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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

New Jersey Wage and Hour Class Action Trial Attorney Discusses Overtime-Exempt "Executives" and the Federal Salary Minimum

Or... How can an "Executive," "Administrative," or "Professional" make

DICTATION CUT OUT

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act - our Federal "Wage and Hour" law - generally requires that employees who work over 40 hours in a given week receive extra overtime pay calculated at 150% of their regular pay rate. But as with all good ideas, there are exceptions (called "exemptions" under the law). Three of the most popular such exemptions are bona-fide "executive," "administrative," or "professional" employees. These exemptions are commonly referred to as the "white collar" exemptions.

Under the current law, a salaried worker making as little as $23,660.00 per year can be classified as one of these. Someone making that salary in the State of Pennsylvania, for example, trying to raise a family, would be illegible for many social relief and "safety net" programs such as free meals, Medicaid, food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers. On the other hand, you can bet your ass that none of the lawmakers who have ignored this economic reality are living such marginal lives. 

What is reasonable accomodation?

Individuals who suffer from disabilities are fortunate to be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which offers a range of requirements employers must abide by. Nnot only does the ADA restrict an employer from discriminating against an employee with a disability, it also requires an employee to make "reasonable accommodations" to allow disabled employees to fully or near-fully participate in everyday activities.

The term "reasonable accommodation" is tricky, from a legal perspective. On one hand, it gives a great deal of leverage to disabled workers, granting them the right to be treated fairly in many circumstances. However, the term is very deliberately vague and entails that an employer is not obligated to undertake all accommodations for a disabled person, but only those that would not bring about an "undue hardship" for the employer.

Violating the rights of service dog owners

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) is quite clear when it comes to the issue of equal access. Owners, managers and employees are forbidden from denying full and equal access based on a number of categories, including race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and disability. When it comes to people with disabilities who use service animals, the effect of the law is that that animal, be it a guide dog or other type of service animal, and its owner cannot be denied access. This applies to restaurants, shopping centers, rental properties, schools and just about property on which members of the public can go. Federal law likewise prohibits people from denying access to service animals and their owners.

Misuse and misunderstandings

In recent years, situations of fraud involving service dogs have drawn headlines. Several states have passed laws to combat the problem of people misrepresenting their pets as service animals. The laws and bad press may leave some with the impression that many or most of the people traveling with service animals do not actually need them. This impression is why the primary victims of service animal fraud are not property owners, but rather people with disabilities who rely on their service animals. 

Responding to sexual harassment

Sexual harassment has certainly diminished a great deal in the workplace over the last couple of decades, but it is unfortunately still a reality for many people. If you are experiencing sexual harassment, there are a number of steps you can take to put an end to it and make the workplace safer and more productive for everyone. Taking action against sexual harassment is rarely easy, but it is not only the right thing to do for yourself, it's also the right thing to do for thousands of other workers who want to feel safe at their jobs. When you confront sexual harassment, you are contributing to a better workplace experience for many more people than only yourself.

As difficult as it can be, the best action to take first is to inform the individual or individuals who are displaying the bad behavior that the things they are doing are offensive. In many cases, simply standing up for yourself is enough to halt the harmful behavior. It may be hard to believe, but many people simply don't realize that they are being offensive and need to be told as much. If you are willing to take this risk, you may surprise yourself with the result. Even if it does not bring an end to the behavior, you have taken an important first step towards ending it.

Fox News hit with more allegations of sexual harassment

A lot of news coverage was devoted to the election in 2016. So much so, in fact, that some significant stories failed to get the coverage and attention they deserved. One of those stories, arguably, was the ousting of Roger Ailes, chairman and co-founder of Fox News. Ailes was fired over allegations that he had sexually harassed former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, as well as other female employees.

A recently published story from the New York Times claims that Ailes was not the only powerful man at Fox News committing sexual harassment. The Times reported that just a few weeks after Ailes was ousted, the company settled a confidential sexual harassment suit against one of Fox News' most notorious personalities, Bill O'Reilly.

Employment And School Bullying Civil Rights Firm Of Costello & Mains, LLC, Applies New Jersey Civil Rights Act To Harassing Conduct By School Professionals Directed At Student

In what appears to be a case of first impression, a New Jersey Superior Court Judge held on Friday, January 6th, 2017, that a student has a right to bring a claim under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act when she is non-discriminatorily harassed, intimidated or bullied at school by teachers and administrators.

"This holding is an important recognition of the rights of students when illegal, biased discrimination is not involved, but the student's educational environment is nonetheless disrupted by hostile, intimidating or abusive conduct," says Kevin Costello, a partner at Costello & Mains. "For what we believe to be the first time, a Court has recognized that New Jersey's state Civil Rights Act - which protects Constitutional liberties such as the right to an appropriate public education, applies to the way in which a student is treated by teachers and administration, even when the conduct is not motivated by a protected classification such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc."

What are my rights when I am fired?

Being an employee in the United States entitles you to certain rights, even after you have been terminated from a position. Despite the fact that most jobs throughout the country fall under the category of "at-will," there are still some elements of employment that an employee can expect, depending on the circumstances under which he or she was terminated.

Each employment situation may operate differently from another similar situation, so it is important for every employee to understand the relevant details of his or her employment contract or agreement. For instance, one employer may offer a severance package, whereas another may not. If you believe that you have been let go without being properly compensated, then an experienced attorney can help you examine your employment agreement and the circumstances of your termination to determine if a violation has occurred.

What is a constructive discharge?

As an employee, it is always possible that you may be terminated for unfair or discriminatory reasons, which is the basis of a traditional wrongful termination suit. However, depending on various elements of the case, you may be able to file a variation of a wrongful termination suit, even if you leave your job voluntarily. In legal terms, this is known as "constructive dismissal."

The underlying legal theory of a constructive dismissal implies that the worker who leaves his or her job does so because the working conditions were so untenable that the worker is left without any other reasonable choice. In order for the constructive dismissal to be recognized, there must be actions taken by the employer that are either expressly illegal, or else violate some terms of the employee's contract.

New Jersey whistleblower protections

One of the most difficult experiences to navigate as an employee is how to respond when you become aware of illegal activity taking place within your company. New Jersey employees who choose to come forward and report offenses to the proper investigative agencies are offered several protections as part of the state's Conscientious Employee Protection Act. An understanding of these statutes can help an employee plan his or her next move if such an action is needed.

Most states offer similar protections to whistleblower employees. New Jersey's laws cover the common protections against being fired or adversely reassigned for whistleblowing, and also prohibits employers and fellow employees from treating a whistleblower with discrimination or hostility because of reporting wrongdoing.

Can I be fired because of an on-the-job injury?

Being let go from a job is never an easy experience, and almost always the individual who is fired is made to feel that he or she is personally responsible for the event. In reality, however, there are many instances in which the employer is in the wrong for either the way in which they terminated an employee or the grounds for that termination. In many cases, a termination may occur because the employee, through no fault of his or her own, is inconvenient to employ, or presents a financial burden that the employer does not want to meet. The details of each case are different, but many instances of an employee being let go subsequent to an on-the-job injury are grounds for a wrongful termination suit.

Take the case of a township in New Jersey, who in 2016 was ordered to pay damages for just such a wrongful termination suit, after it was determined that they had unfairly fired an emergency medical technician who had been injured while in the line of duty. The EMT was hurt a year earlier, when her back was injured while lifting a patient onto a stretcher. After a short period of working her job with modified responsibilities according to a doctor's orders, the township terminated her employment.