05.25.2023A Second Chance: NJ Employer Escapes Liability Where It Rectifies Discriminatory Conduct On May 17, 2023, in Schoenberg v. The Devereux Foundation, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed summary judgment for an employer, on a complaint filed by a former employee alleging gender and pregnancy discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). The Court found that even where the employer had discriminated against the employee by revoking a job offer when it learned the employee was pregnant, the employer had rectified the situation and made the employee “whole” by reinstating the offer. The Court concluded that the employee unreasonably rejected the offer.
04.25.2023NJ District Court Awards Rule 11 Sanctions in Favor of Employer for Frivolous SuitOn March 31, 2023, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, in the matter of Desire v. Dreamwear Inc., imposed Rule 11 sanctions in favor of an employer based on the filing of a frivolous Second Amended Complaint. This case serves as an important reminder that filing frivolous claims will not be tolerated by the court and when warranted, employers should move for sanctions.
04.13.2023No Signature, No Settlement: NJ Appellate Division Reiterates Settlements Reached at Mediation Absent a Signed Agreement Are Unenforceable On March 28, 2023, in a published decision in Gold Tree Spa, Inc, v. PD Nail Corp., the New Jersey Appellate Division extended the New Jersey Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Willingboro Mall, Ltd. v. 240/242 Franklin Ave., LLC and confirmed that settlements reached at mediation are unenforceable when the parties do not sign a term sheet before mediation comes to a close, irrespective of whether mediation is voluntary or court-ordered. Although the Gold Tree case involved a commercial dispute, the decision contains important lessons for employers and employment law practitioners.
04.10.2023NJ Appellate Division Rules No Age or Disability Bias in Termination of 60-Year-Old EmployeeOn March 29, 2023, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed an employer’s win after a former employee claimed he was fired on the basis of his age and disability. In Estate of Zoto v. Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless, Inc., the Appellate Division ruled that where an employee offers no evidence of age discrimination and fails to submit any documentation of a medical disability to his employer, there is no violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
03.14.2023To Click or Not to Click: NJ Appellate Division Reaffirms Enforceability of Electronic Arbitration AgreementsOn March 7, 2023, in Dakota Powell vs. Prime Comms Retail LLC, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that a former employee must arbitrate her claims of race discrimination, rather than pursue them in court due to her electronic acknowledgement of a Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate upon hiring. The decision in Powell further confirms the growing acceptance of arbitration agreements by the New Jersey courts in New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) cases.
11.03.2022Timing is Everything: NJ Appellate Division Compels Arbitration of Employee’s Sex Harassment ClaimsOn October 26, 2022, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Rourke v. Herr Foods, Inc. once again confirmed that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempts the 2019 amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) invalidating employment agreements that require employees to waive rights pertaining to claims of harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation. Thus, the employee was required to proceed to arbitration on his sexual harassment, sexual assault and retaliation claims.
08.24.2022Is Age Just A Number? On August 15, 2022, in Cronin v. Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., et al., the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District of New Jersey’s grant of summary judgement to Booz Allen on Cronin’s age discrimination claims, finding that Cronin was unable to show that Booz Allen’s non-discriminatory reasons for not hiring her were “so plainly wrong that it cannot have been [Booz Allen]’s real reason.” Absent such a showing, the Third Circuit would not overturn the decision of the District Court.
08.10.2022ABC Is Not As Easy as 1-2-3: NJ Supreme Court Issues Independent Business Misclassification Decision On August 2, 2022, the New Jersey Supreme Court in East Bay Drywall, LLC. v. Department of Labor and Workforce Development, issued a unanimous opinion holding that workers, hired on a need and availability basis, who used their own equipment and provided certificates of insurance and business entity registration information, were employees of a drywall installation business and not independent contractors as the company claimed. The Court also held that whether or not the workers could “join the ranks of the unemployed” when the relationship with the company ends directly impacts independent contractor status in New Jersey.
08.04.2022A Real “Who Dunnit?”: Dispute Over Unsigned Arbitration Agreement Means Judges Must Wear Detective’s CapOn July 18, 2022, the New Jersey Appellate Division provided a perfect reminder why all employers and HR professionals should diligently confirm that new hires complete all on-boarding paperwork. In Bhoj v. OTG Management, LLC, the Appellate Division reversed a trial court’s order compelling arbitration, finding that the terminated employee’s failure to sign or acknowledge receipt of an arbitration agreement presented a factual mystery that required a more in-depth investigation by the judge before she could enforce an unsigned arbitration agreement.
06.16.2022It’s Settled . . . Or Is It? NJ Appellate Division Rules The NJLAD Does Not Prohibit Non-Disparagement Clauses in Settlement Agreements On May 31, 2022, in Savage v. Township of Neptune, the New Jersey Appellate Division partially upheld, and partially overturned, a trial court’s enforcement of a private settlement agreement, holding that although the settlement agreement’s non-disparagement clause was enforceable and not violative of the statutory prohibition against enforcing non-disclosure provisions in harassment/discrimination/retaliation cases, the employee’s allegedly disparaging statements did not actually violate the non-disparagement clause as written.
05.31.2022Is There a Problem Officer?: NJ Appellate Division Affirms Dismissal of Retired Police Officer’s Disability LawsuitOn May 23, 2022, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a trial court’s dismissal of failure to promote, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims brought by a retired New Jersey State Police Trooper. In Stonnell v. State of New Jersey, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the trooper’s New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) claims, finding that he failed to set forth facts sufficient to establish that the New Jersey State Police violated the law with respect to his employment.
02.25.2022To Be Blunt: The NJLAD Does Not Bar Arbitration of Medical Marijuana User’s Employment ClaimsOn February 15, 2022, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a trial court Order compelling arbitration of discrimination and wrongful termination claims brought by a former employee who was terminated for testing positive for marijuana. In a matter of first impression, the Appellate Division in Antonucci v. Curvature Newco, Inc. held that federal law governing arbitration preempts a 2019 amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) invalidating employment agreements that require employees to waive certain rights, with respect to discrimination, retaliation, and/or harassment claims.
07.06.2021NJ Supreme Court Issues A Grim Prognosis For Employers Facing Hostile Work Environment ClaimsAfter losing in both the trial and appellate courts, Armando Rios, Jr., an ex-Pharmaceutical Executive, managed to sway the minds of the Justices on the State’s highest court to revive his hostile work environment claim. Rios claimed his direct supervisor twice referred to Hispanics by a racial epithet thereby creating a hostile work environment. The lower courts held that two incidents are not severe or pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment and dismissed his case. A unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court, however, disagreed and reversed the lower court decisions.