Our lawyers handle discrimination cases throughout New Jersey. New Jersey Discrimination law is known as the Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). The NJLAD makes it illegal for your employer to discriminate against you based on your race, age, gender, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation and numerous other protected characteristics.
Discrimination Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
A case of discrimination in New Jersey is proven by meeting three elements: First, you must demonstrate a prima facie case for discrimination. This means that you are a member of a protected group, that you were performing your job and that you suffered an adverse employment action (fired, suspended, demoted, reduction in duties, etc.). Second, the employer will provide alleged legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for your termination. The employer will try and establish that you were not performing your job properly or that your position was eliminated and it had nothing to do with your protected group or protected characteristic. Finally, you will need to provide evidence to demonstrate that the alleged legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons were a mere pretext and that the protected characteristic was the actual reason for the adverse employment action.
Evidence to Support Pretext Argument
Pretext cases can be very difficult as it is extremely rare to have a smoking gun or any direct evidence of discrimination. Accordingly, most cases for discrimination are supported by circumstantial evidence of discrimination. The most common types of evidence is to demonstrate that co-workers who were not a member of a protected group were treated differently that you. For example, you were allegedly terminated for coming into work late and you are the only woman in your work unit. However, the evidence demonstrates that men were also coming in late to work and they were not terminated. This would support your case for discrimination and is circumstantial evidence of discrimination. Other circumstantial evidence consists of shifting reasons to justify your termination.
Damages in a Discrimination Case
You may be able to receive compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. Compensatory damages consist of lost wages, medical expenses and emotional distress damages. Lost wages are calculated based on the amount of compensation that you lost as a result of the adverse employment action. If you receive another job that pays you less than your old job, then you may be entitled to the difference. You can receive an award for any out-of-pocket medical expenses. You are also entitled to payment for the emotional distress that you suffered as a result of losing your job. Finally, the jury can award you punitive damages to punish the company for the discrimination.
Protected Characteristics in Discrimination
New Jersey law currently protects discrimination that is based on race, color, creed, gender, sex, age, nationality, disability, national origin, pregnancy, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, ancestry, military status, AIDS or HIV status, genetic information and others.
We will conduct a free consultation with you to analyze whether you have an actionable claim for employment discrimination based on New Jersey and Federal anti-discrimination laws. Discrimination is proven by direct and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is when the employer, manager or co-worker makes an overtly discriminatory comment or does an act that is clearly discriminatory. Direct evidence is usually only available in a small percentage of cases. The majority of discrimination cases are based on circumstantial evidence. This evidence consists of documentation and testimony about how other employees who are not part of your protected class were treated more favorably.
If you believe that you may be a victim of discrimination, please contact our office for a free consultation regarding your rights.