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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

Professor sues after firing over political activism

A former adjunct professor recently filed a lawsuit against Essex County College, claiming that her employment ended wrongfully after she appeared on national television defending the Black Lives Matter movement. The professor further claims that the college not only wrongfully terminated her for expressing her views, it also violated her protections under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act in the process.

The college terminated the professor shortly after she appeared on a conservative political talk show, espousing her personal views and defending a Memorial Day celebration that only allowed black individuals to attend. While the segment did result in expected backlash on social media, the college itself only received one complaint. Still, according to civil rights watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, even numerous complaints should not justify firing a teacher for espousing personal views outside of his or her scope of employment.

New bill aims to make wages more fair for women and minorities

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy came out strong in support of wage equality for women in the workplace, announcing that he would soon sign into law the "most sweeping equal pay legislation in America." He went on to claim that women in New Jersey often make only 82 cents to the dollar compared to men who do the same work. In fact, the governor claimed that he had hoped to sign the bill on the newly minted Equal Pay Day, but chose to wait for Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg to return from vacation for the signing.

The bill specifically outlaws any practice or instance of employers in the state of New Jersey providing or offering lower compensation, including benefits to any worker who qualifies under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination. Under this law, many groups, including minorities and women, are granted specific protection from receiving lower compensation than others who do "substantially similar work" in the course of their employment.

Understanding Equal Pay Day

April 10 marked Equal Pay Day this year. If that sounds like something to celebrate, it isn't. Equal Pay Day is about showing how much more work women must do before they have earned the same salary as men. An average man who began work on January 1, 2017 and ended work on December 31, 2017 earned the same amount as a woman who worked from January 1, 2017 to April 10, 2018.

The gender pay gap is a pernicious and complex problem. Equal Pay Day is just one of the ways people try to keep the problem in the public consciousness. While progress has been made in shrinking the gap, the problem is far from solved.

What is an employer’s duty to reasonable accommodation?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employee who has a disability may compel an employer to provide certain accommodations for him or her, as long as the accommodations are "reasonable," which is not always easy to define for either the employee or the employer. If an accommodation is unreasonable, an employer may legitimately refuse to provide it, but understanding what qualifies as unreasonable can prove difficult.

While the law does not clearly define what is and is not reasonable, it does express that the accommodation must not place an "undue hardship" on the employer. This, too, is a flexible term, which may mean a number of things in various circumstances. Both intentionally and frustratingly, the law creates this tension and leaves it to employees and employers to work out in their individual circumstances, sometimes with the help of a court or regulatory agency.

Explaining New Jersey break requirements for employers

Employees across the state of New Jersey are protected by a host of different laws and regulations. Many employees don't realize that employers aren't technically required by law to provide their employees with breaks while on the job. Today, we will take a look at the break requirements set forth by the state of New Jersey for employers.

Under the labor laws of the state of New Jersey, breaks are required for employees who are under the age of 18. These employees must be given a 30-minute break after working for five consecutive hours.

What is the implied contract exception in at-will employment?

At-will employment allows both an employer and an employee to end their professional relationship for any reason or no particular reason at all, provided that a termination does not violate some existing federal or state law. In many cases, terminations that indicate some form of discrimination in the workplace may not qualify under blameless at-will termination, for instance. In most states, including New Jersey, an employer is very likely to have employees sign an at-will employment agreement to protect his or her right to terminate them at any time.

However, there are some exceptions that may protect employees from wrongful termination beyond federal statutes surrounding improper practices like discrimination in the workplace. New Jersey does sometimes recognize that an employer has an implied contract with an employee that precludes termination, even if no written contract exists.

Workplace discrimination against medical marijuana users

New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy made legalization of marijuana a core component of his platform during his election campaign, and he is already taking steps to expand residents' access to the drug through legitimate medical dispensaries. However, the process of legalization is often lengthy and complicated, and it may be quite some time before the drug is no longer a threat to the livelihoods of users, even those who do qualify for a medical marijuana exception.

This can be especially difficult for employees who work for companies that maintain strict anti-drug policies in the face of shifting attitudes about the drug. In contrast to the relationship of employers to their employees other behavior, medical marijuana users often suffer from unfairly harsh overreaches by employers.

New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Trial Lawyers Discuss the "Right to Work" Movement and Hidden Racism

Or... The Orwellian Lie of "Right to Work"

Enemies of workers, emboldened by the current administration, have, since Trump's election, authored broad and repeated attacks on civil rights and civil liberties throughout the country. Some of these attacks are explicitly biased, such as where they seek to deny rights to the LGBTIQ community, but others are more carefully veiled.

One such attack on the union movement by "advocates," bought and paid for by industry, argue for the elimination of mandatory union membership in the public sector. They use the snappy phrase "Right to Work" to describe their position. This exact issue is before the United States Supreme Court in the Janus matter, and, depending on the outcome, public sector unions may lose significant power. When the union movement suffers, all workers suffer, union or not, because the gap between the "haves" - those who employ - and the "have nots" - those who work - grows wider and deeper. 

Is it right to ban confidential settlements in harassment cases?

What happens in New Jersey has national implications. Early this month, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley made good on his promise to release details on confidential settlements as well as the costs and fees associated for them for a number of lawsuits that plagued the state government just this year alone. Two of the large cases showed one settlement for over $1 million in the Department of Labor and one in the Department of Social Services for $2 million. 

When the Attorney General called for the reports earlier in the year, he was quoted as saying, "Missouri citizens deserve a transparent and accountable government, especially in the expenditure of their tax dollars."

Lawmakers consider new employee protection measures

New Jersey lawmakers are considering new legislation that would place broad protections around employees, keeping them from unfairly waving their rights against discrimination in the workplace. Under the proposed bill, employment contracts would face legal challenges if they include language that undermines or waives discrimination rights.

While this proposed law does not affect all types of employment agreements, it would do away with language in a contract that seeks to weaken protections for those who face discrimination in the workplace. In certain types of contracts and employment agreements, employees often must waive certain rights simply to get in the door, and may face career consequences if they balk at signing away these rights to an employer.

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