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Harris Freier Provides Input in New Jersey Law Journal Article "Fat Suit: Proposed Law Would Allow Weight-Discrimination Lawsuits"
Firm Partner Harris S. Freier, Esq. was recently interviewed by New Jersey Law Journal for their recent article entitled "Fat Suit: Proposed Law Would Allow Weight-Discrimination Lawsuits" which focuses recent measures introduced in New Jersey Legislature that would amend Law Against Discrimination to bar discrimination based on weight or height.
It’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.
Is There a Problem Officer?: NJ Appellate Division Affirms Dismissal of Retired Police Officer’s Disability Lawsuit
On 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.
Glass Houses: Hostile Work Environment Claim Dismissed Due to Employee’s Own Unprofessional Conduct
On April 19, 2022, in Bouziotis v. Iron Bar, LLC, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld a trial court’s dismissal of a former bartender’s hostile work environment and gender discrimination claims partly on the grounds that employee partook in the “pejorative language and boorish conduct pervading Iron Bar’s atmosphere,” just as much as anyone else, regardless of gender. Because the former employee could not show that the alleged misconduct occurred “but for [her] gender,” the Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer.
Employer Documentation Saves the Day & Earns Dismissal of Age Bias Lawsuit
On April 4, 2022, in the matter of Jane Rocks, et al. v. PNC Investments LLC, et al., a three-judge Appellate Panel affirmed the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of PNC Investments LLC and dismissing the former employees’ claims of age discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). The Appellate Division found the employees were unable to demonstrate that they were held to higher standards due to their age.
Jennifer Roselle and Charles Messina Present "Cannabis in the Workplace" Webinar for New Jersey State League of Municipalities
Genova Burns Partners and Cannabis Law specialists, Jennifer Roselle, Esq. and Charles J. Messina, Esq. recently presented a Professional Development webinar for the New Jersey State League of Municipalities entitled, "Cannabis in the Workplace."
NJ Appellate Division Upholds Requests, Not Commands, By Employers to Maintain Confidentiality in Employment Investigations
On February 28, 2022, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that a request for confidentiality by an investigator in connection with a discrimination or harassment investigation is valid and does not violate an employee’s right of free speech or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). In Usachenok v. State of New Jersey Department of the Treasury, et al., the Appellate Division denied an attempt made by a former employee to invalidate a regulation by the State's Civil Service Commission requesting confidentiality in connection with a harassment investigation.
To Be Blunt: The NJLAD Does Not Bar Arbitration of Medical Marijuana User’s Employment Claims
On 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.
Whose Burden is it Anyway? NJ Appellate Division Holds Employee Fails to Meet the Burden of Persuasion of Showing Discriminatory Intent
Despite surviving summary judgment, securing a favorable verdict at the second trial, and being awarded counsel fees, Plaintiff’s gender discrimination case was abruptly dismissed by the Appellate Division. On January 3, 2022, the three-judge panel held that an employee in a discrimination case bears the burden of persuasion at all stages. This employee’s argument fell short of that burden, and her case was, therefore, dismissed.
Employees 70 & Older Gain New Life With Expanded Protections Against Age Discrimination in the Workplace
On October 5, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation expanding the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) providing increased protections against age discrimination for workers 70 years of age and older. The new legislation closes loopholes by repealing provisions permitting age discrimination in hiring, promoting, and retirement practices, while increasing available remedies to those facing age discrimination in employment.
Brigette Eagan Discusses Bill That Would Broaden NJ's Prohibition Against Age Discrimination in NJBIZ
Genova Burns Counsel Brigette N. Eagan, Esq. discusses "Extended protection" A bill unanimously approved by both houses of the Legislature that would broaden the state’s prohibition against age discrimination in a recent NJBIZ article.
NJ Supreme Court Issues A Grim Prognosis For Employers Facing Hostile Work Environment Claims
After 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.
NJ District Court Gives Employers Hope in the Fight Against FMLA Misuse
On May 28, 2021, the U.S. District for New Jersey in VanHook v. Cooper Health Systems, granted Cooper’s summary judgment against its employee’s discrimination and retaliation claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The District Court agreed with the employer that the record confirms the employee’s abusive and dishonest actions and granted the employer’s motion of summary judgment.
NJ Supreme Court Strikes Adverse Employment Action Requirement in Failure to Accommodate Claims
On June 8, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Richter v. Oakland Board of Education affirmed the Appellate Division’s ruling that an employee asserting a failure to accommodate claim does not have to separately establish that she suffered an adverse employment action in addition to demonstrating her employer’s inaction in failing to reasonably accommodate her disability.
NJ Appellate Narrows the Road in Auto Dealership’s Sexual Harassment Case
On May 18, 2021, in McBride v. Atlantic Chrysler Jeep, the New Jersey Appellate Division revived a Sales Consultant’s hostile work environment case against a car dealership after the Law Division previously dismissed it in the dealership’s favor. The employee claimed that she was terminated for rejecting her supervisor’s sexual advances and alleged the dealership was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s conduct. The trial court granted the dealership’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Appellate Division overturned the trial court’s decision and sent the case back to the Law Division to proceed to trial.
The Devil is in the Details: NJ District Court Demands Details of Sexual Harassment to Defeat Motion to Dismiss
On April 12, 2021, the New Jersey District Court for the District of New Jersey in Spence v. New Jersey, et al., granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss an employee’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). The employee claimed she was sexually harassed by her co-worker and that her supervisors took retaliatory action against her for reporting the alleged sexual harassment. The District Court found that the employee failed to sufficiently plead her sexual harassment claim for lack of pervasive harassment, and in part failed to sufficiently plead her retaliation claim for lack of temporal proximity.
Doubling Down on the FAA: NJ District Court Strikes Down the NJLAD’s Prohibition Against Arbitration
Earlier this year, in a matter of first impression, the Monmouth County Law Division in Janco v. Bay Ridge Automotive Management Corp. held that the amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) which prohibits a waiver of any right or remedy available under the NJLAD was superseded by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In its decision on March 25, 2021 in New Jersey Civil Justice Institute v. Grewal, the United States District Court followed suit and enjoined the State AG from enforcing Section 12.7 of the NJLAD that would invalidate arbitration agreements between employers and employees. This decision represents a significant victory for employers on the enforceability of arbitration agreements in harassment, discrimination and retaliation cases in New Jersey.
Cause & Effect: NJ Appellate Division Rules Correlation Does Not Imply Causation in Disability Discrimination Suit
On March 4, 2021, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Kalim v. Urban Outfitters, Inc. affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of a former employee’s wrongful termination, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
Let’s Go to the Video Tape: NJ Appellate Division Rules Video Dooms Nurse’s Age Discrimination Case
On March 3, 2021, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld the dismissal of a 49-year old Nurse’s age discrimination case against St. Peter’s University Hospital. The Nurse, who was fired after using force to restrain a hospital patient, claimed the incident with the patient was merely a pretext for age discrimination, even though the surveillance video demonstrated otherwise.
FAA Trumps NJLAD: NJ Superior Court Upholds Employer’s Arbitration Agreement in NJLAD Case
In a matter of first impression, the Monmouth County Law Division in Janco v. Bay Ridge Automotive Management Corp., found that a former employee’s claims brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination were subject to the arbitration agreement that she signed when she was first hired. The Court further held that the recent amendment to the Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) which prohibits a waiver of any right or remedy available under the NJLAD was superseded by the Federal Arbitration Act.