If a person becomes the victim of discrimination because of his or her protected characteristics, (s)he may be entitled to several remedies. These remedies include injunctive relief, job reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages related to pain and suffering or emotional distress, punitive damages, interest on lost wages, and reasonable attorney’s fees. Each of these remedies may require special proof or a specific burden to be carried, and not all may be available in every case. In addition to being held liable to pay these remedies to an aggrieved employee, an employer who violates the LAD may also be subject to fines of up to $50,000, depending on the nature and number of the discrimination offenses of which the employer is found to have committed. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-14.1a).
In order to obtain the remedies provided by the LAD, discrimination victims must file actions within specific timelines. Complaints to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-18), and lawsuits must be filed with the court within two years of the date of the alleged discrimination. If a worker first files a claim with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights but later changes his mind, he can stop that action and file a lawsuit so long as the Division has not yet rendered an official decision.
Due to all the complexity of possible combinations of LAD violations, available remedies, and actions that a discrimination victim may wish to bring, it is important victims understand their rights and know what to expect when filing discrimination complaints or lawsuits. Employment discrimination cases require patience, knowledge, and attention to detail, and each individual’s case is unique. For instance, sometimes an aggrieved employee may simply want the lost job back, while other times, the employee may hope to receive monetary damages for lost wages. Likewise, cases in which a worker has been denied the right to a reasonable accommodation for a disability are different from cases in which a worker is fired because of a boss’s prejudice and discrimination.
Despite the fact that most discrimination cases are filed under the LAD, different approaches may be advisable in each situation. This is why it is important for discrimination victims to seek the help of an experienced employment attorney who will take the time to understand what has happened and how best to help. By working closely with a dedicated attorney, victims can ease the pain and harm caused by the discrimination, and they will have a devoted ally in seeking justice for the wrongs they have suffered due to unlawful discrimination.