Commonly Asked Questions & Answers About Workplace Harassment

What is workplace discrimination?

Workplace discrimination is basically unfair job-related treatment of a worker because of certain characteristics or attributes that are legally protected. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protects employees from discrimination by an employer on the basis of various protected categories, such as age, race, gender, etc. Workplace discrimination, also, does not solely apply to current employees or events related to an individual’s job responsibilities. An employer may not discriminate against an employee or job candidate in any job-related activity, such as recruiting, hiring, interviewing, promotions, termination, compensation, or terms and conditions of employment.

What are the protected categories in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, workers are protected from discrimination based on the following: national origin, race, nationality, ancestry, creed or religion, age, color, sex, pregnancy, domestic partnership status, civil union status, marital status, gender identity, gender expression, sexual  or affectional orientation, genetic information, familial status and physical or mental disability. AIDS and HIV are included in the protected categories under disability. Blood trait or atypical hereditary cellular traits are protected in New Jersey as well.

Are all companies subject to anti-discrimination laws?

When it comes to anti-discrimination laws, the number of individuals that a company employs plays a significant role. Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act are federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. Employers with at least fifteen employees are subject to these federal laws.  The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act covers employers with at least twenty employees. The Immigration Reform and Control Act has employment discrimination provisions that apply to companies with at least four employees. However, New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws cover employers with at least one employee.

What steps should I take if I experience discrimination at my workplace?

  1. Report the matter to your employer or Human Resources person.
  2. If available, follow your company’s anti-discrimination policies and procedures.
  3. If your employer doesn’t correct the situation, file a complaint with the NJ Division of Civil Rights. Time is a factor as you only have 180 days to report the violation with this option.
  4. Maintain a journal with detailed information about the discrimination, such as the location, date, time, people involved, names of potential witnesses and specific details of the incidents.
  5. Seek experienced legal counsel to learn about your rights.

Do I have to look for other employment if I’m fired while the NJ Division of Civil Rights is reviewing my case?

Yes. You must actively search for employment even if you were illegally terminated. In the event that you eventually receive damages for your discrimination claim, they can be reduced if you didn’t make an effort to look for other work to improve your financial situation.

Can I sue in court for discrimination?

Yes. You may file a complaint in the Law Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey. You have two years to file in this manner. However, if you choose this option, you may not file with the Division of Civil Rights, or if you already have, the complaint will no longer be processed there.

What compensatory damages can I receive for discrimination?

Awarded damages for discrimination cases vary. You may be awarded reinstatement, back pay, a promotion, and/or pain and humiliation as compensatory damages by a judge or jury in Superior Court. You may also receive punitive damages.