CASES OF DISCRIMINATION

Race

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (gender) and national origin. This also includes pregnancy discrimination which is considered discrimination based on sex. It also includes sexual harassment which is also considered discrimination based on sex. It does not cover any other form of discrimination including, but not limited to, sexual orientation. While this issue has been discussed, both legislatively and judicially, sexual orientation, under the federal law, is not considered a protected class. Title VII is applicable to businesses with 15 or more employees and the damages, for compensatory and punitive damages combined, max out at $300,000.00. Compensatory damages include damages which are more difficult to quantify, i.e., emotional distress, pain and suffering. The cap of $300,000.00 is for employers which employ 500 or more employees. Caps of $50,000.00, $100,000.00 and $200,000.00 are applicable to employers which employ 15-100 employees, 101-200 employees and 201-500 employees, respectively. Back pay (money owed to employee from the date of termination to the date of judgment) is not capped. Neither is front pay. However, both can be limited or eliminated as an award all together, if an employer can demonstrate that the employee failed to mitigate his/her damages. In plain English, mitigation of damages means that if an employee believes he/she has been terminated from employment on account of discrimination, the employee victim cannot sit at home, eat ice cream on the couch while watching soap operas and make no effort to find a new job. The law does not mandate that the victimized employee locates a job. The law mandates that the victimized employee makes a reasonable effort to find a job.

Age

The ADEA prohibits discrimination based on age. The minimum age of an employee claiming discrimination under the ADEA is 40. There is no maximum age, i.e., no age limit for an aggrieved employee. The ADEA is applicable to businesses with 20 or more employees. Most often, when an employer goes through a Reduction in Force (RIF), the age of those affected by the RIF is generally an area which is highly scrutinized by victimized employees. Compensatory and punitive damages under the ADEA are not capped because they are not available. However, an aggrieved employee can obtain up to twice the amount of back pay if it can be proven that the discrimination by the employer was willful. No differently than Title VII litigation, an aggrieved employee must try to mitigate damages.

Gender

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (gender) and national origin. This also includes pregnancy discrimination which is considered discrimination based on sex. It also includes sexual harassment which is also considered discrimination based on sex. It does not cover any other form of discrimination including, but not limited to, sexual orientation. While this issue has been discussed, both legislatively and judicially, sexual orientation, under the federal law, is not considered a protected class. Title VII is applicable to businesses with 15 or more employees and the damages, for compensatory and punitive damages combined, max out at $300,000.00. Compensatory damages include damages which are more difficult to quantify, i.e., emotional distress, pain and suffering. The cap of $300,000.00 is for employers which employ 500 or more employees. Caps of $50,000.00, $100,000.00 and $200,000.00 are applicable to employers which employ 15-100 employees, 101-200 employees and 201-500 employees, respectively. Back pay (money owed to employee from the date of termination to the date of judgment) is not capped. Neither is front pay. However, both can be limited or eliminated as an award all together, if an employer can demonstrate that the employee failed to mitigate his/her damages. In plain English, mitigation of damages means that if an employee believes he/she has been terminated from employment on account of discrimination, the employee victim cannot sit at home, eat ice cream on the couch while watching soap operas and make no effort to find a new job. The law does not mandate that the victimized employee locates a job. The law mandates that the victimized employee makes a reasonable effort to find a job.

Disability

The ADAAA prohibits discrimination based on disability. It is applicable to businesses with 15 or more employees. Damages available under the ADAAA are the same as the damages available pursuant to Title VII. The statute permits back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages. Like Title VII, the compensatory and punitive damages are capped. The ADA was amended in 2008 and went into effect January 1, 2009. One of the primary reasons for the amendment was due to judicial interpretation of the ADA. Similarly to Title VII and the ADEA, federal courts generally do not act favorably toward employees who bring cases of discrimination. Federal court judges, often times, favor businesses and corporations. This is something an aggrieved employee should bear in mind when considering filing a lawsuit in federal court pursuant to Title VII, the ADEA or the ADA. Nevertheless, the legislature acted and created the ADAAA which significantly expands the protections offered to aggrieved employees with disabilities. The ADA originally defined a disability as: (i) having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (ii) having a record of such an impairment; or (iii) being regarded as having such an impairment. While the definition has generally not changed, the interpretation of the definition has significantly changed. As a result, and as interpreted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its regulations, a much more broader view is now required with respect to the definition of a disability and the major life activities (and major bodily functions) which, under the definition, would be considered substantially limited. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Major bodily functions include, but are not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions

Religious

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (gender) and national origin. This also includes pregnancy discrimination which is considered discrimination based on sex. It also includes sexual harassment which is also considered discrimination based on sex. It does not cover any other form of discrimination including, but not limited to, sexual orientation. While this issue has been discussed, both legislatively and judicially, sexual orientation, under the federal law, is not considered a protected class. Title VII is applicable to businesses with 15 or more employees and the damages, for compensatory and punitive damages combined, max out at $300,000.00. Compensatory damages include damages which are more difficult to quantify, i.e., emotional distress, pain and suffering. The cap of $300,000.00 is for employers which employ 500 or more employees. Caps of $50,000.00, $100,000.00 and $200,000.00 are applicable to employers which employ 15-100 employees, 101-200 employees and 201-500 employees, respectively. Back pay (money owed to employee from the date of termination to the date of judgment) is not capped. Neither is front pay. However, both can be limited or eliminated as an award all together, if an employer can demonstrate that the employee failed to mitigate his/her damages. In plain English, mitigation of damages means that if an employee believes he/she has been terminated from employment on account of discrimination, the employee victim cannot sit at home, eat ice cream on the couch while watching soap operas and make no effort to find a new job. The law does not mandate that the victimized employee locates a job. The law mandates that the victimized employee makes a reasonable effort to find a job.

Orientation

Sexual Orientation is not one of the protected classes pursuant to federal law. However, if an employee falls victim to discrimination, sexual harassment and/or retaliation, and as horrible and depressing that employee may feel as a result, the employee will have one thing to smile about if the discrimination or sexual harassment occurred when the employee is employed in New Jersey. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) is considered one of the most aggressive anti-discrimination statutes in the country. Courts in New Jersey continually recognize that the New Jersey Legislature enacted this statute for the specific purpose of eradicating the cancer of discrimination in the workplace. The LAD is considered such a powerful statute that attorneys in New Jersey do not even consider filing a complaint in federal court. In fact, legal scholars in New Jersey consider the filing of a discrimination lawsuit in a New Jersey federal court legal malpractice. Filing a LAD claim in a New Jersey State court is generally the best option. For this reason, the EEOC is New Jersey is generally not utilized.

In essence, with respect to the three major federal anti-discrimination statutes: Title VII, the ADEA and the ADAAA (formerly known as the ADA), consider all of them combined, with no minimum number of employees and no cap on punitive and compensatory damages. That, in essence, is the LAD. So long as a New Jersey employee files a lawsuit in a New Jersey State court within two years of the discrimination, harassment or retaliation by the employer, the employee can take full advantage of all of the benefits which the LAD has to offer. The protections available under the LAD are also much more expansive than those offered pursuant to the federal laws. Pursuant to Title VII, the ADEA and the ADAAA (formerly known as the ADA), the following is protected: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability. The LAD offers protection for each of those protected classes and also protects against discrimination based on ancestry, sexual orientation, services in the armed forces, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, marital status, domestic partnership status and civil union status.

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