Employment law in New Jersey is always undergoing changes as precedent setting cases are finalized. It is very important for employers and employees alike to be well aware of all applicable laws. Tayeb Hyderally, an expert at employment law NJ, makes it a priority to help keep business personnel aware of changes in employment law. This is a key way to protect both employees and employers. One of the most controversial decisions in the world of employment law was Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. It is a primary example of how lack of knowledge can end up costing in the end.
Ms. Ledbetter was employed by Goodyear in Gadsden, Alabama where she worked in a supervisory capacity. When she first began her employment, her wages were at the same rate as male workers with the same responsibilities. However, after 20 years of service, there was a great disparity between her wages and male colleagues. Ms. Ledbetter came to the understanding that she made around $15,000 less each year. By this time she was making substantially less than new hires. When she became aware of the unfair wages she filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The jury awarded Ms. Ledbetter $3.5 million for damages. However, the district judge reduced this amount to $360,000.
Although the disparity in pay had occurred over a 20 year period, there were limitations that she was not aware of which caused her problems within her case. Title VII clearly states that all complaints must be filed within a 180 day window from the time the discriminatory act occurs. Goodyear appealed the initial decision and noted that the jury was not allowed to consider the wage discrepancies that occurred before the 180 days prior to filing her complaint. This meant that even though discriminatory practices did indeed occur over a period of time that spanned almost 20 years, it could not be considered since she had failed to file a complaint after each occurrence. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed with Goodyear’s reasoning. Therefore they could not take into consideration the fact that she was unaware of the disparity for that period of time.
According to Title VII’s 180 day limitations, each time there is a discriminatory action on the part of an employer, a separate EEOC charge must be filed. The purpose of this short deadline for filing with the EEOC is meant to offer a prompt resolution for discrimination by employers. Its intent was to make sure that discriminatory actions could be quickly resolved and penalized to prevent further occurrences. The jury could not take into consideration that Ms. Ledbetter had no knowledge of the wage discrepancies until the time at which she filed her complaint.
Ledbetter v. Goodyear is a prime example of how important it is for employees to be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities concerning employment law.
There are many facets to employment law in New Jersey. Perhaps the many changes that occur in the employment and contract law world are what keeps lawyer Ty Hyderally interested in the field. And perhaps this is why he has employment law practices in both New York and New Jersey areas. One such case of interest that was heard before the New Jersey Supreme Court is Anthony Nicosia vs. Wakefern Food Corporation.
The debate has been ongoing for many years as to whether or not an employee handbook constitutes a contractual agreement between an employee and a company. There are cases, such as this one, in which there is an implied contract written within the employee manual that is distributed to their employees.
Nicosia was a lower level shift supervisor who was fired to mishandling some of the company’s merchandise. He denied that the company had the right to let him go without cause, since he denied the allegations as well. The manual he received at the time of his employment clearly set forth how terminations were to be handled. He maintained that it was an implied contract and termination without cause was not allowed.
On the other hand, the Wakefern Food Corporation held to the fact that Nicosia was an “at-will” employee. This meant that they could fire him at anytime with no warning and with or without a single reason. They refuted the wrongful termination accusation by saying that the evidence they had against Nicosia was grounds for an immediate dismissal.
Nicosia continued to maintain that the proper steps that were drawn out in the employee handbook were not followed properly at his termination. He stated that the 11 page document which laid out the details of termination was not followed in the proceedings. He also asserted that the 160 page manual that was given him upon hiring constitutes an implied employee contract and when Wakefern terminated him without going through the proper proceedings they breached this contract.
Wakefern agreed that the progressive discipline policy was intact during the time that Nicosia was terminated, however, they stated that there were certain actions that required immediate termination and he was allegedly involved in them. They also argued that the manual was not distributed to most and so it could not constitute an implied contract.
In this case the courts ruled in favor of the employee and stated that the employee manual did indeed serve as an implied contract between the employee and the company.
Witkowski v. Thomas J. Lipton was an employment case in New Jersey that pertained to whether or not an employee handbook is binding enough to constitute an employee contract. These are the types of cases that keep New Jersey employment lawyer, Tayeb Hyderally interested in litigating employment law cases. As cases are tried and judgments are made employment law is shaped and formed over time. The case involving Lipton and Witkowski is one such case.
Witkowski was first hired by the Lipton Company in 1980 as a general maintenance mechanic. Upon his termination he argued that the employee handbook constituted a contractual agreement of his employment. He further felt that the employer had not followed the proper termination procedures as were set forth in the manual. However, Lipton asserted that employees were hired “at-will” and could be terminated at any time with or without cause.
When Witkowski filed his complaint against Lipton he alleged that he had been wrongfully discharged and this was a breach of contract based on the employment handbook that he was given at the time of employment. The trial court found that the manual did not include a comprehensive termination policy. However, it did have a brief list of actions that would demand immediate release.
One of the items on the list of dismissible actions was if an employee was found to have in their possession either an item that was stolen, or an item for which they did not have supervisory permission. During a standard inspection, Witkowski’s locker was found to contain a can of CRC Industrial lubrication oil that was commonly used at the Lipton plant. Even though Witkowski denied that he had stolen the oil and clearly stated that he had obtained the permission of his immediate supervisor, Lipton immediately terminated him.
The employment manual provided by Lipton upon initial employment has several sections. Under Section II the heading, “Warning Notices” can be found. This notice states that there are certain actions for which an employee may receive a warning. Then it lists some serious infractions that are grounds for immediate dismissal. Among the 7 examples that are serious infractions is number 7 which states, “Stealing or unauthorized possession of company property.” This statement was grounds enough for Witkowski to be released from his position immediately. The courts stated that the Lipton manual did indeed create a type of implied employment contract and this gave the company the right to govern termination of employees.
Tayeb Hyderally is very experienced in New Jersey Employment law. He has developed his expertise through many years of successful litigation and thorough study in the field of employment law. It is the wide variety of topics in the subject that has kept Mr. Hyderally interested in the field for all these years. Of the many cases he has studied Terrio v. Millinockey Community Hospital has been one of the most interesting.
June Terrio was a highly trained medical technician and worked in the medical laboratory of Millinockey Community Hospital. When she was first employed she was the only personnel who worked in the laboratory and was solely responsible for making all necessary purchases and performing all lab testing. She reportedly delivered high quality work and those who worked with her vouched for her competence even while she was in a supervisory position. Through the years the hospital continued to award her periodic raised and there was never any question of her performance and its quality.
A resident pathologist was placed in charge of the lab and some witnesses stated that Ms. Terrio had been insubordinate and was not doing satisfactory work. During this same time frame she was given an increase in pay and was also allowed to choose better working hours and was reassured that her job was secure as stated by hospital authorities. The new pathologist threatened to resign unless Ms. Terrio was let go, the hospital administrator decided to terminate her employment. She was then 58 years old and had been working for the hospital for about 20 years.
Ms. Terrio pursued a law suit on the basis that she was dismissed without cause and it constituted a breach of contract based on the verbal agreement with the administrator previously. The oral contract and her employment record lined up with the “Personnel Policy” and the “Employees Retirement Plan” to form an enforceable contract. This was defined to be in place until the time of retirement, the age of 65.
The hospital tried to argue that there was not a written contract to be broken and evidence was sparse. When Ms. Terrio won her case the hospital filed an appeal based on the lack of evidence but it was denied by the court. This case set the precedent that substantiates the validity of a verbal contract between employer and employee.
Ty Hyderally is a legal expert in employment law and his firm has had many successful years of litigation concerning contract law and employment law in New Jersey. The terms of at-will employment presume that the employment is indefinite; meaning that employees may quit at anytime for any reason. It also presumes that the employers may layoff or otherwise relieve the employee of duty at anytime with or without reason. Basically, either of the parties may break the employment relationship at anytime without being liable. However, in many instances it is preferable to obtain an employment contract.
An employment contract is binding by law. Employees mainly in executive level positions usually seek to establish job security and stability. Employees may also design employment contracts to help protect confidential business information, patents or trade secrets. In such crucial situations it is best to detail the mutual obligations of both parties involved in the employment relationship. A meaningful employment contract will carefully consider all the various contingencies that could possibly arise during the time involved in the employer-employee relationship.
An employment contract will take the place of the arrangements that are understood by an at-will employment. It becomes a legal document in which the relationship between the employer and employee is written out in great detail. It will include particulars about compensation, stock options, bonuses and severance packages. It will also detail any fringe benefits that are intact during the period of employment as well as retirement.
The employee will usually be asked to sign paperwork that goes along with the employment contract. This will include items such as being forbidden from sharing internal information about the business even after the contract comes to an end. This post employment confidentiality includes refraining from coming back to remaining employees after the contract is terminated and soliciting other employees.
These types of forms are typically signed at the time the contract is drawn up at the time of employment. This usually includes details concerning the terms of the contract and its termination if applicable. The position can only be withdrawn as lined out in the contract. And in many instances it also prohibits the employee from working for a competitive company for at least a certain amount of time. (Usually three years)Even though some of these terms are applicable after the initial contract is terminated, they are still considered part of the conditions of the employment and are legally binding.
Many questions come to mind as a class action suit continues against corporate giant WalMart. The sexual discrimination case began over a decade ago and is presently being heard by the Supreme Court. The retailer is being accused of systematically discriminating against possibly millions of employees. The chief complaint lies in regard to female employee’s terms of promotions and pay rates.
The primary issue to be decided before the suit can proceed is if the plaintiffs have a valid class action suit or must each file their cases separately. Legal representatives for Walmart claim the cases are too diverse to be tried together in a solitary class action case. However, the plaintiffs argue that single cases would be too expensive and difficult. A trial court, as well as the U. S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco has given the go ahead with the case.
The impact of this case may be enormous. It may literally redefine discrimination law in the U. S. Other corporate giants such as General Electric and Microsoft are watching the case closely as they may potentially be directly affected.
The case began in 2000 when Betty dukes claimed she had been denied proper training for possible promotions. Her legal representative, Brad Seligman, states that Walmart has methodically discriminated against female employees. Women are drastically underrepresented in management positions throughout the company. The case also sites that female employees are paid less than their male colleagues for fulfilling the same job requirements and positions.
There is no doubt that the result of this case will have resounding repercussions no matter which way it is decided. A win for Duke will no doubt incite the rise of many other sexual discrimination law suits. Should it be decided in her favor it will also spur other types of discrimination suits for other minorities and for those with disabilities. However, should Walmart win the case it will make it much more difficult for legitimate sexual discrimination suits to argue that various positions in different stores can have enough in common to be considered a class.
Walmart’s enormous size can actually work against them in this particular suit if the class action should proceed. Statistics is one of the most useful means to proving a discrimination suit in the workplace. This is usually only effective if the company is large enough to have the numbers to do a valid statistical analysis.
No matter which side wins discrimination law could potentially be altered. Corporate America is keeping their eyes on the outcome as are the vast minorities.
To avoid having the employee handbook create an implied contract, you must use a clear and prominent disclaimer:
All that need be done is the inclusion in a very prominent position of an appropriate statement that there is no promise of any kind by the employer contained in the manual; that regardless of what the manual says or provides, the employer promises nothing and remains free to change wages and all other working conditions without having to consult anyone and without anyone’s agreement; and that the employer continues to have the absolute power to fire anyone with or without good cause.
Woolley v. Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc.¸99 N.J. 284, 309, modified, 101 N.J.
Existence of Employment Contract Precludes Treating Employee Handbook as a Contract
An employee who has an employment contract would not be able to assert a Woolley claim, because it would not be reasonable for them to rely on the employee handbook as an employment contract, when they have an actual employment contract. Ware v. Prudential Ins. Co., 220 N.J. Super. 135, 143 (App.Div. 1987), certif. denied, 113 N.J. 335 (1988).
This blog post was written and posted by Tayeb Hyderally