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What Kind of Accommodations Must My Employer Make for My Disability?

It’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against any current or potential employee because of a disability. This means that an employer can’t choose not to hire, to fire, or take other adverse employment action against a person because of their disability if they are otherwise able to perform the essential functions of the job “with or without accommodation.” But what does “accommodation” mean? What does an employer have to do for a current or potential employee with a disability?

Are Dogs That Bite Automatically Euthanized?

Although animal attacks occur frequently, many dog bites happen accidentally or unintentionally. Sometimes, an otherwise friendly dog can get overenthusiastic and bite a human playmate, or a puppy that isn’t yet fully trained can nip at a petting hand. Unfortunately, even unintentional bites can result in disability, impairment, or other medical issues. You may be hesitant to report a dog bite because you fear serious consequences for the dog; maybe you’ve heard that dogs that bite will be put down or taken away from their owner. In New Jersey, this is not necessarily the case. Knowing the law can help you protect your rights and recover what you deserve if you are injured by a dog.

Case #6: Employment Law

Plaintiff Suzy Smith is a female of Indian descent. In 2011, she was hired by Acme School as a guidance counselor. Ms. Smith was very qualified for her job and performed satisfactorily throughout her employment. Around November 2012, Ms. Smith took an approved maternity leave through June of 2013.

In November of the following school year, Jimmy Jones was hired as the new superintendent of Acme School, replacing the superintendent who had approved of Ms. Smith’s maternity leave. In March of 2014, Mr. Jones informed Ms. Smith that her contract would be renewed for the following school year.

The following month, Ms. Jones was informed that, because of her maternity leave, her tenure track had been interrupted. This caused her tenure decision to be pushed to January of 2015. Mr. Jones explained that her maternity leave was inconvenient to Acme School, and as a result, he would not agree to renew her contract for the following school year. Mr. Jones advised Ms. Smith that non-tenured staff was not supposed to take extended maternity leave and that doing so had hurt her chance of continued employment.

A few days later, Ms. Smith discovered that non-U.S. citizens are ineligible for tenure. She was not a United States citizen at the time; she held permanent residence. After discovering this, Ms. Smith emailed Mr. Jones to inform him that she was ineligible for tenure due to her non-citizenship. Because of her ineligibility, his reason for not renewing her contract was now open to discussion. She explained that she wanted to remain employed at Acme School and that she would be more than willing to be mentored by a more experienced counselor.

On or about May 1, 2014, Ms. Smith and Mr. Jones met regarding Ms. Smith’s email and her employment. In the meeting, Mr. Jones reiterated that he would not recommend the renewal of Ms. Smith’s contract for the following year. He said that because he was a new superintendent and because he had only been serving for five months, he was not comfortable with committing to Ms. Smith, as she was ineligible for tenure. In an attempt to convince Ms. Smith to resign, Mr. Jones offered a choice: if she were “terminated,” she could collect benefits, but he would not give her a recommendation for future employment. Alternatively, if she resigned, she would not be able to collect benefits, but he would provide a recommendation wherever she applied.

Mr. Jones then stated that the real reason Ms. Jones’ was not being renewed was that she had been out on maternity leave the prior year. Then, he said that it was because Ms. Smith is “culturally different” and that she did not grasp the “dysfunctionality of Americanism.” Perhaps realizing that his remarks were insensitive, Mr. Jones offered another reason: there had been six complaints by parents about Ms. Smith—although Ms. Smith had never been told about any complaints before. Ms. Smith responded that she was had not been given the opportunity to resolve any issues or complaints, and asked “what the real reason” was for her termination. Mr. Jones dismissed Ms. Smith’s concerns, rudely cut her off, and told her that the meeting was over.

Ms. Smith interviewed for a position at another school in or around June 2014. She was strongly recommended for the job by the counselor at that school who was scheduled to go on maternity leave. Though Ms. Smith thought that the interview had gone very well, she did not hear back for several weeks. When she inquired about the status of her application, she was informed that Mr. Jones had given her a poor reference and told the district not to hire her. She was left unemployed with no benefits—despite Mr. Jones’ statements when she left Acme School. Mr. Jones admitted to telling the district that they should hire another candidate. She did not get the job.

In response to Mr. Jones’ interference with Ms. Smith’s job search, Ms. Smith filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, calling into question Mr. Jones’ behavior toward Ms. Smith during her employment at Acme School. In response, Mr. Jones continued to interfere and retaliate against Ms. Smith.

In or around July 2015, Ms. Smith interviewed with another public school. She had been highly recommended by someone who was resigning from the school and had been employed there for more than six years. Ms. Smith explained to the assistant principal of the school that she and Mr. Jones had not worked together very long and that they did not part on the best terms. She suggested that the assistant principal check with any of her other supervisors, who were more than likely to provide a positive recommendation.

After the interview, Ms. Smith was told she would hear back with a decision within two weeks. However, she never received any communication from the school, causing her to suspect that Mr. Jones had interfered with her interview process at this school as well.

Suzy Smith sued Jimmy Jones and Acme School for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, alleging discrimination based on sex, pregnancy, and national origin and intentional interference with her prospective economic advantage.

If an employer has taken adverse action against you based on your sex, national origin, pregnancy, or other prohibited reason, an experienced employment attorney can help you enforce your rights. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss the facts of your New Jersey employment law case and how we can help.

Case #4: Age Discrimination Harassment

Plaintiff Suzy Smith was hired as a front-of-the-house manager at Acme Corp. Prior to her employment, she had suffered injuries to her ankle, making it difficult for her to walk long distances. As a result, she had a permanent handicapped parking permit.

From the time of her hiring at Acme Corp, Ms. Smith endured harassment from her co-workers because of her disability, age, and race. Her supervisor, Jimmy Jones, referred to her as “old woman,” “old woman Suzy,” or “liver spots.” Ms. Smith often got comments such as, “Well, you’re old. Of course you don’t remember that.” When she complained to her general manager and to her senior manager, she was told that “this is just the way things are” and that she needed to “deal with it.”

Suzy Smith also faced harassment from the back of the house, as the cooks in the kitchen would often make comments to Ms. Smith, too, asking if she had a “hearing problem,” or if she was “too old to hear properly.” Ms. Smith complained again, and the kitchen staff was merely told to “stop harassing” her. No disciplinary action was taken against any of the kitchen staff.

Ms. Smith made a formal complaint to Acme Corp about the negative comments made towards her by other workers about her age. A human resources representative advised her that they had completed an investigation into the matter and that there was a remedy, but would not tell Ms. Smith what action had actually been taken.

The kitchen workers continued to harass Ms. Smith about her use of the handicapped parking spot in front of the building. They scolded her for “cheating the system,” claiming that there was “nothing wrong with [her].” She made it clear to the executive chef that these actions offended her, but the chef never took action to reprimand his staff.

The most vocal kitchen staff member referred to Ms. Smith as “gay.” Ms. Smith complained once more about the harassment, but still, no action was taken. A few months later, the kitchen staff member threatened and then assaulted Ms. Smith by kicking her injured ankle, yelling, “I told you not to park in the handicapped spot!” When Ms. Smith escaped from the kitchen staff member, he called back to her, “I didn’t know anything was really wrong with you.”

Following the incident, Ms. Smith had to take three sick days because she was in fear of another assault. When Ms. Smith returned to work, the kitchen staff yelled at her, “We’re going to get you, Whitey!” as soon as she entered the kitchen. Ms. Smith, terrified by the comment, immediately left the premises and told her supervisor, Jimmy Jones, that it was not safe for her to continue to work at Acme Corp.

Suzy Smith sued Jimmy Jones, Acme Corp, and the kitchen staff member for violating the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Her claims included discrimination based on disability or perceived disability and age, harassment and the creation of a hostile work environment based on age and perceived sexual orientation, retaliation for making lawful complaints, negligent supervision and hiring employees, and assault and battery.

If your employer has ignored your reports of harassment and discrimination in the workplace, or worse, retaliated against you for making them in the first place, an experienced employment attorney can help you figure out how best to assert your rights. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss the facts of your employment case and discuss your legal options.

Case #5: Prevailing Wage

Plaintiff Suzy Smith was employed by Acme Corp, a business that provides IT consulting services on various public work projects. Suzy Smith helped in the installation and setup of SMART boards and Chromebooks, installation of fiber optics and other electrical wiring, and the setup of other electrical instruments at various schools and public school classrooms. Because Ms. Smith’s employment involved public work, she was entitled to an hourly prevailing wage rate under New Jersey law.

Acme Corp failed to post the prevailing wage rates for each craft and classification in an easily accessible place at the work site, and Ms. Smith believed that Acme Corp willfully paid her less than the prevailing wage rates and benefits to which she was entitled. Suzy Smith sued Acme Corp for violation of the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act, seeking both injunctive and monetary relief.

If you are employed on a public works project in New Jersey and are not receiving or being notified of the prevailing wage to which you’re entitled, an experienced employment attorney can help you enforce your rights. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss the facts of your case and how we can assist you.

Case #3: Religious Discrimination

Suzy Smith worked for Acme Corp as a service manager, assisting the opening of eight Acme Corp locations in the state. Ms. Smith is a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, which had been well known at the time she was hired. While working at Acme Corp, Ms. Smith maintained a clean record.

Approximately five months in advance of a three-day religious convention, Suzy Smith submitted a request for unpaid time off so that she could attend, and her general manager at the time approved the request. Ms. Smith was transferred to a restaurant location in another town, where her new manager was Jimmy Jones.

Soon after her transfer, Suzy Smith informed Mr. Jones that she had obtained approval from her previous manager for unpaid leave to attend the three-day religious convention. However, Mr. Jones would only agree to allow her to take off two out of the three days that had been previously approved. Mr. Jones told Ms. Smith that if she wanted to take the third day off, she would need to find someone to cover her shift for her. After Ms. Smith reiterated the importance of attending her religious convention, Mr. Jones replied, “I don’t care about your religious beliefs, and if I were practicing Judaism, I’d take off every Saturday.” He warned Ms. Smith that if she did not come into work, she would lose her job.

Following this conversation with Mr. Jones, Ms. Smith emailed her two upper management supervisors to report the incident. An upper manager replied that she could take the time off and not to worry about it. After Ms. Smith was able to find someone to cover her shift, she attended the three-day convention and returned to work as scheduled.

Within about a month of her transfer, another female employee informed Suzy Smith that she was being sexually harassed by the manager, Jimmy Jones. The other female employee confided in Ms. Smith that Mr. Jones had made inappropriate jokes about her breasts and that these jokes made her extremely uncomfortable. In response to this information, Ms. Smith reported Mr. Jones to Acme Corp’s regional director as well as to upper management. Both parties failed to conduct any investigation into Ms. Smith’s complaints, and Mr. Jones was never reprimanded for his actions. Mr. Jones continued to work as the manager of both Ms. Smith and the other female employee.

Within a few weeks of her reporting, Mr. Jones informed Ms. Smith that she was being terminated because she did not manage the inventory correctly. She had never been found to have any issues with managing inventory before and had received no prior warning. Prior to her request to attend the religious convention and her report of sexual harassment, Ms. Smith had always been told that she was doing an excellent job. She had never received any complaints, nor was she ever disciplined for any work-related reason. Ms. Smith was the victim of unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by Mr. Jones and Acme Corp.

Suzy Smith sued Jimmy Jones and Acme Corp for violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by retaliating against her for sexual harassment reporting, discriminating against her because of her religious practices, and wrongfully terminating her from her position.

If your employer has discriminated against you because of your religion or retaliated against you for reporting workplace wrongdoing, contact an experienced employment attorney, who can help you determine what recourse may be available and help you file a lawsuit, if appropriate. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss your employment situation and discuss your options.

Case #2: Employment Law

Suzy Smith was employed as a digital media consultant for a website. At the time, Jimmy Jones, owner of Acme Corp, offered Suzy Smith the director of digital sales position, Ms. Smith was going through a divorce. She had been concerned about leaving her previous employer because moving to a commission-based position would be a radical transition for her. Before making her decision, Ms. Smith spoke to Mr. Jones on several occasions to discuss her concerns, the flexibility she required, her divorce, childcare issues, expectations at Acme Corp, and her compensation. Mr. Jones assured Ms. Smith that she would have flexibility to work around her personal schedule.

Mr. Jones offered Ms. Smith a compensation package of $3,000 per week at first, which was represented as a “guaranteed” $156,000 a year salary. The compensation was based on a 4% gross commission on all new and used car sales. Mr. Jones persuaded Ms. Smith to accept the job offer, and she began working for Acme Corp.

The two agreed that Ms. Smith would work shorter days on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to accommodate her parenting time. Ms. Smith made it very clear that she had to maintain responsible and consistent parenting time; otherwise, it could be used against her during her divorce and potentially affect the parenting time she would be allowed in the future. Despite this, Mr. Jones demanded that Ms. Smith skip her parenting time to be at the dealership. He followed up these demands with threats that if she could not be at the dealership when needed, he would find someone who could.

Ms. Smith worked hard at the dealership, particularly because her compensation was based on commissions and she needed to demonstrate her financial stability to the court during her divorce.

Due to Ms. Smith’s financial situation and fear of losing her job, she gave up her weekday parenting time. About one month later, although Ms. Smith and Mr. Jones had agreed that Ms. Smith would work only every other Saturday, Mr. Jones ordered Ms. Smith to work every Saturday.

Ms. Smith complained in response to Mr. Jones’ harsh demands, but Mr. Jones told her that he could easily find someone who could work on the weekends and that Ms. Smith could go back to her old job. Ms. Smith, in order to keep the only parenting time she had left, pled with her family to watch her children on Saturdays while he worked at the dealership.

After a few weeks and then again after a few months, Ms. Smith asked Mr. Jones why her commission checks were not coming to her and why there were discrepancies in the amount. Although Mr. Jones always had an excuse for not paying Ms. Smith, she later learned that none of the managers had received their commission checks. Ms. Smith was not paid the $3,000 per week Mr. Jones had promised to pay her in the first few months.

Ms. Smith endured a persistently hostile work environment and Mr. Jones’ unrelentingly unprofessional attitude toward her and her co-workers. Rather than pay her what she had earned, Mr. Jones harassed Ms. Smith so that she would quit. Ms. Jones feared losing her children, being unable to pay child support and alimony, and losing her home. Mr. Jones was fully aware of Ms. Smith’s personal struggles and took advantage of her good nature.

Suzy Smith sued Jimmy Jones and Acme Corp for violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

If your employer fails to pay you what you’ve earned, unilaterally changes the terms of your employment, or subjects you to harassment, an experienced employment attorney can help you determine what remedies may be available to you. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss your abusive employment situation and learn what legal recourse you may have.

Case #1: Sexual Harassment

Plaintiff Suzy Smith was a 23-year old single mother who was putting herself through college. Smith was formerly employed for Acme Corp and assisted in a program that provided work experience and training for clients with limited work experience. Ms. Smith was assigned to work at an Acme Corp location in Jersey City, which is primarily a day care facility for young children. She worked as an assistant to Jimmy Jones.

Initially, Jones would make passes at Ms. Smith. He would comment on her appearance, touch her buttocks and sides without her consent, and make inappropriate comments toward her. These comments included, “I’d like to give you a test drive,” “I love beautiful black women like you,” and “I am the only man for you.” Ms. Smith requested a transfer away from Acme Corp and was assigned to another family services center as a filing clerk for about one year.

Approximately one year following her transfer, Ms. Smith was informed that she would be transferred back to the Acme Corp center, but in a different position working with children. She was told that she would not be working with Jones. Because she believed that she would not be working with Jones again and that she would be around other teachers and children, Suzy Smith accepted the transfer.

After approximately two months, Ms. Smith was advised that a driver had left Acme Corp and that Jones had requested that Ms. Smith be an Acme Corp driver. Though she questioned the placement, Smith was advised that she would be working with a partner. She felt safe working with her partner, who was the daughter of one of Jones’ friends. When Ms. Smith arrived back at Acme Corp, she was told that she needed to get the van keys from Jones’ office and return them daily. Then, on an almost daily basis, Jones continued his inappropriate comments to Ms. Smith when she retrieved and returned the van keys. These included, “The devil in me wants to sin;” “Men have needs, and I need you;” “I would like to give you a ride when you are ready;” and “My wife doesn’t need to know because a man has needs.” Smith made it clear that these comments made her extremely uncomfortable. She told him to go away, that he was acting inappropriately, and to stop. She told him that if he didn’t leave her alone, she would tell others.

In response, Jones threatened Ms. Smith’s job. He told her that he controlled her job and that she wouldn’t say a thing if she didn’t want her child on the streets. Smiling and laughing, Jones told her, “Keep it quiet and I’ll make you happy” and, “If I’m happy, you’ll be happy.” Because her job at Acme Corp was her only source of income as she continued her college education, Ms. Smith kept quiet as instructed and attempted to endure the harassment.

After about six months in her position as an Acme Corp driver, Jones approached Ms. Smith from behind and rubbed against her with an erect penis. In shock, Ms. Smith quickly walked away. When she looked back at him, he only smiled at her, laughed, and walked in the other direction.

That same month, Ms. Smith arrived at work to find that the door was locked. When she texted Jones and asked to be let in, he responded, “Let superman fly upstairs n you will be cool.” Unsure of what he meant, Smith continued with her job.

Approximately two days later, Jones instructed Smith to come into his office for additional training. Once there, he instructed her to sit in a chair, and he told her that he loved her and wanted to be her man. Jones proceeded to grab her breast, pull down her shirt, and began to forcibly suck on her breast. In response, Ms. Smith shoved Jones away and told him to stop. Jones laughed and told her that she liked it. He claimed that no one would believe her if she said anything and that she would be let go from her job. After this, Jones placed money in Ms. Smith’s bra. Ms. Smith did her best to avoid Jones over the next few weeks.

A few weeks later, Jones told Ms. Smith that she needed to get a key from his office before she started work. As she entered his office, Jones told her to sit down and said, “We can’t control the way we feel about someone” and tried to kiss her. Terrified, Ms. Smith pushed Jones back. He aggressively sat next to her in a chair, placed his hand on her thigh, and told her that he would like to see her “superman,” referring to her tattoo. She was unable to leave because he was forcibly holding her and because she was in fear of what this large man could do to her. Pleading to let her leave and pick up her son, Ms. Smith asked him to move away. Jones told her not yet, and then began to kiss Ms. Smith. He reached under her shirt, pulled down her bra, and began to suck on her breast. Initially frozen in fear, Ms. Smith pushed Jones away and escaped the office.

Ms. Smith knew that she had to report Jones and protect herself. Knowing that some people would not believe her, Ms. Smith went into Jones’ office the next day to return the key and recorded their meeting without his knowledge. When Ms. Smith came into his office, Jones immediately caressed Ms. Smith’s back and tried to kiss her. Jones reminded Ms. Smith that he was “a man with needs.” He told her there is a difference between love and lust and that he wanted her “on the side” and had money for her. He claimed that his actions the previous day were “the devil in [him]” and that his wife did not need to know about what he was doing. Jones tried to kiss Ms. Smith once again, and she pushed him away. He told her not to push away, and said, “Don’t say no.” He proceeded to place a $20 bill in Ms. Smith’s bra, telling her, “This is for you, to show you how much I appreciate you.”

Ms. Smith sent a text to her coworker, informing her that she could not come in the next day because of issues with Jones. Her coworker asked if Jones had made a pass at her, to which Ms. Smith replied, “Yep!”

Ms. Smith spoke to her supervisor to inform her that she was unable to work with Jones anymore due to the sexual harassment. The supervisor replied, “Oh, him again. We are well aware of the complaints against him.” Laughing and making light of Ms. Smith’s complaints, her supervisor left the door open for others outside to hear. Many people walked in during their conversation. There was neither privacy nor confidentiality for such an intimate matter. As Ms. Smith tried to speak with her, her supervisor worked on several other matters. Ms. Smith’s supervisor informed her that another female employee had filed a written complaint of sexual harassment against Jones and implied that no action had been taken against Jones due to the large size of Acme Corp’s site. After their meeting, Ms. Smith was advised to speak to Jones’ supervisor. Jones’ supervisor’s response was only to tell her to “do what [she] [has] to do.”

Ms. Smith was transferred to a new location, but none of her employers took action to investigate Ms. Smith’s allegations. Acme Corp failed to train, monitor, or control its employees to prevent sexual harassment, and employees of Acme Corp knowingly allowed Jimmy Jones to work with young women who were targets for his sexual harassment.

Suzy Smith sued Jimmy Jones, her supervisors, and her employer, for sexual harassment, alleging a hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and vicarious liability for these wrongful actions.

If this situation sounds familiar to you, you don’t have to let it continue. Contact the Mark Law Firm to discuss the facts of your case and how to best protect your rights and your personal safety.

Is My Non-Compete Agreement Enforceable?

Non-compete agreements are becoming more and more common. Once limited to high-level employees in whom companies invested a great deal of time and trust, these restrictions are now frequently imposed without negotiation on lower-wage and lower-level employees. The laws regarding which non-compete agreements are enforceable vary from state to state, and pending legislation may soon dramatically alter how New Jersey determines which non-compete agreements are enforceable against its workers. 

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