New Jersey employment law protects whistleblowers

When unlawful behavior manifests itself in the workplace and can lead to harm inflicted on others, including the general public in New Jersey and elsewhere, a whistleblower can correct the situation. That is why state and federal employment law provides whistleblower protections against workplace retaliation.

What whistleblower protection laws do

A whistleblower is someone who reports a violation of internal employer workplace policies or external local, state or federal laws. A whistleblower might be a:

  • Company worker, manager or executive
  • State or federal agency employee
  • Anyone witnessing wrongdoing

Whistleblowers could report company policy violations or those who break local, state or federal laws or regulations. Such violations could become especially harmful if they affect the environment or national security. They also cause harm when corruption and fraud occur to bypass laws and regulations that are in place to protect others against harm.

Former New York City Police Officer Frank Serpico’s famous whistleblower story became a popular Hollywood film starring Dustin Hoffman after corrupt officers tried to kill him for whistleblowing on the illegal activities inside the police department.

Retaliation comes in many forms

Fortunately, murder is not a common way to retaliate against whistleblowers as was attempted in Serpico’s case. More often, the retaliation is expressed by firing individuals, reduced work hours, changes in scheduling and intimidation. Those who engage in retaliation often utilize questionable tactics to make the punishment seem legitimate, but the ultimate aim is to get rid of and punish the whistleblower.

New Jersey employment law protects whistleblowers

New Jersey and federal employment laws forbid whistleblower retaliation. OSHA accepts and investigates whistleblower retaliation complaints by interviewing the whistleblower. As the complaint respondent, the employer also gets interviewed and apprised of the complaint and any state or federal laws potentially violated. Once the complaint is investigated, OSHA determines the appropriate response.

While state and federal laws protect whistleblowers, that protection is useless if you cannot use it effectively. An experienced New Jersey employment law attorney can help ensure whistleblower protection and punish violators.

VA sexual harassment report shows reveals problem

Lawmakers in New Jersey and across the nation are demanding immediate policy changes from the Department of Veterans Affairs after a report revealed that one in four female employees are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

A bipartisan group of members from the Congress and Senate expressed their feelings on the matter through written correspondence to Robert Wilkie, the secretary of Veterans’ Affairs. The lawmakers informed Wilkie that his department must take the approach that addressing their problems with sexual harassment is a top priority.

The letter was signed by lawmakers on the same day a report from the Government Accountability Office identified several problems that need correction from the department. These problems include training, methods for reporting, and general oversight for events that involve sexual harassment.

Data from a federal survey collected from 2014 to 2016 show that 26 percent of female employees of the department responding to the survey reported some form of sexual harassment. Additionally, 14 percent of male workers at the department say they were the object of unwanted sexual attention.

The numbers are a bit lower for the government as a whole with 21 percent of women and nine percent of men saying they have been sexually harassed while at work.

The VA pushed back against the report with a statement by the department press secretary, Christina Noel. The press secretary says the information used in the report is outdated. Noel also asserts the VA has taken measures to prevent all forms of harassment in the workplace.

Employees who endure workplace sexual harassment often feel powerless and alone. To make matters worse, they live in fear of blocking their own career advancement if they reveal their experiences to a superior or coworker. Individuals who find it necessary to ward off unwanted sexual advances in the workplace may benefit from the direction they can receive from an attorney with experience in these matters.

Self-driving vehicles may fail to prevent most accidents

New Jersey residents who are looking forward to an age of self-driving cars may want to temper their hopes for now. A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that self-driving cars are far from being able to prevent all or even most crashes involving driver error. It should be noted that driver error is behind some 90% of crashes.

 

The IIHS looked at over 5,000 crashes from NHTSA’s National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, and after identifying all the driver errors that contributed to these crashes, it created five categories of errors. Of these, only two could be eliminated by self-driving vehicles: sensing and perceiving errors, such as distraction-related errors, and errors from incapacitation, including drug and alcohol impairment.

The first type contributed to 23% of the analyzed crashes and the second to 10%. Therefore, self-driving cars can currently address about one third of error-related crashes. Errors in prediction, such as misjudgments of vehicle speeds; planning/deciding errors, including tailgating and speeding on wet roads; and execution/performance errors, such as overcompensation, are left untouched.

Moreover, researchers emphasize that some accidents are due to blown tires, broken axles and other examples of vehicle failure, which are not always preventable. Automakers will need to prioritize safety over speed and rider preference if they intend to eliminate all error.

Victims of an auto accident may pursue a personal injury case even if the other car was an autonomous vehicle. After all, a claim may be filed against the manufacturers of a defective vehicle or defective part. To see whether they can do this and how much they might be eligible for, victims could consider seeing a lawyer for an assessment. The lawyer may even take on every step for them, including the negotiations for a settlement.

GHSA estimates a startling 6,590 pedestrian deaths in 2019

In New Jersey and the rest of the U.S., the number of pedestrians being killed has been going up since 2009. The Governors Highway Safety Administration, looking at the traffic fatality data spanning the first half of 2019, has found that this year did not prove to be an exception. According to its preliminary estimate, 6,590 pedestrians died in 2019: the highest the number has been since 1988.

This number represents a 5% increase from 2018 and a 60% jump from the 4,109 who died in 2009. Yet all other traffic deaths saw a relatively minor increase of 2% between 2009 and 2018. The GHSA detailed the possible reasons for these trends in its report. First of all, vehicle safety has improved, leading to a less drastic rise in other traffic fatalities.

At the same time, more drivers are using phones, which affects the safety of all road users. Affecting pedestrians in particular is the fact that there are more SUVs and light trucks on the road. They constituted 69% of all new vehicle sales in 2019, compared to 48% in 2009, and these vehicles are known to leave pedestrians with more serious injuries.

Fatality rates varied from state to state, naturally. The highest were in Florida, New Mexico and Hawaii while the lowest were in Vermont, Wisconsin and Idaho.

Pedestrians may follow the traffic laws and still be struck because of a negligent driver. In those cases, there can be good grounds for a personal injury claim. Victims of pedestrian accidents may want a lawyer to help them with the claim, especially with the gathering of evidence and the negotiating of the settlement. If a settlement covering all losses, including medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, cannot be achieved, the lawyer may litigate.

Survey says sexual harassment an overwhelming issue at McDonald’s

Despite greater freedom to report sexual harassment at work, workers in New Jersey and across the United States are still regularly subjected to it. Fast-food employees are especially vulnerable. A recent survey and report shows that McDonald’s has had an overwhelming problem with this issue.

According to The Nation, three out of four women who work at McDonald’s claim to have been sexually harassed. The litany of complaints started coming to light in the spring of 2019. By November, one former worker in Michigan said her manager behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner. She informed upper management that from 2017 to 2019, the man showed her his genitals and said offensive things.

In its research, The Nation found that the behaviors ranged from unwanted touching, sexual statements, gestures, and looking at them suggestively. Of those who took part in the survey, 29% said a co-worker requested sex from them. With 22%, sexual favors were asked for in exchange for more hours and potential promotion. Threats were issued for refusing sexual advances in 19%. Of that group, 12% stated they were sexually assaulted or raped.

McDonald’s would not comment on the survey since it was unaware of how the information was compiled, but it claims that training is provided to address and prevent harassment. These responses are troubling in myriad ways. If workers are sexually harassed or face other illegal behaviors in the workplace, there is an expectation that the employer will address it. For a huge company like McDonald’s, it is even more glaring that the behavior was so widespread with 75% of females claiming to have been harassed. When dealing with sexual harassment, it may be wise to discuss the case with experienced legal professionals to seek compensation for what occurred.

Sexual orientation discrimination in New Jersey

Until June 15, there was no federal law governing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. This changed with the U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of the scope of the protections of Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on certain protected categories like race or gender. Though there is still no federal legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, this case law will likely have an impact at the state level. On top of this, New Jersey has its own law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination at work.

The federal decision regarding sexual orientation discrimination will afford individuals legal support should they choose to file a federal administrative complaint with the EEOC. This decision also impacts the rights of the transgender community since the Court found that gender identity discrimination was also prohibited by Title VII. New Jersey residents can also bring a civil claim in state court for sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination not just against those who identify as LGBT but those who are perceived to be LGBT. The prohibition applies to both existing employees and prospective employees, meaning that an employer cannot refuse to hire someone based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Similarly, employers are prohibited form retaliating against employees for reporting acts of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

New Jersey residents who feel that they have been treated unfairly on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation may want to consult with a plaintiff-side employment attorney about a possible workplace discrimination claim. An attorney may discuss how to document acts of alleged harassment or discrimination if it is ongoing and what steps to take next. An attorney may also help determine if a person has sufficient evidence to file a lawsuit against a current or former employer.

Laws that protect New Jersey employees

Federal law has a number of regulations that prohibit workplace discrimination. Many states, including New Jersey, offer additional protections.

The federal laws against workplace discrimination are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed to ensure that men and women did not face wage discrimination based on sex. Employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of national origin, sex, religion, color and race by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

An amendment to the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits employers with at least 15 employees from discriminating against women who are pregnant or who are affected by a condition that is related to their pregnancy. Workers who are at least 40 are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 while people with disabilities are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

State laws that reinforce these federal laws are the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which adds a number of categories, such as ancestry and domestic partnership status, and the New Jersey Equal Pay Act, which also prevents wage discrimination on the basis of sex. Smokers, people in same-sex relationships and people who refuse to engage in illegal activities for their employer are also protected.

Despite these protections, employees who believe they are facing discrimination may be up against a number of obstacles. They might be concerned about the cost to their career if they pursue a discrimination claim. It can be difficult to prove that discrimination has taken place in some cases because it may be subtle. An employer who terminates or disciplines an employee for discriminatory reasons may claim their actions were based on performance. An attorney may be able to advise an employee dealing with discrimination about their rights under employment law.

Know more about national origin discrimination

New Jersey employers are subject to anti-discrimination laws. Most are familiar with racial and gender discrimination provisions. However, many are unaware of the fact that an employer also cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin. If they do, they may be subject to legal action.

Discrimination protection in this area is broader than many employees think. The obvious things that are forbidden are disparate treatment in hiring and firing decisions. Moreover, pay and promotions are also covered by anti-discrimination provisions. The protection is even broader because it bars any type of discrimination based on the employee’s spouse. In other words, the employer cannot discriminate because the employee is married to someone of a certain origin. This discrimination is based on the employer’s mindset. For example, some employers have discriminated against Sikh workers because they thought they were Muslim. Even if the employer was mistaken, they may still be subject to a discrimination action.

These protections also extend to the working environment to which an employee is subjected to on the job. If there is an atmosphere of widespread joking and teasing that crosses a line, there could be grounds for a discrimination action. While not every joke is cause for a lawsuit, the environment can become unbearable for an employee by singling them out for cruel treatment.

Employees who are subject to discrimination in hiring, firing, or while on the job may have a legal action for discrimination. They should hire an employment law attorney to further explore what their legal rights are in this case. The attorney might be able to receive damages for the harm that they have suffered. It is difficult to deal with legal issues in the workplace without any help, and an attorney may assist with handling the situation.

Same-sex sexual harassment more common than people realize

In workplaces in New Jersey and across the United States, sexual harassment and the behavior involved is often misunderstood. There may be a perception that these behaviors are limited to men harassing women. However, that is a commonly mistaken belief. Sexual harassment can occur involving people of any gender.

Understanding the facts about different types of sexual harassment is important to recognize when it is happening and to take steps to put a stop to it. If it is quid pro quo, a person in a position of authority makes sexual advances and implies they must be accepted or face work-related consequences. For a hostile environment, the worker will be intimidated or be offended due to a co-worker’s actions. These can involve comments or sex-based acts such as bullying, saying lewd things, showing inappropriate pictures, sexting and more.

Surveys indicate the following about sexual harassment:

  • 33% of women age 18 to 34 have been harassed on the job
  • 81% of these women were verbally harassed
  • 44% were touched and faced sexual advances
  • One-quarter received offensive emails and text messages
  • Three-quarters of the women were harassed by males
  • 10% were harassed by females

Troublingly, 71% of women said they did not report the harassment. Of the 29% who reported it, 15% thought it was handled properly. When confronted with sexual harassment in any form, it can negatively impact a person’s employment in myriad ways. It can cost them the job, interfere with career advancement, deny them wages and benefits and cause other challenges. Discussing a case with a legal firm with experience in sexual harassment and employment law can provide information on how to proceed with a claim to be compensated.