How Do I File a Claim?

 

How do I file a state claim with the New Jersey State Division on Civil Rights?

You may file a state claim of sexual harassment or discrimination up to one-hundred and eighty (180) days after the most recent alleged incident occurred by contacting the New Jersey State Division on Civil Rights (the Division) and explaining your case.


How do I contact the New Jersey State Division on Civil Rights?

The Division has offices throughout the state of New Jersey in the cities of Jersey City, Paterson, Newark, Trenton, Camden, Atlantic City, Rochester, and Peekskill. You can reach them by phone at (609) 292-2918. While they will not accept complaints by email, you can contact them through this form. You can visit their website for filing information. The Trenton office is located at:
140 East Front Street
6th Floor
PO Box 090
Trenton, NJ 08625-0090.


Against whom can I file a claim?

You may file a claim against your employer if supervisors or managers were aware of the sexual harassment or discrimination but did nothing about it, or if they actively participated in the sexual harassment or discrimination against you. Additionally, you may bring claims against individual co-workers who subjected you to sexual harassment, or supervisory employees who actively participated in the employer's discriminatory behavior.


If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?

If you choose to file a claim through the Division, with your own attorney, or both, it is expected that you have all the names, titles, addresses, and phone numbers of the persons who you feel have discriminated against you. Also, provide any documentation of such discrimination and, if possible, any information on witnesses or individuals who might be able to provide evidence of your discrimination claim.


How long will the process take?

After filing your claim with the Division, the Division will attempt contact your employer and give it twenty (20) days to respond. Unfortunately, the process of filing a claim and being awarded the damages you feel you are entitled to is not always a quick or easy process. If the Division has not made a determination of probable cause within one-hundred and eighty (180) days, you may request to litigate the case personally or through an attorney.


Do I need an attorney?

It is not necessary to hire an attorney if you file a claim with the Division. However, you may feel free to hire a personal attorney if you wish to have help in filing the claim, or if you wish to file a claim in court rather than with the Division.


Where do I find an attorney?

It is not necessary to contact a lawyer if you choose to file a claim through the Division. However, if you would like to seek outside legal help, the Division may be able to locate a lawyer for you.


What if I can't afford an attorney?

If you cannot afford an attorney you can simply file a claim, free of charge, with the Division. You do not need an attorney to file a claim.


What will my attorney need from me?

Your attorney will require your patience, trust, honesty, and candor. Your attorney will need to know all the details about the discrimination you have faced from your employer. She has an ethical obligation to maintain attorney-client confidentiality — that means, everything you say to your attorney remains private. Your attorney may also ask you to recall names, documents, dates, and even times as you reconstruct the events surrounding the discrimination. The more you can help in this effort, the easier it will be for her to ultimately help you.


Do I have to contact the New Jersey State Division on Civil Rights?

You do not have to contact the Division unless you want to file a claim. It is not required that you contact the Division at all. They merely act as an aid in your claim of sexual harassment or discrimination. You may seek a personal attorney at any time during your claim, regardless of whether you file a claim with the Division or not. If you choose to file with the Division, you must do so within one-hundred and eighty (180) days of the alleged incident. If you choose to bring an independent claim in the courts without the help of the Division, you have up to two years after the alleged incident to file a claim.


Can't I sue my employer directly without going through the New Jersey State Division on Civil Rights?

You have the option of bypassing the Division and suing your employer directly for up to two years after the alleged incident(s) took place. However, you may not file a claim with the New Jersey courts and also file with the Division. The Division enforces the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and serves mainly to ease the process of investigating sexual harassment or discrimination.


Who will investigate my complaint?

If you choose to file with the Division, an investigator will respond to your claim by performing fact-finding measures such as interviewing witnesses. The investigator will use the evidence gathered in the investigation to determine whether there is a reasonable belief that the facts of your claim are true and that your claim is legally valid.


What do I do after my initial contact with the New Jersey State Division on Civil Rights?

Based on the evidence collected during the investigation, the Division makes a determination as to whether there is probable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination took place. If they determine there is no probable cause, you may appeal that decision to the New Jersey court's Appellate Division, but must do so within forty-five (45) days of the Division's finding.


What happens after I submit my claim?

The Division will investigate, and if they decide there is probable cause to believe your allegations are true, it will arrange a conciliation conference between you and your employer. At that point, you can work with the Division to settle the matter, or you can decide not to agree to a settlement. If you do not wish to settle with your employer, you may go before an Administrative Law Judge, who will make a preliminary decision on what, if any remedy you should receive, which the Director of the Division may accept. If the Director accepts the decision, it has the force of law, pending any appeals. The Director may also reject or modify the decision.


What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?

If the Division finds no probable cause on your claim, it only means that it will not assist you with your claim. By no means are you barred from bringing a claim against your employer, but you must file suit in the New Jersey courts yourself or with the help of an attorney. If you feel like you have been sexually harassed or discriminated against at work but the Division believes otherwise, don't be discouraged. Contact a lawyer familiar with employment law and explain your case to him or her. You may appeal to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey court system within forty-five (45) days after a finding of no probable cause by the Division, or you may file a motion with the Director asking the Director to reconsider the finding of no probable cause.


What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?

If probable cause is found, the Division will notify you and the employer of the finding and arrange a conciliation conference. You may be granted relief compensatory damages, back pay, front pay, or reinstatement at a successful conciliation. If the conciliation fails, the Office of Administrative Law will hold a hearing, and the judge will give you an initial decision, which the Director may accept or modify.


Can I sue my employer?

Yes. Under New Jersey State law, you may bring any sex discrimination claim against your employer and anyone individually responsible for creating a hostile work environment, as long as your supervisor/employer was aware of the harassment and did nothing to correct it or where a supervisor/employer was an active participant in the alleged sexual harassment. You can choose to file with the Division, or sue in Superior court, but not both.


Can I appeal a decision of the Division?

Yes, you may. If you are unsatisfied with the decision on your claim, you may file an appeal with the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court in Trenton, within forty-five (45) days of the Director's Order.


Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?

Yes, you may also notify the EEOC of the employment discrimination. If you are working with the Division, you must notify the EEOC before you file a federal claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. To qualify for federal protection under Title VII, your employer must have at least fifteen (15) employees, while under state law your employer can have any number of employees, as long as it is not employing domestic workers such as maids or nannies.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?

The standards of proof in employment discrimination cases brought under New Jersey Law Against Discrimination are the same as those established in the United States Supreme Court for cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The main differences between federal and state coverage are:
(1) that your employer must have fifteen (15) or more employees in order to file a Title VII claim;
(2) that the statute of limitations is two years for a state claim, while you must file your federal claim with the EEOC within one-hundred and eighty (180) days of the most recent incident; and
(3) that under federal law you can be awarded up to $50,000 in combined ( compensatory and punitive damage, whereas under New Jersey State law, punitive damages are based on how many past offences your employer has committed, and you will be reimbursed for lost wages and benefits.

 

 


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