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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.

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