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On September 19, 2016, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld large emotional distress verdicts in a national origin discrimination case where the plaintiffs, Ramon and Jeffrey Cuevas, neither treated with a mental health professional, nor presented expert testimony at trial in support of their respective claims of emotional distress damages.  Ramon Cuevas v. Wentworth Group, 2016 N.J. LEXIS 891 (decided September 19, 2016). The Cuevas brothers filed a lawsuit under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination against their former employer, the Wentworth Group, alleging they were routinely subject to racially disparaging and humiliating remarks by Wentworth executives; the Cuevas brothers also alleged they were the victims of retaliatory firings. The case was tried before a jury who awarded them $2.5 million in damages, including $800,000 to Ramon and $600,000 to Jeffrey for emotional distress damages. The defendants’ filed a post-trial motion with the court requesting a reduction of the emotional distress damages award because they felt they were unconscionably too high.  Defendants’ application to the court for reduction of a jury award is called remittitur. The trial court denied defendants’ motion finding that the award was not “shocking to the conscience.”   The Appellate Division affirmed the jury verdict and the trial judge’s denial of defendants’ remitter application.  The issue on appeal before the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether the trial court properly denied defendants’ application for remittitur.

In agreeing with the Appellate Division panel below, and relying on its prior 2004 decision in Tarr v. Ciasulli, 181 N.J. 70 (2004), the New Jersey Supreme Court in Cuevas rejected defendants’ argument that, in a LAD case, only nominal damages may compensate for emotional distress when there is no “independent corroborative proof or a showing of resulting physical or psychological symptoms.” In affirming the trial court’s decision to leave intact the jury’s emotional distress verdict, the Court emphasized that, “the Legislature intended victims of discrimination to obtain compensation for mental anguish, embarrassment, and the like, without limitation to severe emotional or physical ailments.” (emphasis in original) quoting Tarr, supra., at 81. In doing so, the Court in Cuevas noted that a number of courts have upheld high emotional-distress LAD awards in the absence of expert testimony from mental-health experts. See, e.g., Rendine v. Pantzer, 141 N.J. 292, 311-13 (1995) (affirming trial court’s denial of remittitur and upholding jury’s emotional-damages awards of $105,000 and $125,000 for two plaintiffs in LAD gender-discrimination wrongful-termination case); Quinlan v. 36 Curtiss-Wright Corp., 409 N.J. Super. 193, 217 (App. Div. 2009) (upholding emotional-distress damages of $187,128 in LAD gender discrimination failure-to-promote case), rev’d on other grounds, 204 N.J. 239 (2010); Lockley v. Turner, 344 N.J. Super. 1, 12-14 (App. Div. 2001) (upholding $750,000 emotional-damages award), aff’d in part and modified in part on other grounds, 177 N.J. 413 (2003).

The Court further made clear that trial judges should be reticent to invade the province of the jury in determining what is a fair and reasonable damages verdict for a victim of proven discrimination.  This is because a jury’s verdict is cloaked with a “presumption of correctness” quoting Baxter v. Fairmont Food Co., 74 N.J.  588, 598 (1977).  The Court went on to opine that, “The unique nature of each case and the suffering of each plaintiff is the reason why juries are told that, in fixing a monetary amount for emotional-distress damages, there is ‘no better yardstick for your guidance than your own impartial judgment and experience.’” Model Jury Charges (Civil) § 2.36, 34 “Past and Future Emotional Distress in an Employment Law Case” (2014).

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In our blog article posted on August 3, 2016, we discussed the growing trend of court jurisdictions throughout the country adopting the cat’s paw causation theory to conclude that employers can be held liable for the discriminatory or retaliatory acts of supervisors and subordinate co-workers. To remind, under the cat’s paw theory of legal causation, also known as the “subordinate bias” theory, an employer may be held legally responsible to a complainant/plaintiff for employment discrimination or unlawful workplace retaliation based on the discriminatory or retaliatory animus of an employee who influenced the decision-maker (typically a managerial level employee), but who him or herself, did not make the employment decision adversely impacting the complainant/plaintiff.  Recently, a federal court sitting in the Second Circuit’s Southern District of New York adopted the cat’s paw theory in a sexual harassment case entitled Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance Service, Inc., (decided August 26, 2016).

The facts in Vasquez explain why the court there felt constrained to rule in the employer’s favor. Andrea Vasquez worked on an ambulance crew for Empress Ambulance as an emergency medical technician. A male dispatcher named Gray worked for Empress as a dispatcher.  After Gray met Vasquez, he began to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship by asking her out on dates, putting his arm around her and touching her shoulders. Vasquez made clear to Gray that she was not interested in such a relationship with him and tried to ignore him. Not wanting to take no as an answer, Gray thought he could woo Vasquez by texting her a picture of his erect penis with the message “Wat u think” (sic).  Vasquez was disgusted by Gray’s text and informed her supervisor about the unwanted text message. The supervisor instructed Vasquez to type up a complaint and send it to Empress’ human resources department and her supervisors.  Meanwhile, having caught wind of Vasquez’s complaints about him and fearing the loss of his job, Gray began to create the false impression that he and Vasquez were involved in an intimate personal relationship.  Deceitfully, Gray was able to manipulate his iPhone so that the record of a conversation with someone else containing consensual sexual text banter appeared to have taken place between Gray and Vasquez.  Gray gave printed screen shot portions of such text conversation to Empress Management.  Gray was also able to contrive a racy photograph of a woman he purported was Vasquez claiming she sent it to him in response to his erect penis photo. Gray’s effort to mislead Empress proved successful as Vasquez was fired by Empress based on the Empress Management Committee’s misapprehension that she had communicated a false sexual harassment claim against Gray.

Following her termination, Vasquez filed a sexual harassment discrimination and retaliation claims against Empress under federal Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law.  Empress moved to dismiss Vasquez’s complaint arguing, in part, that a cat’s paw claim is only viable when the biased person who influences the adverse employment discrimination is the plaintiff’s supervisor, and not like Gray, a mere co-worker. In rejecting Empress’ argument, the court stated that a subordinate’s biased recommendation to a decision-maker supports a cat paw’s theory of liability when the biased person acts within the scope of his or her employment, or when the biased subordinate acts as the employer’s agent although not formally delegated the authority to do so.  Under either of these possibilities, the biased person by virtue of their position or relationship with the decision-maker(s) must occupy a position of confidence sufficient to corrupt the decision making process.  Applying these principles, the court concluded that Gray’s manipulative conduct fell outside the scope of his employment, Gray was not delegated authority to act for the company, and no evidence was presented showing Gray occupied a position of confidence in the eyes of the employer sufficient to corrupt the decision to terminate Vasquez’s employment. Because the court found an insufficient basis to impute Gray’s retaliatory intent to Empress, it dismissed the claims brought against Empress.

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If your employer has a widely disseminated anti-harassment policy and you are a victim of harassment on the job, you must follow the victim reporting mechanism or procedures in the policy because failure to do so may bar you from recovering damages for the harassment you were forced to endure.  The New Jersey Supreme Court decision in Aguas v. State of New Jersey, 220 N.J. 494 (2015) is instructive on this point.  Ilda Aguas worked as a corrections officer for the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC had in place a widely disseminated written anti-harassment policy which required employees to report sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination in writing.  Aguas claimed her supervisor and other officers were sexually harassing her.  However, Aguas only reported the harassing conduct verbally, not in writing.  Thereafter, Aguas filed a lawsuit against the DOC and her harassers alleging she was sexually harassed in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD).  Ilda Aguas’ lawsuit was ultimately dismissed because she failed to follow the DOC’s anti-harassment policy and its requirement that victims of harassment make their complaints in writing.

In its decision affirming the dismissal of Ms. Aguas’ lawsuit, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that when an employer has in place a well-publicized and reasonably effective policy designed to eliminate discriminatory harassment in the workplace, and an employee fails to comply with the policy, the employer may avoid liability for the harassment perpetrated by its supervisors or the victim’s co-workers. This is called the “Ellerth-Faragher Defense” which gets its name from two United Supreme Court decisions Faragher v. Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998), and Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998). Under the Ellerth-Faragher Defense an employer can avoid liability to a victim of harassment if no tangible job action was taken against the employee (such as a firing or demotion) and: (a) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior, and (b) that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise. Faragher, supra., 524 U.S. at 807; Ellerth, supra,, 524 U.S. at 765.

Many victims of work related harassment are reluctant to report it for fear of retaliation; this is especially true if the harasser is a supervisor. Nonetheless, the Aguas decision instructs that failure to report the harassment could bar the victim from being able to sue an employer to recover damages for any physical, mental or emotional harms caused by the harassment. However, if you are a victim of harassment and fear retaliation if you report the harassment, you should consider that the LAD makes it unlawful for an employer, “to coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of that person having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by this act.” N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(d). Simply put, if your employer retaliates against you for reporting the harassment, you can and should sue them under the LAD for having done so. Victims of harassment and retaliation must do whatever is necessary to protect their right to sue in court to hold their employer and the harasser(s) accountable for the damage and harm caused by their unlawful actions.

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Lisa is a new probationary employee with a New Jersey company who has been the target of sexually offensive remarks by Doug, a male co-worker.  Doug’s harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, asking Lisa: a) to sit on his lap; b) what her bra cup size is; c) to wear short skirts to work; d) to have a drink with him after work after she already declined to do so; and e) to take a “selfie” with him at her desk.  Lisa’s complaints to her boss and Human Resources about Doug’s incessant behavior has not stopped his unwelcome antics.  As a result, Lisa finds herself constantly fearful, anxious, sad, irritable, crying; she is distracted and having trouble focusing both at work and home. Her appetite has greatly decreased and she is having trouble sleeping. Lisa went to see her doctor and was informed her blood pressure was elevated and she was suffering from anxiety and depression. In addition to prescribing her medicine, the doctor has recommended Lisa immediately go on disability and consult with a mental health professional. Lisa tells the doctor that as a new employee she will not be eligible for health insurance for another two months, she has no personal savings, and has so far paid very little money into the state disability insurance program. She is both sick and fearful of losing her job and doesn’t know what to do. What Lisa needs to do is to call both an employment lawyer and a workers compensation lawyer.

The employment lawyer will immediately do everything necessary to protect Lisa’s legal interests as a victim of workplace sexual harassment including, if necessary, filing a lawsuit on her behalf asserting claims for violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The workers compensation lawyer will immediately place the employer on notice that Doug’s unstopped harassment has caused Lisa to suffer mental health injuries arising out of her course of employment and will demand that she immediately receive authorized medical treatment and workers compensation temporary disability benefits. If the employer fails to provide such benefits, the workers compensation lawyer will then file a workers compensation claim petition with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Workers Compensation Workers and file a motion with the workers compensation court seeking to compel the employer (and its insurance company) to provide Lisa with authorized medical treatment and temporary disability benefits. Assuming Lisa has suffered a partial permanent psychiatric injury, the workers compensation lawyer will eventually petition the workers compensation court to award Lisa money for her disabling injuries.

New Jersey law permits Lisa to file a LAD discrimination claim with the New Jersey Superior Court while at the same time pursuing a workers compensation claim before the New Jersey Division of Workers Compensation. This is because LAD claims and other intentionally caused harms are claims not subject to the exclusivity provision of the Workers Compensation Act.  In 1997, our State Supreme Court affirmed that employees could bring both a workers compensation claim  and a collateral discrimination and/or intentional infliction of emotional harm claim arising out of similar sets of facts and circumstances against the same employer where intentional acts by co-workers or the employer cause psychological disability to the employee. Schmidt v. Smith, 294 N.J. Super. 569, 584 (App Div. 1996) aff’d 155 N.J. 44 (1997) (“If the Legislature had intended workers compensation to be the exclusive remedy for victims of harassment and discrimination in the workplace it would not have provided for a jury trial as well as compensatory and punitive damages.”); Gardenshire v. N.J. Manufacturers Ins. Co., 333 N.J. Super. 219, 230 (Law Div. 2000).

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Amir is an American born Muslim of Pakistani descent. Amir has recently obtained an entry level administrative position at ABC, Inc., a large pharmaceutical company.  Two white co-workers in Amir’s department, Billy and Bob, who similarly hold entry level positions at ABC, dislike Muslims.  As a result, Billy and Bob scheme to get Amir fired by falsely reporting to their department manager Tony having seen Amir stealing drug samples used by the company’s sales team.  Relying on what Billy and Bob reported to him, Tony decides to fire Amir. Thereafter, Amir retains an employment lawyer and files a wrongful discharge discrimination lawsuit against ABC. While the lawsuit is pending, Billy and Bob’s discriminatory scheme is uncovered. Will Amir and his attorneys be able to hold ABC liable for Manager Tony having fired Amir based on what Billy and Bob reported? Under the so-called “cat’s paw” theory of liability, the answer appears to be yes.

Our United States Supreme Court in a case entitled Staub v. Proctor Hospital, 131 S.Ct. 1186 (2011), held that “an employer may be held liable for employment discrimination based on the discriminatory animus of an employee who influenced, but did not make the ultimate decision.”  Id. at 1187.  Prior to this ruling, lower federal courts had favorably applied the cat’s paw theory in discrimination cases. Abramson v. William Paterson College, 260 F.3d 265, 286 (3d Cir. 2001) (“it is sufficient if those exhibiting discriminatory animus influenced or participated in the decision to terminate.); Russell v. McKinney Hosp. Venture, 235 F.3d 219, 226 (5th Cir. 2000) (“If the employee can demonstrate that others had influence or leverage over the official decision maker . . . it is proper to impute their discriminatory attitudes to the formal decision maker.”); Santiago-Ramos v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F.3d 46, 55 (1st Cir. 2000) (stating that “discriminatory comments . . . made by . . . those in a position to influence the decision maker” can be evidence of pretext); Griffin v. Washington Convention Ctr., 142 F.3d 1308, 1312 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (“Evidence of a subordinate’s bias is relevant where the ultimate decision maker is not insulated from the subordinate’s influence”). Similarly, the New Jersey Appellate Division adopted the cat’s paw theory from Staub and applied it under New Jersey’s whistleblowing law known as the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, or CEPA. Battaglia v. United Parcel Service, 2011 N.J. Super. Unpub LEXIS 2180 at * 29 (App. Div. Aug. 12, 2011); see also Lowe v. Medco Health Solutions of Willingboro, LLC, 2012 U.S. Dist LEXIS 59137 at *48-49 (D.N.J. Apr. 27, 2012) (“it appears likely that New Jersey will adopt a standard similar to the “cat’s paw’ theory enunciated in Staub”).

In Burlington v. News Corp., 55 F. Supp. 3d 723 (E.D. Pa. 2014), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania concluded the “cat’s paw” theory of imputed causation in discrimination cases should be extended to situations where the discriminatory animus influencing the decision-maker stemmed from a nonsupervisory employee. Id. at 738; see also Harris v. Warrick Cnty. Sheriff’s Dep’t., 666 F.3d 444, 448 (7th Cir. 2012) (noting that co-worker “cat’s paw” liability might have been available had the plaintiff established causation); Keefer v. Olin Corp., No. 09-cv-23-WDS, 2011 WL 4474966, at *3 (S.D. Ill. Sept. 26, 2011) (“Plaintiff has to show that there is supportable evidence that the unidentified ‘nurse’ somehow actually influenced the decision maker . . . or that the nurse was in a supervisor capacity.”); Johnson v. Koppers, Inc., No. 10 C 3404, 2012 WL 1906448, at *6-7 (N.D. Ill. May 25, 2012) (expressly extending the cat’s paw doctrine to co-workers).

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Victims of disability discrimination no longer need to shoulder the burden and high expense of retaining a pricey medical expert to come to court to render an opinion establishing their physical, mental and/or emotional disability in question; they can now use their treating doctor for this purpose. So said our New Jersey Supreme Court in a recently decided case entitled Delvecchio v. Township of Bridgewater, — N.J. —, 2016 N.J. LEXIS 335 (2016) where the Court affirmed the reversal of a jury’s verdict of no cause of action against a former dispatcher of the Township of Bridgewater Police Department (the “Bridgewater PD”).

In 2003, Mrs. Delvecchio developed inflammatory bowel syndrome (“IBS”), and began treatment with Dr. Gary Ciambotti (Ciambotti), a gastroenterologist. Dr. Ciambotti wrote to plaintiff’s supervisors and stated that her symptoms were under control as long as she worked regular daytime hours, but would be exacerbated by an assignment to the midnight shift. After repeatedly declining assignments to the midnight shift, Mrs. Delvecchio was asked to resign from her position. She then accepted a lower-paying job as a records clerk for the Township. Plaintiff used more than her allotted sick days, and the Township terminated her employment.

Thereafter, Mrs. Delvecchio filed a New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the “LAD”) disability discrimination complaint against the Township, Bridgewater PD and individual defendants. She contended, among other claims, that her IBS constituted a disability for purposes of LAD and that defendants failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for that disability when they set the schedule for her work as a police dispatcher. Mrs. Delvecchio disclosed in pretrial discovery that she intended to present the testimony of Dr. Ciambotti to establish his diagnosis of IBS. However, the trial court barred the testimony of Dr. Ciambotti on the grounds that he had not been retained and identified by plaintiff in pretrial discovery as an expert witness and had not prepared an expert report containing his findings. Without the testimony of a physician establishing the nature and extent of her disability, the jury was left with no choice but to conclude that Mrs. Delvecchio had failed to establish that she had a disability preventing her from working midnight shifts.

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The Statute of Limitations dictates the time period in which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit. Failure to file a complaint in court within the statute of limitations will forever bar your ability to file a lawsuit no matter how legitimate your legal claim may have been had it been timely filed. In employment cases, the statute of limitations time begins to run upon the occurrence of a singular event or discrete act resulting in an adverse employment action being taken against an employee. An adverse action usually takes the form, among others, of discharge from employment, suspension, demotion, cut in pay or benefits, unfavorable shift assignment, failure to hire, and failure to promote. For statute of limitation purposes a discrete retaliatory or discriminatory act occurs on the day it happens. However, when the adverse employment action is a hostile work environment the task of identifying the date when the statute of limitations begins to run is much more difficult. This is because a hostile work environment typically results from a pattern of hostile acts which collectively viewed constitute one “unlawful employment practice”, that is, no single act alone is sufficiently severe enough to constitute by itself a hostile work environment. The Continuing Violation Doctrine can save an otherwise untimely filed hostile work environment claim so long as one of the hostile acts comprising the offending pattern of conduct falls within the applicable Statute of Limitations.  The attempt to use the Continuing Violation Doctrine to stave off dismissal of an otherwise untimely filed lawsuit was recently discussed in Fujita v. Kingo Yamanashi.

Plaintiff Fujita was employed at Yama Seafood, Inc. from November 1988 until August 2011. Over the course of her employment, Fujita claimed Yama Seafood’s founder Kingo Yamanashi often insulted her about her age and sex. Yamanashi would frequently refer to Fujita as “baba,” meaning “old woman. On March 18, 2010, Yamanashi told Fujita, “You are already sixty (60) years old. Why are you here at this company now? You are such an old woman. You should not be working here.” Yamanashi added “Leave this company right now. Take your stuff and don’t leave anything here.” Fujita did not leave and continued working for Yama Seafood. However, Fujita eventually found the continuing insults to be intolerably hostile, and chose to submit her resignation in August 2011.

On August 6, 2012, Fujita filed a complaint in the New Jersey Superior Court against Yamanashi and Yama Seafood, Inc. alleging violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) and the New Jersey Equal Pay Act (“EPA”). LAD has a two (2) year statute of limitations. Fujita based her legal claims on discriminatory comments alleged to have occurred more than two years prior to the filing of her August 2012 lawsuit.  Fujita argued that the comments could still form the basis of a viable discrimination case by application of the Continuing Violation Doctrine. To include events occurring before the two-year period in a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must show a continuum of harassment sufficient to show a continuing violation claim. Toto v. Princeton Twp., 404 N.J. Super. 604, 613 (App. Div. 2009). A plaintiff who experiences a “continual, cumulative pattern of tortious conduct” may pursue an action if at least one of the discriminatory acts occurred within the statutory period. Roa v. Roa, 200 N.J. 555, 556 (2010). However, “the doctrine does not permit . . . the aggregation of discrete discriminatory acts for the purpose of reviving an untimely act of discrimination that the victim knew or should have known was actionable.” Ibid. at 569. Fujita could not show a continuing violation sufficient in the eyes of the court to sustain the viability of her legal claims. Accordingly, her lawsuit was dismissed.

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Your company is sponsoring a political fundraising luncheon for Donald Trump during work hours and makes clear your attendance is expected.  Must you attend?  How about if your boss insists that all members of the IT team he heads, and to which you are a member, must attend and participate in a prayer breakfast meeting where the pastor from his church will be speaking.  If you refuse to go, are you protected your boss suffer retaliate against you later?  The answer to these questions are found in the New Jersey Worker Freedom from Employer Intimidation Act (“the Act”).

The Act, which was signed into law in 2006, forbids employers from requiring employees to attend any employer-sponsored meetings or participate in any communications with an employer and the employer’s agents or representatives where the purpose of the get-together is to hear about the employer’s opinion(s) about religious or political matters. The Act specifically prohibits an employer and its agents and representatives from discharging, disciplining or otherwise penalizing any employee because the employee in good faith reports a violation or suspected violation of the Act.

Any employee who suffers retaliation in violation of the Act may bring a private civil action against the offending employer and its cohorts. The remedies under the Act include:

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Many of us would like to believe that if we are the victims of discrimination in the workplace, we will be given the opportunity to one day prove that case before a jury of our peers. Unfortunately, sometimes a judge will step in and strip a deserving litigant of that opportunity. This is what recently happened to retired State Police Trooper Robert Repsha in a discrimination case filed in the New Jersey Superior Court entitled Robert Repsha v. New Jersey State Police, Docket No. A-0414-14T3 (App. Div. Mar. 24, 2016).

Trooper Repsha, a Caucasian, now-retired state trooper, filed a lawsuit against his former employer, the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), alleging he was repeatedly passed over for promotions during the period of 2010-2012 in retaliation for having filed a hostile work environment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against an African-American superior officer. Trooper Repsha also alleged that after he suffered a heart attack in October of 2010, the NJSP failed to accommodate him upon his return to work and he was otherwise retaliated against because he sought an accommodation.

No juror ever had the opportunity to hear these allegations of discrimination because a motion judge determined that, among other things, the promotions denied Trooper Repsha after 2010 were “too distant in time” from the 2006 EEOC complaint to be considered actionable. On March 24, 2016, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division issued an opinion agreeing with the motion judge noting, “[t]he mere fact that adverse employment action occurs after the alleged protected activity is not alone sufficient to present or suggest a causal link between the two events.” Accordingly, no jury will never hear Trooper Repsha’s story of discrimination and retaliation.

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On January 17, 2016, in a published decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, invalidated a mandatory arbitration clause found in an employee handbook. See Morgan v. Raymours Furniture Co., 443 N.J. Super. 338 (App. Div. 2016). This was a significant victory for employee rights across our State.

Plaintiff Grant W. Morgan worked for Defendant Raymours Furniture Company (“Raymours”) and electronically signed a company handbook which contained a mandatory arbitration clause. The company handbook, like almost every other company or employee handbook signed in this State, also contained a disclaimer provision that read that nothing in the handbook created a promise of continued employment or an employment contract.

After Mr. Morgan electronically signed the company handbook, he started complaining about age discrimination in the workplace. Raymours immediately confronted him with an ultimatum — that he either sign a stand-alone arbitration agreement or his employment would be terminated. Plaintiff refused to sign the stand-alone agreement and Raymours fired him.