As an employee, you have rights to a safe, respectful, and hostile-free workplace. In spite of those rights, though, sometimes employees are treated unfairly and in ways that make it difficult for them to return to work every day. In some cases, the treatment can be so bad that you contemplate quitting your job.
New Jersey has laws that aim to protect workers against the discriminatory actions of their supervisors and employers. If you suffer an adverse employment action – whether you get fired, overlooked for a promotion, or have to deal with a hostile working environment – due to discrimination or as retaliation because you reported discriminatory conduct, you may be able to file a discrimination lawsuit. Employment attorneys at Kim & Feliz, LLC are experienced and ready to fight on your behalf to ensure your rights are upheld.
Are You the Victim of Workplace Discrimination?
In the workplace, discrimination can materialize in a variety of forms. However, it always revolves around one thing: Unfair treatment of a protected class of disenfranchised or vulnerable people. This unfair treatment may include adverse employment actions, such as:
- Termination. One of the most obvious types of discrimination in the employment context is when you are fired or terminated from your position because of your status in a protected class.
- Demotion. Just because you are not fired does not mean you were not discriminated against: a demotion can also be the grounds for a discrimination claim.
- Failure to hire. Even if you never worked for the employer, they can still be held liable for discrimination if shown that it refuses to hire members of a particular protected class with which you belong.
- Underpayment. If you are paid less than your peers who work in similar positions with similar duties and qualifications, your employer could be discriminating against you.
- Harassment. While not every isolated phrase or joke constitutes harassment or a hostile working environment, if your employer does not rein in offensive, indecent, and bigoted conduct by your coworkers – or if supervisors partake – it can rise to a level of discrimination.
- Accommodation denials. If you have a disability – whether temporary or permanent – that can be reasonably accommodated at work, refusing to supply that accommodation can also be discriminatory.
Importantly, these are not the only kinds of discrimination that you can suffer. Any conduct that negatively weighs on your employment can, if severe enough, can rise to the level of actionable discrimination.
Types of Discrimination?
The people who can suffer discrimination in the workplace are known as protected classes. Employees must not be subjected to adverse employment actions because of their membership in a protected class, such as race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, pregnancy, or disabled persons.
A common protected class in the employment context is based on a worker's race. Cases alleging racial discrimination in the workplace succeed under the federal Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
Importantly, minorities are not the only protected class in racial discrimination cases. Companies that only hire, for example, people from only a certain ethnic group/country can be guilty of racial discrimination for failing to hire anyone else.
Age discrimination is disproportionately common in the workplace, as many companies strive to create a younger workforce. Refusing to hire people over a certain age or forcing them to quit by harassing or demoting them because of their age, can trigger the protections of Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), or LAD.
Gender discrimination is defined as treating a person unfavorably because of his or her sex. An example of this is the “gender wage gap,” which shows that women are still being paid less to do the same job as men. Gender discrimination is a serious issue that can impede a person's career advancement and opportunities.
Pregnancy discrimination can take many forms and can often hide as an otherwise legitimate reason for discrimination. You have rights under both federal and state law to be protected against pregnancy discrimination.
There are countless medical conditions that can produce disabilities, large and small, temporary and permanent. If you can still perform your job and the only accommodation you need is a reasonable one from your employer, then your boss should provide one. If your boss fails to do so, it could amount to discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII, or LAD.
How to File an Employment Discrimination Claim
The process for pursuing an employment discrimination claim depends on the law that you are looking to enforce. Some laws, like Title VII, which generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, local governments, and educational institutions require you to pursue and exhaust an administrative remedy through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) first. The state anti-discrimination statute, LAD, does not necessarily require this initial administrative step. Whether to seek an administrative resolution – either through the EEOC or its state equivalent, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) – is something that you and your attorney should discuss, as there are pros and cons to each course of action.
Taking prompt action, however, is crucial: DCR complaints have to be lodged within 180 days while EEOC filings must be made within 300 days of the alleged discrimination.
These agencies will aim to resolve the issue outside of the courtroom, through mediation, if necessary. However, if negotiations break down and a settlement cannot be reached, you may receive a Right to Sue Letter, which gives you permission to take your case to court. If the discrimination is especially apparent or far-reaching, though, the EEOC might take your case to court for you.
Employment Discrimination Attorneys in New Jersey
Filing a claim of discrimination to protect your rights in the workplace is complicated, and suing your employer can be awkward. The employment discrimination lawyers at Kim & Feliz, LLC know and understand the nuances of this complicated field of law as well as how to navigate the murky waters between the courtroom and the administrative agencies that resolve many of these important disputes.
Just because employment discrimination cases can be tricky, though, does not mean they are not worth pursuing. Standing up for your rights in the workplace and fighting against discrimination sends a signal to others in your predicament. Contact us today if you believe that your employment rights have been violated.