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.
This post was written by: Francine Foner, Esq.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), is intended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of several protected categories, including age. owever, 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….”
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 (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.
on any of these factors. Employees and applicants cannot be classified by any of the above mentioned matters. He has successfully litigated cases regarding discrimination in the workplace for many years.
Enforcement is in place for companies who employee more than 15 individuals. These businesses are prohibited from discrimination according to Title VII regulations. There are several public offices that also fit into this category. State and local governments as well as educational institutions must all abide by Title VII rulings. One exception can be religious educational facilities if they set forth requirements of employment regarding the institution’s religious beliefs and make it a bona fide qualification for the occupation.
Under Title VII a person’s religion, gender, and race are protected rights. This also includes protecting employees from being discriminated against based on sex stereotyping, harassment and pregnancy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 also helped specify the proper procedures for Title VII and the Pregnancy Disability Act set pregnancy under the same guidelines as discrimination that is based upon a person’s gender. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 set the precedent that allows for jury trials in some cases of discrimination.
Even though there are many areas of discrimination covered under Title VII laws, the two types of cases that most frequently come up for litigation are sexual and religious discrimination. Title VII is used many times in cases where employers are punished for creating a hostile work environment, or harassment that stems from some sort of tangible action. Using Title VII in such cases began in 1971 when the US Supreme Court maintained that Title VII forbids practices which have a disparate impact on a class that is presently protected.
Three federal laws, Title VII, The Americans with Disabilities Act and The Age Discrimination in Employment Act must be followed by each company’s hiring procedures. They are free to hire those who are most qualified for the position as long as they do not violate any of these laws. Each company should have their own checks and balances so that discriminatory practices do not occur during the hiring process.