The New Jersey discrimination attorneys at Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, P.C., stand ready to protect the rights of people who have been victims of illegal discriminatory practices by their employer, their government or private businesses. There are many illegal discriminatory practices that can occur in New Jersey. Consequently, these practices can cause job disruption and monetary and emotional damages. Fortunately for the victims of discrimination, there are several laws available to protect your rights.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Lawyers
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq., commonly referred to as the “LAD”) is one of the strongest anti-discriminatory laws in the country. First passed in 1945, the legislature has repeatedly amended it over the years to prohibit additional discriminatory practices.
The LAD prohibits discrimination in the workplace, whether government or private. This includes the prohibition of sexual harassment or discrimination. Moreover, employers cannot retaliate against employees who claim discrimination or assist in the investigation of a discrimination or harassment claim.
Private businesses cannot discriminate against protected classes of people. This part of the LAD prohibits discrimination by any business that is open to the general public (“place of public accommodation”). Therefore, restaurants, malls, retail stores, summer camps, schools, police departments etc., cannot discriminate against persons in protected classes.
Furthermore, the LAD applies to labor unions and employment agencies. Likewise, the LAD prohibits brokers selling or renting real estate and banks and other financial institutions that issue credit/loans from discriminating against protected classes.
The LAD forbids employers from discriminating against employees who are members of a protected class:
The LAD strictly prohibits discriminatory practices based on race. In addition, discrimination based on a person’s color, national origin or ancestry is forbidden.
Employers cannot discriminate against a person because of his or her religious beliefs or practices.
The LAD also bans discrimination because of age.
Marital Status Discrimination
Employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee (or prospective employee) because of the employee’s marital status.
Employers and businesses cannot discriminate against people based on his or her gender identity or expression.
Familial Status Discrimination
A person’s familial status (natural parent, adoptive parent, adopted child, etc.) cannot be used for discriminatory purposes.
Military Service Discrimination
The LAD protects persons who have potential military service obligations from discrimination because of those obligations.
Pregnant women are a protected class under the LAD. This includes women who may suffer complications from their pregnancy.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation is prohibited by the LAD.
The LAD protects persons who are mentally or physically disabled from discrimination.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED IN THE WORKPLACE
New Jersey Workplace Retaliation Lawyers
The LAD protects workers from retaliatory actions by their employers. For instance, an employer cannot retaliate or take “adverse action” against an employee who makes a complaint about a discriminatory practice at work. In addition, retaliation against an employee who is cooperating in the investigation of workplace discrimination or harassment is prohibited.
Certainly, the LAD prevents an employer from firing an employee for making a discriminatory complaint. But employers can take adverse actions against employees, short of firing, that could trigger LAD liability.
Those actions include:
- Denial of a promotion or raise;
- Demotion to a lower-level position;
- Cut in pay;
- Undesirable assignments;
- Repeated warnings of supposed poor job performance;
- Relocation to a less desirable work location; and
- Reducing work hours.
Some of these actions, standing alone and viewed individually, may not result in LAD liability against an employer. However, if a court decides there is a pattern of adverse actions against an employee, the court may find that the employer violated the LAD.
There is a two-year statute of limitations regarding claims filed under the LAD. A lawsuit alleging violations of the LAD must be filed within two years of the illegal conduct or adverse actions taken against the employee.
New Jersey Sexual Harassment Attorneys
The LAD also prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Any employee subjected to unwanted sexual advances, comments or other conduct may be a victim of sexual harassment.
If an employee assists in the investigation of a sexual harassment claim made by another employee and that employee suffers retaliation liability under the LAD could attach to the employer.
Sexual harassment under the LAD also occurs when an employee refuses a sexual advance by a superior and, as a result, the terms and conditions of her employment change for the worse. For instance, a supervisor or manager could proposition or make unwelcome sexual advances to a lower-level employee. The supervisor could promise the employee a raise, promotion or better working hours in return for sexual favors.
Conversely, that supervisor could make those unwelcome sexual advances, but the employee refuses the advances. As a result, the supervisor demotes the employee, passes the employee over for a raise or otherwise adversely affects the employee’s employment.
In either scenario, the supervisor violated the LAD by unlawfully sexually harassing the employee.
New Jersey Hostile Work Environment Attorneys
Unwelcome comments or conduct towards an employee because of the employee’s protected class (age, sex, gender identity, disability, etc.) can make up a hostile work environment under the LAD.
The LAD requires employers to maintain safe workplaces for their employees. If the employer was aware of the harassment or other wrongful conduct and did not remedy that conduct, the employer can be held liable for LAD violations.
Moreover, employers should have policies in place to deter harassment or other conduct that create a hostile work environment. This includes having a designated person or department (such as a Human Resources Department) to investigate any harassment complaints.
Of course, not every incident or conduct complained of by employees creates a hostile workplace under the LAD. Rather, the complaining employee would have to show that the harassment occurred because he was in a protected class. Additionally, the harassment has to be “severe and pervasive enough” so that a reasonable person in the same protected class would believe the conduct amounted to severe harassment.
Finally, the victim would have to show that the terms and conditions of his employment had changed, and the work environment became hostile.
Law Against Discrimination Statute of Limitations
There is a two-year statute of limitations for LAD claims (with one exception). The means that people who are victims of unlawful discrimination have to sue within two years of the discriminatory act.
The exception is claims for unequal pay. For those claims, there is a six-year statute of limitation.
New Jersey Discrimination Lawyers
There are additional laws protecting employees, the disabled, parents, and others from illegal retaliatory and discriminatory practices:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (federal);
- Family and Medical Leave Act (federal);
- Americans with Disabilities Act (federal);
- Fair Pay Act (federal);
- New Jersey Equal Pay Act;
- New Jersey Family Leave Act;
- New Jersey Civil Rights Act; and
- New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
There are many types of workplace discrimination, harassment and other illegal conduct that affect employees, parents, the disabled, and others. However, what amounts to actionable harassment, a hostile workplace or illegal retaliation in New Jersey may require a lengthy investigation. This would include interviewing witnesses, examining payroll and personnel records, reviewing internal memos and emails, etc.
Therefore, if you feel you have been illegally discriminated against or harassed because of your sex, age, race or disability, contact the experienced New Jersey discrimination attorneys at Schiller, Pittenger & Galvin, P.C., in their Scotch Plains office at 908-490-0444. 0r you can contact us here. We will fight to protect your rights and get you all the remedies permitted by the law.