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New Jersey Employment Law Blog

One-time events may not be harassment

Discrimination often takes the form of harassment in the workplace. It can center around your religion, gender, age or some other characteristics. Discrimination can also mean getting fired, overlooked for promotions or otherwise seeing your career get held back. However, much of the day-to-day discrimination that employees face is just harassment.

There are some gray areas within this category, however. For instance, "isolated incidents" may not count as harassment, especially if they are not too serious. These one-time events could lead to a reprimand for the employee(s) involved, but you may not have a legal case against the company.

The Family and Medical Leave Act: A denial could happen

There may come a point in your life when you need to take time away from work to manage your health or assist a family member who is dealing with a serious medical concern.

If you're eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it's a good idea to learn more about your legal rights as soon as possible.

If you're wrongfully discharged, you can get the help you need

You have been at your job for a few years, and you focus on doing your work well. You had great reviews and thought that everything was going well, but that changed when you found a notice on your desk that you were fired. You had 24 hours to remove your items and get out of the building.

Why? You can't be sure, but a coworker had previously suggested that you were on the radar of the new boss because of your skin color. The company had recently changed hands, and the new owner brought in many new staff members. It was clear by looking at them that no one else there looked like you.

What to say to someone who makes sexual comments to you at work

You expect to work in a safe and healthy environment, but this doesn't always happen. For example, if someone begins to sexually harass you, it can impact your professional and personal lives.

If someone makes offensive sexual comments to you at work, it's not always easy to think on your feet and react in the appropriate manner. However, here is some advice on what you can say to defuse the situation, and hopefully, put an end to the harassment on the spot:

  • You crossed the line: Make it clear to the harasser that they said something you don't like. When you firmly tell them they crossed the line, it may be enough to scare them straight.
  • I am reporting your behavior: This alone will show the person that you're serious about protecting yourself. And don't just make this threat. As soon as possible, contact your human resources department to file a formal complaint against the person.
  • I have no plans of letting this continue: Some people think that if they keep up their behavior they'll eventually get what they want. Make it clear that you won't let their behavior continue.

What's considered to be disability discrimination on the job?

Each year, countless disabled employees are discriminated against on the job by either their colleagues or supervisors. Many of these workers feel justified in continuing to discriminate against others because they've never been told that their actions are wrong. This often happens because disabled individuals aren't exactly sure of the civil rights that they've been afforded under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. This federal law outlines what's considered to be disability discrimination.

You should know that while many employers are required to abide by federal laws that prohibit disability discrimination, not all are. Any private employer that has 15 or fewer employees is not required to abide by such laws.

Is every worker in New Jersey entitled to minimum wage?

The minimum wage in New Jersey has been $10 per hour since July 1, 2019. If you're not making that, then you may be under the impression that your employer is violating some types of wage and hours laws. That's not necessarily the case though.

While the large majority of New Jersey workers are entitled to receive at least $10 per hour worked, not everyone is.

Would someone else think that behavior was offensive?

You believe that you experienced sexual harassment at work. You're interested in your legal options as a result.

One thing to remember is that you must show two key things in a case like this to give yourself a chance to demonstrate that you were harassed. They are:

  • You thought that the actions of the other party were offensive, abusive and/or hostile toward you.
  • In your position, a reasonable third party would also have thought that the actions were offensive, abusive and/or hostile.

Are there any exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine?

New Jersey, much like other states in the country, upholds an employment-at-will doctrine. This means that employees have a right to quit their job for any reason and at any point in time. It works the other way around too. Employers in at-will states can terminate an employee without giving them any advance notice or having to explain their actions.

Employees who work in at-will employment states are afforded rights when they're terminated from their job.

New Jersey employees and contractors can recover unpaid wages

There are two primary types of workers here in New Jersey and elsewhere in the country: contractors and employees. Both hourly and contract workers have different options available that they can pursue if they don't get paid.

Employees

How to protect yourself after workplace discrimination

If you suspect workplace discrimination, the first thing you'll do is take a step back to ensure that you're not seeing things. You want to be 100 percent certain that your first inclination is correct.

From there, it's critical that you take steps to protect your legal rights and employment. Here's what you should do:

  • Report the incident to your employer: Don't bottle it up inside and hope for the best. Tell your employer what's happening and do whatever it takes to file a formal complaint. You want your complaint to be on record. Also, make note of whom you spoke with in the HR department.
  • Follow up: Don't give your employer an endless amount of time to look into your complaint. Ask them how long it will take to conduct an investigation, and then follow up accordingly. This helps to show them that you're serious about the matter.
  • Take detailed notes and keep detailed records: This is all meant to back up your claim. For instance, if you have emails or voice messages from a supervisor showing their discriminatory behavior, keep it in a safe place, along with all of your other records.
  • Contact the appropriate government agency: On a federal level, this is typically the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You may need to bring them into your case if your employer is not taking the necessary steps to figure things out. Doing this is sure to show them that you're serious about protecting your legal rights.
  • Don't retaliate: As tempting as it may be, you're best off keeping your cool and continuing to do your job as expected, as long as you're still an employee. Don't retaliate by speaking out against others, becoming violent or taking reckless actions.

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