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.
Employment law covers a wide range of situations. This variety of interests is why expert lawyers such a Tayeb Hyderally pursued the area as a career. Employment law NJ is a field that is undergoing constant changes as different types of cases are presented before the courts of the land and precedent setting judgments are handed down. In most instances, these types of cases have an effect on other cases for years to come.
One such case is Haybarger v. Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole. The issue surrounded an employee’s rights regarding FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). In this particular case the question was if a supervisor could personally be held liable for violations of FMLA.
Debra Haybarger worked at the Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole agency as an office manager. Her immediate supervisor was William Mancino, who was the Department Director. Ms. Haybarger suffered from several serious illnesses such as kidney problems, heart disease and Type II diabetes. These medical conditions were the cause of her frequent absences from work. Although Mancino was well aware of her medical conditions he repetitively noted in performance evaluations that she should reduce her absences. He also questioned her constantly about her reasons for needing to see physicians frequently. Mancino carried out disciplinary action against Ms. Haybarger by placing her on 6 months’ probation stating that she lacked leadership abilities. He finally secured the proper authorizations and fired her when he felt like there was no improvement in her performance.
Ms. Haybarger filed suit against the Probation Department, Lawrence County and Mancino based on violations of the FMLA. The case was dismissed by the federal district court on the idea that Mancino was not her “employer.” However, Haybarger appealed the decision of the district court to the Third Circuit.
The Third Circuit noted that Mancino was considered Haybarger’s employer according to the guidelines set forth in the FMLA. Mancino was acting directly in the interest of the employer which put him in the position of “employer” and therefore could be found liable for violating FMLA guidelines. The Court based its findings on previous FLSA case laws which mean that any individual who exercises supervisor authority over another while acting in the interest of the company, or employer is subject to FMLA liability.
In this particular employment law case, the court found that Mancino was able to exercise sufficient control over the employment of Ms. Haybarger. He was her immediate supervisor, periodically completed performance reviews, had the authority to issue discipline and ultimately recommended that she be terminated. Therefore, as an individual supervisor he was held liable since he had direct authority over her position.
It is important for employers and supervisors to be well educated on FMLA guidelines and be familiar with their responsibilities regarding these regulations. Ty Hyderally is regularly a keynote speaker whose intent is to inform employees and employers of their rights and responsibilities regarding employment law in the workplace.
This post was written by: Omar A. Lopez, Esq.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current estimated number of unemployed persons is 13.9 million, making the unemployment rate approximately 9%. The number of long-term unemployed (those that have remained jobless for over 27 weeks) is estimated to be 5.9 million which is about 42.4% of the total unemployed. Of this, Black and Latino persons hover at even higher unemployed rates. Thankfully, employers are responding with help wanted ads-although sometimes, the unemployed need not apply.
The discrimination against job applicants because they are unemployed is not a new invention, although recently the White House took note and decided to address the issue head-on. In September of this year, President Obama revealed The American Jobs Act of 2011, a comprehensive unemployment reform and job creation bill. The bill includes measures which would help restore jobs to those workers living in the United States, such as the “Buy American” section, which offers funds in connection with the act to those which would be building or repairing a public building, as long as the materials used were created or purchased in the United States.  However, the part of the Act garnering much of the public’s attention is the addition of the unemployed to the discrimination protections already afforded by federal law. The Act attempts to give voice to a rapidly intensifying clamor from the unemployed or underemployed by creating a new protected class and curtailing discriminatory advertisements.
The Act would serve to add unemployment to the now standard classes which federal law protects from employment discrimination and discriminatory hiring practices: race, age, color, religion, gender, national origin, and disability status, among others. The Act will seek to prohibit an employer from rejecting a job applicant solely on the basis that the applicant is unemployed.  In addition, if the Act passes, it will prohibit employers from posting job advertisements that specifically exclude the unemployed–like this advertisement which mandates that an applicant be “currently or recently employed.” 
The decision rendered in this particular case remains unpublished. This simply means that it does not set a legal precedent. Cases like Gregory v. Derry Township School District are a good reminder of the need to seek legal help in the area of employment law in New Jersey. Seeking legal aid from expert lawyers in the New Jersey area such as Ty Hyderally can be beneficial in receiving favorable decision by the courts.
Many times a company will offer benefits to employees who are being laid off or fired. This is part of a separation package or severance agreement that is offered by companies. Usually these are agreements wherein the employee waives their employment law rights prior to receiving certain benefits. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit made a ruling that Ms. Rhauni Gregory waived her rights to be able to sue the company for discrimination when she signed a release. She claimed that she was pressured into signing and was only allowed to review it for 15 minutes.
The Third Circuit Federal Appellate Court handles appeals that come through the New Jersey district. This court ruled that the court needed to consider the circumstances from a broader perspective when deciding whether or not an employee had indeed waived legal rights. There are several things that they felt like should be taken into consideration. For instance, the specific language that is used in the release as well as the employee’s business and educational experiences should be considered. The employee also needs to know that they were giving up all of their legal rights upon signing a release. It is also important to note whether or not the employee received encouragement to obtain advice from a lawyer such as Tayeb Hyderally; or whether or not they were given the opportunity to negotiate the specific terms of the agreement. And whether the employee was to receive any other benefits as a result of signing the agreement or release should be a factor.
After looking at all of these factors, the court decided that Rhauni Gregory had waived her rights to bring a race discrimination claim against the school district when she signed the Separation Agreement and General Release. Ms. Gregory felt that she was forced into a resignation when her supervisor evaluated her job performance as unfavorable. After the poor evaluation she was placed in an “intensive assistance track.” According to Gregory she felt it was an oppressive gesture because of her African-American race. However, when she signed the release she waived her right to a discrimination claim based on her national origin. The release was deemed valid even though she stated that she only had 15 minutes to review and sign it.
The court concluded that the union representative negotiated the terms of the resignation for Rhauni Gregory. Also according to the agreement she and her family were entitled to continue medical benefits until the end of the year. It also included a that she would receive a positive letter of reference for her to use to obtain future employment. These two items would not have been available if the separation agreement had not been signed.
According to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination reasonable accommodations must be made by employers for their employees with disabilities. Tayeb Hyderally is an employment lawyer in the New York and New Jersey areas. He is a legal expert who specializes in employment law cases such as these and successfully litigates for the rights of his clients.
In Bowers v. New Jersey Judiciary Thomas Bowers, an Information Technology Analyst claimed that he had suffered from mental and physical distress because of workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation. His case claimed that the Judiciary failed to provide him reasonable accommodation according to his level of disability.
Mr. Bowers was diagnosed with Anxiety disorder and the doctor suggested that he take a medical leave from June 6 to July 1, 2007. However, due to the lack of acceptable progress his medical leave was extended several times until he was out until October 1, 2007. According to the Family Medical Leave Act, employees have at least 12 weeks of protected leave. The Judiciary told Mr. Bowers that he was exceeding this protected time and that he would be allowed to use his available vacation time. This would cover his time off until September 6. He was warned that if he was not back at work by September 10 he would be considered to be on “an unauthorized leave of absence” and would be disciplined.
After consulting his doctor and legal counsel Mr. Bower’s lawyer explained to the Judiciary that he would be back at work by October 1. The Judiciary’s answer was that he must return to work by September 10 or disciplinary actions would ensue. Their claim was that the Judiciary had “experienced significant operational hardship” due to his absence. Therefore, they were unwilling to accommodate for his disability. Effective on September 10, 2007 Mr. Bowers was terminated from his position as he had failed to return to work.
The Appellate Division decided that it should be heard by a jury to determine if the Judiciary had failed to provide reasonable accommodations for Mr. Bower’s disability which was in violation of LAD. The courts noted that Mr. Bower’s vacated position was not posted until October 2008 and that the position was not filled until January 20, 2009. Had the Judiciary simply placed Mr. Bowers on unpaid medical leave through September and then allowed him to return to the workplace on October 1 the position would have been unclaimed for only 3 weeks. However, instead, it was empty until January 20. The Judiciary claimed that they had undue financial hardship that prohibited them from filling the position any sooner. If they had overcome this budgetary constraint earlier the jury might have ruled in their favor. As it was, the jury found that the evidence supported Mr. Bower’s claim that the Judiciary failed to accommodate his disability and was in direct violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq., is intended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of several protected categories, including age. However, the LAD contains an exception which permits employers to discriminate against individuals over 70. The “over 70 exception” to the LAD provides that, “nothing herein contained shall be construed to bar an employer from refusing to accept for employment or to promote any person over 70 years of age….” N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(a).
But should this exception permit employers to refuse to renew the contracts of employees based upon their being over 70? Not according to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent holding in Nini v. Mercer County Community College, 202 N.J. 98 (2010).
Rose Nini worked for Mercer Community College continuously for twenty-six years under a series of contracts. Her last contract was not renewed and she sued the school for age discrimination. The school countered that since Nini was over 70 she was not covered by the LAD because of its “over 70 exception.” Nini lost in the lower courts, but prevailed in the New Jersey Supreme Court. The Nini majority found that the “over 70 exception” applies to initial hiring decisions, but not to contract renewals. The Nini Court reasoned that a contract renewal amounts to the same thing as a termination, and termination based upon age is prohibited by the LAD’s broad remedial purpose and strong public policy of eradicating discrimination in the workplace. The Supreme Court also observed that it would create a loophole in the LAD’s protections by permitting employers who want to terminate their aging employees to simply put them under contract and then not renew the contract. The Nini Court further noted that it would also have the absurd result of giving greater protections to “at will” employees (i.e., those without contracts) than to contract employees.
One caveat to the Supreme Court’s holding might be the extent of the employee’s pre-existing relationship with the employer. Nini had a long-term and successful pre-existing relationship with the college, which was a significant factor in the Supreme Court’s finding in her favor. What about the over-70 employee whose relationship is only a year or less? The Nini Court failed to address whether or not the pre-existing relationship must be of any specific length or scope. Thus, chances are that employers will try to distinguish cases in which the employee has a short pre-existing relationship from the type of lengthy career that Nini had at the college. Thus, it remains to be seen whether this will be a hard and fast rule, or may be modified down the road.
If you are interested in learning more about me and employment law I invite you to take a look at, Meet Ty Hyderally