We all have horror stories about a bad job or a nightmare boss. In many cases, the job (and the people) just aren’t the right fit. But sometimes, the treatment you faced wasn’t just unfair — it was illegal.
A complex web of state and federal laws govern NJ employers. These laws cover everything from the minimum wage to child labor to discrimination to wrongful termination and retaliation. When a company violates one or more of these rules and regulations, its employees may be able to file a legal claim against them.
At Bross & Frankel, we are proud to help employees achieve justice when they have been wronged. We represent clients on a range of employment law matters, working hard to help them achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free a no-cost, no-obligation claim review, reach out to our law firm today.
Types of Employment Cases We Handle
Employment disputes often involve a David versus Goliath type of situation. An individual employee may be overwhelmed at the thought of taking on a corporation with far deeper pockets and greater access to resources. We can help you level the playing field.
Our team of employment attorneys only represents the “little guy” — never employers. We help clients on a number of New Jersey employment law matters, including:
- Unfair Disciplinary Actions
- Wrongful Termination
- Employment Discrimination
- Family and Medical Leave
- Reasonable Accommodations / ADA
- Hostile Work Environment
- Unemployment Compensation
- State and Federal Claims
Each of our cases starts with a free initial consultation, where we listen to your story and offer legal advice on your rights and options. If you decide to hire us, we will conduct a full investigation. This step is critical, as it often reveals issues that you may not have spotted initially.
At the same time, we research the law to determine what violations may have occurred, and how we can best prove your case. In some cases, we will need to file a claim with a federal or state agency before proceeding to a lawsuit. Throughout the process, we will work collaboratively with you to help you achieve a solution that meets your needs.
Do I Really Need an Employment Lawyer?
Like almost every other state, New Jersey is an “at-will” state. This means that unless you have an employment contract, a collective bargaining agreement through a union, or work for the government, your employer can fire you for almost any reason — unless that reason is illegal. If your employer terminates your employment, demotes you, or otherwise discriminates against you, you may be able to file a claim against them.
There are a number of laws that govern how employers treat employees. For example, Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibit discrimination or harassment based on an employee’s membership in a protected class. These classes include things like race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability, and age.
If an employer takes adverse action against you on one or more of these bases, then you may be able to file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR). These agencies investigate discrimination complaints and will either prosecute the case on your behalf or issue a notice that gives you permission to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
Labor law violations aren’t always obvious. Employers are often savvy enough to create a paper trail to justify what would otherwise be an illegal employment action. Examples of situations that may require the assistance of an employment lawyer include:
- Forcing an employee to work off the clock in violation of wage and hour laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA);
- Firing a whistleblower after he reports a health and safety violation to OHSA;
- Terminating an employee who requested sick leave to seek health care under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA);
- Writing up a Black employee for infractions, while ignoring the same behavior from white employees;
- A boss telling a Latina employee that he will have her deported if she does not have sex with him (sexual harassment);
- Letting a 60-year-old employee and hiring a less qualified 25-year-old to take her place (age discrimination);
- An employer refusing to make a reasonable accommodation to allow a cashier with a herniated disc to sit while working; or
- Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor to avoid paying benefits.
These are just some ways that an employer may violate federal and state law. If you believe that your employer has treated you illegally, your best course of action is to reach out to a New Jersey employment lawyer for help.
Our Focus: The Rights of People with Disabilities
At Bross & Frankel, our practice is unique. We focus on the rights and needs of people with disabilities whose ability to make a living has been affected. We represent people with disabilities as they seek workers’ compensation, long-term disability benefits, Social Security disability benefits, and veterans benefits.
As a result of this experience, our team is well-versed in medical conditions, functional limitations, and problems that affect both employment and employee benefits. This gives us an advantage when it comes to handling claims related to disability discrimination and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
By law, New Jersey employers are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities. They are also required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities, unless doing so would result in an undue hardship. If an employer violates these laws, an employee may file a claim against them.
Disability discrimination is far too common in the United States, including here in New Jersey. It can happen when a company:
- Refuses to hire a qualified individual with a disability;
- Requires a job applicant to take a medical or psychological examination that is not job-related or consistent with business necessity;
- Demotes an employee for taking sick leave; or
- Fires an employee after they are diagnosed with a disability.
In each of these situations, the employer may be held financially responsible for any losses that the employee suffered as a result of the wrongful conduct. These damages may include back pay, front pay, benefits, bonus payments, higher income from a promotion, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. If appropriate, an employee can even seek to be reinstated after being wrongfully fired.
My Coworkers Are Bullying Me. Can I File a Lawsuit?
It depends on why and how your colleagues are bullying you. Generally, only certain types of workplace harassment and discrimination are illegal. Under federal and state law, workplace discrimination is illegal when it is based on a person’s:
-Race (both federal and state)
-National origin (both)
-Sex (both, and federal law includes sexual orientation and gender identity under a recent Supreme Court ruling)
-Nationality (New Jersey)
-Ancestry (New Jersey)
-Pregnancy (New Jersey)
-Breastfeeding (New Jersey)
-Sexual orientation (New Jersey)
-Gender identity and gender expression (New Jersey)
-Genetic information (New Jersey)
-Marital status (New Jersey)
-Familial status (New Jersey)
-Domestic partnership/civil union status (New Jersey)
-Military or veteran status (New Jersey)
-Atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait (New Jersey)
If the bullying isn’t based on your membership in one or more of these groups, then you may not have legal recourse.
The question of whether something is discriminatory is based on the particular facts of your situation. For example, if you are a woman and are being bullied because you dyed your hair pink and have multiple earrings, then it may not be considered illegal discrimination. However, if you are a man and you are being harassed because you don’t conform to gender norms, then you may be able to pursue a claim.
Employment law is complicated and requires both an understanding of the law and a thorough evaluation of the facts of your case. If you believe that you are being discriminated against at work, schedule a free consultation with a New Jersey employment lawyer to learn about your rights and options.
Does My Employer Have to Provide Me with a Reasonable Accommodation If I Have a Disability?
If you have a disability, then you may be able to request a reasonable accommodation from your employer or even a prospective employer. A reasonable accommodation is any change to the job application or hiring process, the work environment, or the job itself that allows a qualified person with a disability to perform the essential functions of their job. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers who have 15 or more employees are usually required to provide reasonable accommodations.
However, that does not mean that your employer has to provide you with the specific accommodation that you request. First, the requested accommodation must be effective in meeting in allowing you to perform the essential functions of the job.
Second, an employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would cause an “undue hardship.” The question of whether an accommodation would cause undue hardship is based on the specific circumstances, including the nature and cost of the proposed accommodation, the financial resources and size of the employer, the type of work that the employer does, and the impact that the accommodation would have on the operation of the business.
For example, Mary works as a sales clerk at a store that sells lighting. She develops migraines that are triggered by light. As an accommodation, Mary asks her employer to take steps to make sure that none of the lights that they sell can be turned on and off by other employees or customers. Given the nature of the business and the need to demonstrate how the products work, this is not a reasonable accommodation. A different accommodation, such as having Mary work in the back of the store in a room with low light, maybe more appropriate.
I Quit My Job. Can I File a Lawsuit for Constructive Discharge?
Even if your employer does not fire you, if they make your work conditions so intolerable that you are forced to quit, then you may still be able to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination. This is known as constructive discharge.
In New Jersey, constructive discharge occurs when an employee’s work conditions are made “so intolerable that a reasonable person would be forced to resign rather than continue to endure it.” In other words, to be constructively discharged, your working conditions have to be more than just unpleasant — they must be so bad that a reasonable employee in your situation would believe that they had no choice but to quit. Your employer must also have either created these intolerable conditions or allowed them to happen.
To file a lawsuit in this situation, you must be able to demonstrate that your constructive discharge was wrongful. If you could have filed a lawsuit against your employer for wrongful termination if you had been fired, then you likely will be able to file a claim for constructive discharge. To win this type of case, you will need to prove:
1. You were constructively discharged; and
2. If your employer had fired you outright, you would have had a wrongful termination case against your employer.
For example, John works as a nurse at a surgical center in New Jersey. He notices multiple health and safety violations and files a report with the state. After he does this, his employer doesn’t fire him but instead retaliates against him by cutting his hours, assigning him the worst jobs, and changing his shifts.
These conditions quickly become intolerable for John, as he isn’t earning enough to pay his bills and his sleep schedule is out of whack from being switched between day and night shift several times a week. He feels that he has no choice but to quit.
After quitting, John may be able to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination. If his employer had fired him for being a whistleblower, he could have filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination. Because he was constructively discharged, he can still file a lawsuit.
How We Can Help
For most people, labor laws are incredibly confusing. It can be hard to know when your boss has broken the law — and when he is just being a jerk. An employment lawyer can help you figure out when you have a right to pursue a legal claim.
Bross & Frankel represents people who have been treated unfairly at work and helps them get the compensation that they deserve. We represent clients in Camden, Burlington, Gloucester, Ocean, Monmouth Counties and throughout Southern New Jersey and the Philadelphia Metro area. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review, contact us online or call our office at 856-795-8880.