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Union, New Jersey, Legal Blog

What to know about at-will employment

In most cases, employees in New Jersey and elsewhere are considered "at-will" employees. This means that an employee can be terminated for almost any reason. Assuming that there were no state or federal employment laws broken when a person was terminated, the employee has little recourse but to accept the employer's decision. However, employment may not be at-will if employers make agreements with employees stating that the can only be fired for a good cause.

Those who are curious about their employment status may find out more by reading their employment contract. This document generally states when employment begins, what a worker's salary is and if he or she is entitled to benefits. It may also include a confidentiality agreement as well as define the terms under which a person can be terminated. In some cases, employers may create oral as opposed to written agreements.

Lawsuit claims Tesla engages in racist activity

New Jersey residents may have heard about lawsuits against Tesla regarding allegations of ageism and gender discrimination. It has also faced a lawsuit related to racial discrimination that was filed in October 2017. On Nov. 13, another race discrimination lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in California by an employee at the company's factory in Fremont.

The most recent lawsuit against Tesla has obtained class action status and represents all black workers at the factory. According to the suit, the technology that the company is developing is groundbreaking while race relations are stuck in the past. For his part, CEO Elon Musk said that those who were offended should accept apologies given by their colleagues and to grow a thicker skin. Tesla responded to the lawsuit itself with a blog post.

Spousal jealousy and employment discrimination law

Like most states in the U.S., New Jersey law specifies that employment is "at-will," which means that that employees are free to quit their jobs for any reason if they have not signed an employment contract. Employers are also free to terminate employment without cause.

A recent discrimination lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania alleges that the president of a company treated an employee differently because the president's wife did not want him to work with any other women. The president's wife was also employed by the company and regularly attended company meetings.

EEOC files flurry of claims at end of fiscal year

September is the final month of the fiscal year for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the rest of the federal government. Therefore, there tend to be a spike of cases filed by the agency on behalf of New Jersey residents and others throughout the country. In 2017, there were 86 cases filed during the month of September, and many were claims of disability and sex discrimination. That was the largest number of cases filed at the end of a fiscal year since 2011.

Disability discrimination cases were a priority for the EEOC during this time. Specifically, it made a point to file cases related to gender-based pay disparities as well as cases involving pregnant workers. However, sex discrimination cases involving LGBT members received less attention from the EEOC during the September filing spike. Overall, there were 191 cases filed during the 2017 fiscal year, which was an increase from 86 new cases the year before.

Former Jets linebacker files lawsuit for wrongful termination

New Jersey football fans may be interested to learn that, on Sept. 26, Erin Henderson, a former linebacker for the Jets, filed a lawsuit against the team after he was placed on the non-football injury list for the previous season. The former linebacker reportedly has bipolar disorder.

Henderson's agent stated that the former linebacker did not know the reason why he was placed on the non-football injury list until an NFL Players Association grievance hearing took place in June. During the hearing, the Jets reportedly stated that Henderson was "not fit" to play. The agent said that Henderson was struggling with the side effects of a medication he was prescribed by a team doctor. The treatment left him sleepy and unable to get to meetings on time. He was even allegedly accused of being "still drunk" by teammates and coaches.

New mothers often face harassment and discrimination at work

Deciding when to have a family or expand your existing one can be difficult. There are a lot of factors to consider, including expenses, parenting time and, of course, your career. Maybe you have been planning this pregnancy or perhaps it was a wonderful surprise. Regardless, you've decided the time is right, and you're going to have a baby. Now you have to worry about what will happen with your job.

While employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against pregnant women or mothers, many of them still do so. Your co-workers or managers could harass you, making you and your growing belly the butt of workplace jokes. Your employer could refuse basic medical accommodations, putting you and your baby at risk. You could even end up getting fired for choosing to have a child.

How bias may hurt minorities looking for work

When it comes to employment opportunities, black and Latino individuals are getting fewer callbacks from employers compared to white applicants. This could have several negative consequences for New Jersey residents and others in the United States. As one might imagine, getting fewer calls generally results in getting fewer jobs. It may also mean taking lower quality jobs, which could have a negative impact on a person's career.

It is also possible that companies that are willing to discriminate during the hiring process may pay a worker less based on race. In some cases, workers might have less power to negotiate in general because they don't have as many offers. According to a recent meta-study analyzing 28 studies related to the topic of hiring practices conducted since 1989, blacks face the same level of discrimination that they did in the past. Latinos face only slightly lower levels of discrimination than they did in the past.

Why it's important for leaders to handle racism in the workplace

Discrimination and racism have unfortunately always been present in workplaces in New Jersey and throughout the U.S. As such, it is important for leaders to handle expressions and acts of discrimination or racism in the workplace in a professional manner. Not only does this establish a safe work culture, but it also allows the workplace to be more inclusive and diverse.

Ignoring comments, jokes and physical symbols of racism in the workplace is not acceptable. It is important to note that, while public-sector workers and union workers cannot be fired simply for their views, federal law itself does not necessarily protect workers who express certain political views or are involved in political activities. If the activities the workers are involved in outside of work reflect poorly on the employer, the employer may have the right to terminate them.

Consequences for bystanders who report workplace harassment

Some New Jersey employees may have witnessed sexual harassment at their workplace even if they have not directly experienced it themselves. Many people hesitate to report sexual harassment because of the possibility for retaliation. Unfortunately those who witness the harassment and report it might also be subject to the same treatment.

One man worked for a boss who often made lewd comments about women employees and yelled at them during meetings. When the boss recounted a story of a sexual escapade when several women employees were present, the women were upset afterward. They told the man they did not feel safe working with the boss but feared for their jobs. The man reported him to human resources. HR said it investigated the situation and closed it. Not long after, the man was demoted and then fired for allegedly poor performance. He said he has since struggled to find work because a background check let potential employers know the details. However, the man said that even though his health and finances have suffered, he would do the same thing again.

No protection for LGBT employees, says DOJ brief

While New Jersey law prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation, this protection may not be available in all states. On July 26, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in a discrimination case in New York arguing that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not include a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The case involves a sky diving instructor who says he was fired because of his sexual orientation. The man has since died in an accident and been replaced in the lawsuit by his executors. The District Court said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was not sex discrimination, and the executors are now appealing that decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

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