There are many laws at both the state level and the federal level that protect employees in New Jersey from being mistreated by their current or prospective employers. One of the most important protections is against workplace discrimination!
- Skin color
- Familial/marital/domestic partnership/parental status
- Religious beliefs or practices
- Political party or affiliation
- Sexual orientation
- Gender expression/identity
- Illness or medical needs, including genetic characteristics
- Disability (mental or physical)
- And other characteristics.
Being discriminated against can be a terrible experience. It can cause other people in your workplace to lose respect for you; it can cause shame and low self-esteem; it can result in you missing out (or more accurately, being kept) from advancing in your career and seizing financial opportunities for yourself and for your family.
However, even though workplace discrimination is harmful, unfair, and against the law, that doesn’t always keep discrimination from occurring. Many victims of discrimination hesitate to come forward because they either are not sure that they are a victim and don’t know what behaviors “count” as discriminatory, or because they fear retribution, but if you are a victim, you deserve monetary compensation – and your employer deserves to be held accountable!
Here are 10 examples of illegal workplace discrimination to help New Jersey employees better understand whether or not they may have a case:
1 – Passing a deserving employee over for a promotion because she is pregnant.
Pregnancy discrimination is an unfortunately common discriminatory action. Pregnant women can’t be treated differently (in a negative sense – they can and should be given all of the accommodations and kindness necessary!) simply because they are pregnant, or because they are going on maternity leave (denying maternity leave is also a form of discrimination). Whatever would normally happen to them in the course of their career – including being promoted – should continue to happen to them despite the fact that they will be taking time off when the baby comes and may need more breaks throughout the day because of the pregnancy.
2 – Forcing an employee to retire.
Employers can’t fire someone or let someone go simply because they are getting older – that’s known as ageism. They can’t punish employees for passing over retirement incentives and they can’t pressure someone by making age-related comments repeatedly. Forcing someone to retire is discriminatory (unless they can prove that employees must have a certain physical or mental aptitude to complete the job safely).
3 – Giving certain employees undesirable shifts or tasks due to their skin color.
Racial discrimination is one of the most common forms of illegal workplace discrimination, and it can also be one of the most upsetting. If a certain employee or certain group of employees who share the same race are being demeaned by their employer because of their race, even in such a subtle way as not being given responsibilities that they are clearly overqualified for or being constantly given the responsibilities that no one wants, that’s illegal. For example, if all of the black employees at a New Jersey restaurant are finding themselves to be the only ones who are asked by the boss to clean the customer restrooms, that may be discrimination.
4 – Consistently making racial slurs or sexual innuendos.
Discrimination can also be verbal in nature. While one or two remarks spread out over a long period of time may not necessarily warrant a legal claim, if there is a pattern of discriminatory speech (such as racial slurs or sexual innuendos or otherwise inappropriate jokes) that creates an uncomfortable or hostile work environment, that could be grounds for a discrimination case.
5 – Preventing a person who wears certain religious garb from working in customer service.
In New Jersey, employers can’t segregate people because they choose to practice their religion, even if customers complain or there is a perceived fear of customer pushback. For example, if a female Muslim employee wears a hijab, her boss can’t just keep her from working the front desk or front counter or sales unless there is a performance-based reason. To do so is discriminatory!
6 – Hiring an employee who is in a wheelchair but failing to make the office wheelchair accessible.
Not hiring someone because they have a disability is discriminatory, but there are exceptions where an employer can legitimately conclude that the disability will prevent you from performing essential job duties or poses a risk to your or others’ safety. However, once you are hired, employees with disabilities have the right to the same type of job assignments, training, promotions, and all other benefits that other employees have. Making reasonable disability accommodations is required by law.
7 – Hiring a less qualified candidate over another candidate because the one candidate has multiple children.
Some employers have a notion that parents won’t be able to dedicate their full attention to their careers, but to discard someone during the hiring process just because they have kids is a mistake (and is illegal workplace discrimination).
8 – Paying a woman less who performs the same job duties as her male coworker.
The wage gap has long been a subject of debate, but men and women deserve to be paid the same amount for the same job. It’s unfair, and against the law, for a woman to be paid less simply because she is a woman. Of course, if she has less experience, has been at the company for a shorter period of time, doesn’t have the same educational background or certifications, or doesn’t perform the same duties, it is not discrimination to pay less – but as unfortunately too often is the case, women in the same roles (when all things are considered equal) don’t make as much as their male counterparts.
9 – Forcing an employee to undergo and submit genetic testing to protect against workers’ compensation claims.
This isn’t as common, but if you have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases, your employer can’t discriminate against you – they also can’t make you disclose this information or raise your work health insurance premiums because of testing results.
10 – Firing an employee for bringing any of the above scenarios or other discriminatory scenario to attention.
Employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against employees for whistleblowing, which is making a legal claim or pointing out an unfair/illegal practice that the employer is engaging in. For example, if you were a victim of pregnancy discrimination, and you complained to HR or filed a lawsuit, your employer isn’t allowed to fire you. That’s classified as retaliation, and it is strictly prohibited.
Think you may have a claim? Call The Law Offices of Patel & Cardenas today.
Our New Jersey workplace discrimination lawyers can listen to your story, help you determine if you have a case, and make your voice heard. You can rely on our experienced legal team to stand up for justice! Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your options.