As of August 2019, the town of Verona, New Jersey, is defending itself against a number of discrimination lawsuits that were filed back to back by former employees and department heads, including a police officer, clerk, and court administrator. They all allege discrimination and pay disparity, as well as retaliation. The police officer’s complaint in particular also arguably involves issues of sexual harassment. The officer claims that he was harassed by his supervisor after asking questions about pay and his employment contract. According to reports, after pointing out that he would be making more money under his old contract, the officer claims that, as a result, his supervisor used a homophobic slur against him and told him to perform a sex act on him. After filing a complaint against the supervisor with internal affairs, one year later, the officer was fired; allegedly in an act of retaliation.
The other two lawsuits claim that the town discriminated against two female employees and violated New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) by engaging in pay disparities based on gender. According to court documents, the female employees (plaintiffs) made around $70-$80,000 per year, while male employees earned between $125,000 and $145,000 per year for doing similar work. It also claims that, as retaliation for complaining, the township manager threatened to investigate one of the plaintiff’s departments.
The Law in New Jersey
NJLAD not only makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate based on sex and sexual orientation, but also on the basis of a number of other ‘protected classes,’ such as age, race, national origin, disability, nationality, marital status, and more. Workers who prevail can recover compensatory and punitive damages. Note that the law not only prohibits discrimination against current employees, but in any job-related action, including in hiring, recruiting, compensation, and privileges of employment. While there are certain exceptions related to what is considered “important, legitimate business needs” — for example, a height requirement for a particular job — that may very well end up having a disparate impact on a protected class and it could, as a result, be deemed to be illegal.
New Jersey also passed the “Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act,” which not only applies to pay gaps based on gender, but also all other protected classes, including age, race, and others. The law enables an affected worker to bring a claim alleging that someone else engaged in “substantially similar work” is being paid more than he or she is in violation of the law. In addition, the law prevents employers from reducing the wages of the employee who is being paid more and instead forces employers to raise the compensation of the underpaid employee.
Contact Our Red Bank and Marlton, New Jersey Employment Discrimination Lawyers
If you have experienced any discrimination, a Marlton employment discrimination lawyer at McOmber & McOmber is ready to help you. We are experienced in all facets of New Jersey employment law and will tirelessly work for you. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Red Bank office 732-842-6500, or contact us online.