If you believe you have been the victim of employment discrimination in New Jersey, you may have a number of legal options. You may be able to pursue a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if your claims arise out alleged violations of federal laws. For violations of state laws, your claim may be investigated by the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR). If you have claims under both federal and state law, the agencies can work together to investigate the circumstances.
These agencies can help you pursue compensation without the need to file a state or federal lawsuit or retaining an attorney. It may be beneficial, however, to discuss your situation with an attorney. In some circumstances, you may have to pursue an agency claim before you are permitted to file a civil suit. Experienced legal counsel can help you understand what claims you may have and assess the best way for you to pursue the recovery you deserve.
Liability Under State and Federal Laws
You may ultimately choose to file a lawsuit in state or federal court alleging violations of laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. Some of the legal bases for recovery include
- Disparate Treatment
- Adverse Employment
- Constructive Discharge
- Wrongful Termination
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
The facts of each case will determine which of these theories of liability and which laws apply to your situation. Not all employers are covered by both state and federal anti-discrimination laws, and the remedies available under each law are different.
What kind of compensation you can obtain in a lawsuit depends on the damages you suffer and the remedies available under the applicable laws. Some of these include
- Economic damages associated with the discrimination, retaliation, or harassment, including lost wages (past or future), lost pension benefits or contributions, loss of bonuses or raises, and other quantifiable monetary damages
- Injunctive relief, including reinstatement to your previous position or the position you would have rightly earned without the discrimination (for example, promotions based on tenure)
- Compensation for pain and suffering, representing the emotional cost you suffered as a result of the wrongful action and its effects
- Punitive damages, which are meant to “punish” your employer and deter them from similar conduct going forward
- Attorney’s fees and litigation costs
The damages you recover can also depend on the circumstances of your unique situation. If you successfully prove that you were demoted because of your race, you might petition to be reinstated to your previous position as well as being reimbursed for the difference in pay and paid compensation for your pain and suffering; alternately, you may just want to recover monetary damages and walk away from the employer completely.
You shouldn’t wait to talk to a lawyer about potential employment discrimination claims. There are time limits called the “statutes of limitations” that restrict the amount of time you have to begin your claim. In most cases, you must begin a claim with the New Jersey DCR or the EEOC within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. This time limit can be extended in certain circumstances, but, to be safe, you should begin your claim with these agencies as soon as possible.
In general, if you choose not to file an agency claim, you must file a lawsuit based on your New Jersey state discrimination claim within 2 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the interactions between state and federal investigatory agencies and ensure that you don’t let any of your possible options expire.