Discriminatory Firing Claims
I think I was fired because I'm a woman, how do I prove it?
To prove you were fired because you are a woman, you need to show that:
Are women a "protected class"?
Yes. Women are an explicitly protected class under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
How do I show that my membership in a protected class led to my discharge?
You may use direct or circumstantial evidence to prove your case. An example of direct evidence would be comments by a supervisor that display a discriminatory attitude. Direct evidence of discrimination will help prove that your employer inappropriately considered your gender when deciding to fire you. If there is no direct evidence, you must provide circumstantial evidence, such as being replaced by someone outside your protected class.
I've just received a warning from my employer, and I suspect I will be fired soon. What should I do?
If you receive a warning from your employer, your first instinct may be to panic or even become angry. Depending on the circumstances, you should remain calm, especially since your employer may continue monitoring your work. Generally, you should begin gathering information: clarify the meaning of the warning if necessary by asking your employer, get a copy of company policy on warnings/dismissals to ensure that your employer is following its own policies, talk to trusted co-workers to see if they have any insights into what they have observed in the workplace, keep track of the date/time of interactions with your employer as well as any documents that may be relevant, and, most importantly, consider whether the warning may have something to do with sex discrimination or complaining about sex discrimination. Ask yourself if your employer's warning comes on the heels of your confronting the company about sex discrimination. If so, there may be more to the warning than meets the eye.
What can I do to protect any legal rights I might have before leaving my job?
The easiest way to protect your legal rights before leaving your job is to document everything. Even if you initially feel as if your firing was not retaliatory or discriminatory, cover all of your bases by asking for the termination letter in writing, and saving all written warning letters. To aid in any potential claims you may have against your employer, document the dates of any decisions or actions affecting your employment, including salary or benefit increases/decreases, recommendations, and reprimands.
I am being forced to leave my job. But before I go, my employer requires that I sign a document promising not to sue. Is that legal?
It is not illegal for your employer to get you to sign a waiver of your right to sue as part of a severance agreement. Be conscious that you are taking a risk if you sign a waiver, as they are generally enforceable. If you have any doubts about your employer's reasons for firing you, especially if you think your employer may be retaliating or discriminating against you, you should consult with an attorney before signing anything.
What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do I respond to its denials?
To deny your claim, your employer can offer legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for terminating you. For example, it could claim that you performed your duties poorly or did something for which your should have been fired. To counter your employer's denials, you must then show that the reasons your employer has presented are mere pretext, or excuses, and not the actual reasons for your termination.
Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?
Under the LAD, you must file a claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights within one-hundred and eighty (180) days of the discrimination. If you wish to bypass the Division, and file with the New Jersey Superior Court, you must file within 2 years of the discrimination act. For more information on how to file a claim, href="../files/nj_file.php">click here.
What options do I have if my employer has fewer than fifteen (15) employees?
While you are only protected under federal law if your employee has more than fifteen (15) employees, under the LAD, you are protected regardless of how many employees your employer has. So while you may not be able to file a federal claim, your claim in New Jersey is still valid.
If I prove my wrongful termination claim, what kinds of remedies am I entitled to?
You will be entitled to equitable relief, which is relief intended to make you whole again. You may be able to recover remedies such as back pay to compensate you for lost earnings, front pay to compensate for a pay differential resulting from discrimination, injunctive relief to correct your employer's discriminatory practices, or reinstatement to any position that you lost as a result of discrimination.
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