An Amazon employee recently filed a federal discrimination suit against the company, claiming that he was mistreated after telling a manager that he was pregnant. The plaintiff is a transgender man who alleged that he was harassed and demoted after informing the supervisor about the pregnancy last June. According to the lawsuit, once he shared the information, coworkers and management started treating him differently. The worker filed the suit last September in a New Jersey Superior Court, and it was then moved to a local U.S. District Court.
How Did the Company Harass the Employee?
According to the employee, his private information about the pregnancy was shared with company employees, and he was then sent home and put on paid leave by the company’s Human Resources (HR) department. He was then transferred to another facility and was allegedly demoted to the position of an item picker. This position involves heavy lifting, and he claimed that this led to him having abdominal pain. He stated that he gave his supervisor a physician’s note that limited him from lifting heavy items while pregnant, but he was told that he had to go on unpaid leave until the child was born.
The plaintiff also claimed that he had been offered a promotion before this all happened, but the offer was rescinded. The suit alleges that all of the harassment was from men. He hopes to get his job back and receive back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.
An Amazon spokesperson would not comment on the suit but released a statement saying that the company would not tolerate any kind of discrimination against anyone in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. The spokesperson stated that they are committed to having a safe, inclusive workplace that accommodated all employees, free of LGBT discrimination and other forms of discrimination.
What is the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination?
This case is noteworthy because the plaintiff allegedly encountered pregnancy discrimination and LGBT discrimination. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) explains that gender identity or expression is when an individual’s birth gender is not associated with a stereotypical gender-related identity. The NJLAD mandates that transgender employees are protected from discrimination, just like other categories, such as race, religion, age, disability, and pregnancy. A person who has had sex reassignment surgery is also protected under the NJLAD.
Even though these laws are in place, transgenders, pregnant employees, and countless others in these protected categories still face discrimination in the workplace. It is estimated that 15 to 43 percent of gay employees have faced workplace discrimination, and 90 percent of transgender employees report the same.
New Jersey Pregnancy Discrimination Laws
In 2014, a law was signed to prohibit workplace pregnancy discrimination. Employers are required to give pregnant workers reasonable accommodations. Pregnant workers are not required to state that they are undergoing undue hardships. This applies throughout the pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery, including any related medical conditions.
Under this law, companies must provide pregnant employees with modified or restructured work responsibilities and schedules upon request. Accommodations include help with manual labor, a temporary switch to less arduous work, periodic rest periods, and more breaks to use the bathroom, drink water, or eat. A pregnant employee may need to provide a doctor’s note as the accommodations have to be based on a physician’s advice. If the accommodations create undue hardships on business operations, the company may deny them.
How to Recognize Workplace Harassment
The transgender case describes how this employee was allegedly mistreated, but these are only a few examples of how workers can be discriminated against. It can happen even before someone is hired. Some businesses refuse to promote female employees, while others layoff older workers because they do not want to pay their salaries.
Retaliating against an employee who makes a claim about discrimination or sexual harassment is also illegal. Employers are not permitted to punish workers for speaking out, filing a discrimination charge or lawsuit, or taking part in any kind of workplace discrimination or harassment investigation. Discriminated workers who take part in any of these cannot be disciplined, demoted, harassed, or fired.
What Should I Do to Support My Claim?
The employee should gather some information to support their claim. Keeping a diary about the harassment and discrimination is a good idea. Every entry should have a date, time, and location of the events. Supporting evidence, like saved emails, texts, recorded phone calls, photographs, and correspondence, can be helpful. If there are witnesses who are willing to corroborate the information, they should be spoken to as well.
Once the harassed employee is ready to make their claim, they should be prepared to record everything that happens, including the date they contacted HR, any acts of retaliation, and other instances. It is a good idea to request company documentation of the reported incidents, plus an investigation. Employees also have the right to ask that corrective actions be taken against their harassers.
Some companies have anti-harassment policies in place, so the first step to do is to check the employee handbook. This may explain the policy along with the appropriate steps to take. In many cases, an employee will be directed to reach out to the HR department. Employers are responsible for following the laws, but they are not always proactive. The employee needs to make them aware of the situation, whether they have a policy or not. If there is no policy, the employee can speak to a supervisor who may be able to help.
What if My Employer Does Not Help?
It can be disheartening when an employer does not offer to help a harassed employee, but that does not mean that the worker has no recourse. The worker can contact the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the state equal employment agency. These government organizations are responsible for assisting employees, and if they become involved, they may reach out to the employer.
Working under these circumstances can be extraordinarily difficult, but the employee should try to keep working as long as they can. Quitting could make it difficult to have a successful lawsuit unless the employee can claim that they were forced to resign or that the working conditions were intolerable or unsafe. Copying or taking confidential company documents is also forbidden since it is grounds for termination. A company may try to fight a discrimination case in many ways, and an employee may need to seek legal guidance from a lawyer.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Fight for the Rights of Transgender Employees
Any form of discrimination is illegal in the workplace. If you believe you are being discriminated or harassed at work, one of our Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-1999 for a free consultation today. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel.