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Discrimination Laws in New Jersey

What can you do if your are being discriminated against at work?

New Jersey employees are lucky enough to be covered by one of the nation’s most comprehensive and powerful civil rights statutes, the Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. § 10:5-1 et seq. (LAD).  The LAD protects employees from discrimination based on many “protected characteristics”, such as race, national origin, sexual orientation, disability and age.  When you sue your employer for discrimination under the LAD and win, you may be entitled to recover back pay (the amount of pay lost between the time you were fired and the time of the verdict), front pay (an amount of pay for a reasonable time after the verdict), compensatory damages (for emotional distress or pain and suffering), punitive damages, interest and attorneys fees.

In today’s society, discrimination can take many forms.  Some people have the misfortune of still experiencing “direct discrimination.”  For instance, a manager or co-worker may make racially offensive statements, sexually explicit jokes, etc.  The LAD provides a remedy for remedy for employees subjected to such treatment.

Far more common, though, is the subtle discrimination endemic in some workplaces.  Such discrimination is often harder to identify and can be more difficult to establish in court.  An example of subtle discrimination is when someone is continuously passed over for promotion while equally qualified or lesser qualified individuals are promoted.  Another example is when someone is given less desirable work than her counterparts with the same title or rank.  It is important to remember that these practices are discriminatory and they are illegal under the LAD.  A good employee rights attorney can show you how best to prove a case of subtle discrmination.

New Jersey employees also enjoy protections under federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  There are numerous differences between the federal and state statutes.  One of the most important is that the LAD permits you to file your claim directly in the Superior Court while Title VII and other federal laws require you to go through an administrative process before bringing your case to court.  Another significant difference is that the LAD may provide for a higher level of compensation in some cases than analogous federal laws.  Before lodging a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or similar agency, you should be sure that you have a full grasp of all available options.

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