal work when an employer attempts to pay you less for the same job because you’re young. Conversely, in the case of older workers, the issue
could be unfair hiring practices, promotions (or lack thereof) or termination because of your age. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your age, you may have a case.
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You cannot be discriminated against in the workplace because of your race. The law prohibits stereotyping or unfair treatment on this basis. It is unlawful to deny certain racial groups any rights or benefits or to give preferential treatment to anyone based on race.
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Similarly, you cannot be stereotyped or unfairly treated due to your gender; that is illegal. In the past, women were more likely to be victims of gender discrimination due to inequality in the workplace and beyond. However, men can also face gender discrimination where they work, and are protected equally under the law.
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Both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the federal law prohibit discrimination against employees due to disabilities. This is in effect whether you are applying for a job, trying to get hired, have been fired, or refused advancement, equitable compensation or job training. Further, the law applies to other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.
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Stereotyping or unfair treatment due to your religion is prohibited by the law. The freedom to practice your religion without being discriminated against is your right in the United States.
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Sexual Orientation Discrimination
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and federal law both prohibit stereotyping or unfair treatment in the workplace due to your sexual orientation.
If you believe you have been discriminated against or have been the victim of retaliation or harassment, we will consult with you on a no-obligation basis so you know whether you have grounds to make a claim. Our attorneys are experts in handling complicated employment law matters. As such, we have gone to trial and won many cases for clients like you.
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Harassment is unlawful conduct by an employer, manager or even co-worker wherein the behavior is aimed at you due to a discriminatory or retaliatory or motive. The guideline is that it must be serious enough and/or repeated often enough to create a difficult or “hostile” work environment.
In the state of New Jersey, there exists the Reasonable Person Standard, which states that whether harassment is bad enough to create a hostile work environment is judged by how a “reasonable person who has the same legally protected characteristic as the harassed employee” would evaluate the severity of the discrimination.
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Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal labor law in place to provide eligible employees the ability to tend to their own medical needs or that of a family member with a serious health condition. The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to twelve (12) work weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve (12) month period for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child; care of a spouse, son, daughter or parent with a serious health condition; or their own serious health condition which causes an inability to work.
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Generally there are three main areas for employment claims. These tend to be for a speciﬁc type of discrimination (of which there are many), harassment in the workplace or retaliation for something you said or did. These areas can also overlap, with one situation causing or impacting the other.
Tried-and-true experts in employment law.
Our attorneys are employment law specialists who have won cases that are among some of the state’s largest settlements. Our services include trial litigation, negotiation and arbitration, legal work on failure to accommodate people with disabilities, failure to accommodate people under the family and medical leave guidelines, violations of wages, breaches of contract and more. Whatever your occupation or profession, whether in the government sector or private industry, we are knowledgeable about the intricacies of employment law. We’ll guide you step-by-step through the legalities and to ﬁnd out what recourse is available.
Determining whether you have a valid claim.
It can seem like there’s a lot of gray area in determining the grounds for a discrimination claim. But there are well deﬁned laws enforced by the courts. Discrimination cases fall into subcategories on the basis of age, race, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation as well as other protected circumstances such as pregnancy, marital status, nationality or national origin, domestic partnership status or military status.
If you are being treated unfairly due to one of these factors or “legally protected characteristics,” we can have an expert discuss your experience and help you decide whether you have a claim.
We encourage you to document any speciﬁc incidents that you believe demonstrate evidence of your claim. Also, make sure you submit to both management and human resources (if your ﬁrm has a department) your complaint. It is important to create a paper trail, so that you have documentation or proof of what has happened.
Remember that negligent companies and insurance entities have expert attorneys of their own, trained to derail your complaint. They may deny, lessen or delay legitimate claims in the interests of the employer, hoping that you have not sought out representation by an attorney who specializes in employment law.
Where employment law works.
It’s essential to get up to speed regarding your rights. There are speciﬁc facts that must be established in employment law depending on what has been alleged. In the case of discrimination, for example, the evidence must show that the person being discriminated against has one of the legally protected characteristics and has been subjected to an adverse employment action or treatment such as being ﬁred, laid off, denied a particular assignment or demoted.
Conduct or speech that rise to the legal deﬁnition of being hostile are intimidating, offensive and/or abusive, going beyond simply being rude or unpleasant. When conduct is severe, unrelenting, recurring or pervasive – and interferes with your ability to perform your job – this may qualify as a claim.
You can’t be punished for doing the right thing.
Retaliation: Did you know? The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act makes it illegal for any employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting something he or she reasonably believed was improper, illegal, fraudulent or criminal, or because the employee refused to participate in an activity, policy or practice in violation of the law. In other words, as an employee you are within your rights to report a perceived violation and your employer may not give you negative consequences as a result. It’s that simple.