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North Jersey Employment Law Blog

Company policies matter in wrongful termination suits

New Jersey is an at will employment state, which typically means that an employee can be fired at any time, for any reason that is not illegal. Therefore, most wrongful termination suits revolve around people being fired for illegal reasons, like their race, religion, or gender.

However, it's important to note that a company policy also plays a huge role. If it is breached, you could still have a wrongful termination claim, even if the reason for your firing was not illegal on its own.

Report claims gender pay gap still exists

Discriminating based on gender is illegal, so men and women must be paid the same if their qualifications are the same. If a man and a woman both hold the same job, have the same college degree, work the same hours, and have the same amount of experience, the pay needs to be equal.

There are those who argue that this is the case, even though the stats show that women earn right around 80 cents for every dollar men earn. The argument from people who think there isn't a pay gap is that the gender has nothing to do with it. They say that women have less experience, less education, and other drawbacks that make it so they earn less.

Employers can't hire or fire based on genetic information

As more and more is learned about human DNA and genetic information, it becomes more clear that certain people may be genetically predisposed to contract certain diseases and ailments. This is important information for the medical community, which can help them both understand and potentially treat some of these diseases.

One of the downsides of having this information on file, though, is that employers may be tempted to use it when hiring or firing employees. If one employee appears more likely to get sick than another, that could sway a decision.

Why sexual harassment goes unreported

While many workplace problems are reported right away, sexual harassment often goes unreported. Those who would call a supervisor immediately if someone stole something from their desk may say nothing when being harassed, even if it's creating a hostile work environment and an even more serious issue than theft. Why does this happen? Researchers have noted three main reasons:

1. Victims are worried that they'll actually be blamed. This mentality sometimes suggests that the victim was "asking for it" or did something to incite the behavior. People will keep quiet for fear of ruining their own reputations or even facing serious consequences.

Termination may be based around discrimination or retaliation

Being wrongfully fired is devastating on a few levels. Of course, the loss of your job and perhaps your only source of income is crushing. Knowing that you were let go illegally and unfairly, though, just pours salt on the wound. Fortunately for you, there are legal steps you can take to make things right if the following things have occurred:

-- You were fired based on your race, gender, religion or some other protected factor. This is discrimination by your employer, and it is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You can be fired for things like performance and production, but not for factors that show discrimination on a personal level.

Case shows how moving quickly helps with sexual harassment claims

Individuals who claim they have been sexually harassed at work sometimes find themselves with a daunting task, as they're squaring off with a well-prepared corporation with a lot of money at its disposal. In cases like these, moving quickly can sometimes help.

For example, a woman sued Fox News and one of its hosts Bill O'Reilly in 2004. The network knew she was going to do it before she did, though, and got ready. The company actually filed an extortion lawsuit targeting her before she filed her own lawsuit. They tried to damage her credibility and she ended up having to settle out of court.

Discrimination against Muslims may be on the rise

After the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, there was a reported rise in workplace discrimination against those of the Muslim faith. Thankfully, over the next decade, that type of discrimination began to wane and become less common.

However, some reports have suggested that it may be increasing yet again. In fact, some numbers make it look worse than it was in the year following those attacks.

Low-wage workers specifically need protections

When it comes to sexual harassment in New Jersey, all workers need some form of protection. However, low-wage workers may need even more than high-wage workers, according to some sources.

The problem is that a case known as Vance v. Ball State University ended up before the Supreme Court, which said that a low-level supervisor who could not hire or fire an employee wasn't really a supervisor at all, but a coworker. Many low-wage workers are technically under these supervisors in the workplace--the line workers at a fast food joint, for example.

Keep track of discrimination

If you're being victimized by workplace discrimination in New Jersey, one of the best things you can do is to keep track of everything that happens so that you have a detailed report. This can be hugely beneficial if you decide to take legal action or report the individuals responsible. Some simple things you can do to gather evidence include:

-- Keeping offensive items. For example, a co-worker might Photoshop an obscene picture and put it on your desk. You may want to throw it away because it's obscene and offensive, but you're better off keeping it in a safe place so that it's not your word against your co-worker's.

Rise in discrimination claims linked to employee knowledge

The number of retaliation and discrimination claims in the United States has been climbing over the years. One report showed that there were a record number in 2013, when a total of 38,539 retaliation charges were filed.

This is an interesting trend, in that so much work has been done to improve the workplace. Laws protecting workers have been put on the books, and the ways that companies are run have changed. If you asked most people if there was more discrimination in America now or in 1980, they'd say we see less of it today. However, the stats seem to tell the opposite story.

Piro, Zinna, Cifelli, Paris & Genitempo, P.C.

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