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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Jersey Age Discrimination Plaintiffs Can File Directly in State Court

There have been many studies that demonstrate that discrimination plaintiffs fare better in state Court than if they file their claim in federal court.

Age discrimination is on the rise and victims of age discrimination in employment often erroneously believe that they have to file a claim first administratively with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before they can file a lawsuit. However, while this is true if a person  wants to file his/her age discrimination claim under federal laws, New Jersey victims of age discrimination in employment may file an age discrimination claim directly in New Jersey Superior Court under New Jersey State law without having to first file an administrate claim with an agency.

The federal law, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 “ADEA” protects persons who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. Under this law , it is unlawful to discriminate against a person seeking employment or one who is employed because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment including hiring, training,  job assignments,  awarding promotions, monetary compensation and benefits, determining layoffs and terminations. 

The ADEA also makes it illegal for an employer to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's age; or to reduce the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with this chapter. It also makes it unlawful for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or other-wise to discriminate against, any individual because of such individual's age, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of such individual's age.

The Huffington Post reports that in 2014 over 20,000 claims were filed administratively for age discrimination Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The filing of claims administratively with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the first step a person must take to file a lawsuit for age discrimination under Federal Laws in Federal Court. However the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only ended up filing charges in 121 of those administrative claims,  and 111 of the charges filed were for discrimination against older applicants.

Other studies have concluded  that employment discrimination plaintiffs fare better in State Court than Federal Court. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that Harvard Law & Policy Review conducted a study for publishing that  plaintiffs in Federal Court won on 15% of employment discrimination cases during a twenty-seven year period. By comparison, in all other civil cases combined during the same twenty-seven year period, the plaintiffs won at a rate of 51%. Employment discrimination plaintiffs in federal court also get less time in court and have their cases thrown out, have their cases dismissed before trial.

The Federal Judicial Center is the research arm of the Federal courts. The Center  found that nationwide judges terminated 12.5% of employment-discrimination cases before the suits reached the trial through a procedure that is called “summary judgments” where the judges found against the plaintiffs. It was the employers, and not the employees, in the majority of those cases, who had requested the “summary judgment” proceedings in an attempt to get the case against the employers dismissed before it went to trial. By way of comparison to the aforementioned statistics regarding the dismissal by judges of employment discrimination cases before they reached the trial stage,  only 3% of contract cases and 1.7% of personal injury and property damage lawsuits were dismissed via summary judgment proceedings.

More than 13 years ago, the United States Supreme Court removed one legal obstacle to filing employment discrimination suits and avoiding an early dismissal of a discrimination plaintiff’s case. The Court ruled unanimously that an initial employment discrimination complaint that just offers a skimpy statement of the facts of case is sufficient to withstand an employer's motion to have the case dismissed for lack of specific facts. 

However, many studies have nevertheless concluded that discrimination plaintiffs receive more favorable rulings  in State Court than Federal Court and are less likely to have the court rule against the discrimination plaintiff for an early dismissal of their lawsuit against the employer.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, represents employees throughout New Jersey in complex employment discrimination lawsuits. She accepts cases from all counties in Northern, Southern, and Central New Jersey and has locations in central, western and northern New Jersey to meet with clients. If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to gender identity or other protected characteristic, such as age, disability, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or national origin, or in retaliation for reporting what you believed to be illegal acts of your employer,  she can help you. It is important to know your rights as an employee. 

Contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, today for a free consultation. 

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