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South Jersey Discrimination Lawyers

Discrimination in the Workplace

Despite the best efforts of legislators, discrimination in the workplace remains a pervasive problem in our society.  If you or a loved one has ever been discriminated against, you know all too well the sense of outrage, shame and sadness that can result.  When employment discrimination causes you to lose a job or miss out on a promotion; however, channel your hurt feelings into action. There are various state and federal laws that protect workers from a variety of discriminatory practices, as well as from various forms of discrimination. They include:

Age Discrimination:  With the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967 Congress made it illegal for companies with a workforce of 20 or more to discriminate against employees aged 40 and older.  Employers must give their over-40 employees, as well as all prospective workers, equal consideration when making decisions on hiring, firing, promotions, opportunities for advancement and pay under this federal statute.  The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) provides even broader coverage, with no age threshold that must be reached before a violation can be alleged.

In order to prevail on a claim of age discrimination, an employee should be able to establish several elements.  First and foremost, New Jersey age discrimination lawyers say that a victim must prove that they were the recipient of an adverse employment action.  Additionally, those alleging age discrimination in New Jersey must demonstrate differential, adverse treatment for older employees versus younger employees at their place of work.

Disability Discrimination: In New Jersey, pursuant to the LAD, employers are barred from withholding job opportunities from disabled individuals – or from withholding opportunities based upon a disability an employee might have had in the past, such as cancer that is now in remission.  New Jersey defines the term “disabled” broadly, with legally-recognized disabilities ranging from epilepsy to psychological conditions, and even certain hereditary blood traits.  No matter the disability, disabled employees in New Jersey have the right to be trained, promoted and receive all other work benefits as their non-disabled peers so long as their disability will not prevent them from performing the essential duties of the job.  An employer may also deny a position to a disabled person when allowing them to perform the duties of the job if it would put others at risk of suffering harm.

Disabled individuals receive added protection via the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Under that federal statute, disability discrimination occurs whenever an otherwise qualified individual is treated unfavorably because of their disability.  Additionally, the ADA says that disability discrimination can take place even when the employee or job applicant’s physical or mental impairment is temporary or minor.

Gender Discrimination: Despite great strides being made over the last several decades, sex discrimination is still pervasive in many workplaces. Various federal and state laws, including the NJLAD, prohibit employers from treating a current or prospective employee unfavorably on the basis of gender. Unfair treatment includes refusing to hire, denying promotions or other benefits, or paying one employee less because of their gender.

It is estimated that women earn roughly $0.80 to every $1 that men make for doing the same work. In 2018, the NJLAD was amended to include the Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act. The Act bans pay discrimination on the basis of an employee’s inclusion in any class protected by the NJLAD. The Act also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who file wage discrimination claims under the NJLAD or the Equal Pay Act. Employers who violate these rules may be subject to treble compensatory damages and in some cases, punitive damages.

National Origin Discrimination: Outlawed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers in companies with a workforce of 15 or more are forbidden from making any employment decision – firing or hiring, layoffs or recruitment – based upon the national origin of an employee or prospective employee.  The statute extends protection to workers who have been discriminated against based upon the national origin of their spouse, or discriminated against because of their association with a group, church, temple or mosque. Title VII additionally requires employers to take steps to ensure a respectful, harassment-free work environment for all employees, regardless of their national origin.

Pregnancy Discrimination: In an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, in 1978 Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which forbids employers from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical condition.  Pursuant to the law, a woman cannot be passed over for a promotion or new job because she is pregnant or intends to become pregnant, as long as her condition does not prevent her from performing the essential duties of her job.  Additionally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ensures equal opportunity for advancement, training, benefits and raises for pregnant employees.

In New Jersey, the LAD was amended in 2014 to specifically include pregnancy as a condition upon which employers may not discriminate.  The LAD further requires employers to offer pregnant employees certain accommodations when recommended by a physician, including increased opportunities for bathroom breaks, water breaks, assistance with manual labor, modified work schedules, transfers to less strenuous or dangerous work and periodic rest.  The LAD specifies; however, that accommodations need not be made when they create undue hardship for an employer.

Race Discrimination: Employers may not mistreat a job applicant or employee because of their race, nor because of the color of their skin pursuant to the Civil Rights Act.  Such mistreatment includes, but is not limited to, failure to promote, failure to hire, failure to fairly compensate or even the adoption of company-wide policies that adversely affect a segment of the workforce, solely because of their race.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, which enforces the state’s LAD, handles complaints of race discrimination as long as the complaint is made within 180-days of an alleged violation.  If the Division finds probable cause, a victim and his or her employer will proceed to conciliation.  When conciliation is unsuccessful, allegations of race discrimination are referred to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing.

Employers who are found to be in violation of the LAD can be penalized $10,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second offense and $50,000 for a third offense.  Additionally, an employer can be ordered to pay their victim back pay, damages and to reinstate the employee to their former position. When an allegation of race discrimination is made more than 180 days after the event, a victim has up to two years to file a lawsuit in court.

Religious Discrimination: The federal government has outlawed the practice of treating employees and prospective employees differently based upon their religion, their perceived religion, the religion of their spouse or their affiliation with a certain religious group or organization.  Additionally, the Civil Rights Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with regard to their religious beliefs or practices.  Employers are barred from imposing policies that negatively affect employees in light of their religion, such as a ban on religious head coverings or requiring women to wear pants when it is forbidden by their faith.  Exceptions to these rules can be made when an employer is able to demonstrate that honoring the accommodations or abandoning the allegedly discriminatory policy would present an undue hardship.

The LAD expands the federal ban on religious discrimination to include a requirement that employers accommodate the “sincerely held religious observance or practice” of their employees.  To that end, employers must offer members of their workforce time off to observe holy days such as the Sabbath.  As with federal law, New Jersey offers employers an exception if the accommodation would create an undue hardship but employers must first make a “bona fide effort” to honor the request.  Employers may also demand that employees taking time off for religious purposes make up that time at a later date, or the time off may be treated as leave without pay.

Protections for Transgender People: In a 2012 ruling, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – which is charged with enforcing federal employment discrimination laws – ruled that employers may not withhold jobs, raises or advancement opportunities within their company because an employee is transgender.  According to the decision in Macy v. Department of Justice (EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821 [April 20, 2012]), discriminating against an employee because they are transgender or because they do not identify as either gender constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  To that end, the EEOC investigates allegations of transgender discrimination, or discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender transition.

By a vote of 102 to eight in 2006, the New Jersey state legislature included “gender identity and expression” as a protected class under the LAD.  Pursuant to the amended LAD, employers face fines and even jail time by failing to notify transgender workers of their rights.  In addition, the LAD covers not only transgender New Jersey workers, but also transvestites and even employees who simply do not appear traditionally feminine or masculine.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination: Similar to the treatment of transgender individuals, sex discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act has been interpreted by courts and the EEOC to encompass discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  However, the Civil Rights Act at this time contains no express provision with regard to gay, lesbian and bisexual employee rights.

In New Jersey, the LAD forbids employers not only from discriminating against employees who have confirmed that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual, but also from discriminating against employees based upon their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  When making employment decisions, employers in New Jersey may not factor in an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.   Violators of the LAD’s sexual orientation and gender identity provision face stiff fines, and can be ordered to pay a victim damages and their attorney’s fees.

Cherry Hill Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates Represent Victims of Employee Discrimination

Employers can be held accountable under the law for instituting discriminatory policies and practices in the workplace.  If you or a loved one has been unlawfully terminated or otherwise discriminated against, South Jersey employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates can help.  Our firm represents workers just like you, and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.  Call 215-569-1999 today or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our Philadelphia or Pennsauken offices, where we represent clients throughout the Philadelphia and New Jersey regions including the South Jersey communities of Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Gloucester County and Salem County.

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