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Friday, May 3, 2019

My New Jersey Co-Workers Treat Me as Old, Aiding and Abetting Age Discrimination

At times, it is just one person who creates a hostile work environment for older workers.

In other situations, the age discrimination is the result of a corporate mindset. This might happen when there has been a change of management who wants new “branding” and wants to replace older workers with younger ones as a business strategy. Businesses have become more legally sophisticated over the years and are less likely to have a mass termination of the older staff and quickly hire younger replacements to promote a new branding. In attempts to avoid being sued for age discrimination, they sometimes set out on a course to later attempt to prove that it was dissatisfaction with the employee’s quality of work or some other bogus reason that the termination decision was reached by management, and that age had nothing to do with the termination.

While it may be part of a corporation’s strategy to replace older workers with younger workers through a systematic course of fabricating reasons for the terminations, a successful NJ age discrimination under the NJLAD plaintiff generally must identify someone other than a faceless “business” as the entity who committed the acts of illegal discrimination, i.e.,  a real person who was the aider and abettor to the discriminatory policy.

Certain occupations, such as working in digital and dot.com companies, have become notorious for corporate cultures that allow anti-age bias to flourish in the workplace down to the lower ranking employees. However, just being able to show that a same level or lower ranking co-worker has age animus is not sufficient to prevail in a discrimination claim against the employer. An exception to this is when the co-workers have created an environment that has become hostile to the older workers, with management having knowledge of the hostile work environment, but management looked the other way. A blatant example of this might be when a boss knows his underlings pick-on or ridicule another because of his age and does nothing to correct it.

In wrongful termination cases, unless the plaintiff can prove that it was the supervisor or same or lower level employee with the age animus who definitely influenced the decision-maker (the person who held authority to fire and did fire) to such a degree, that the decision-maker did decide to terminate the older employee, (known as ‘cat’s paw liability’ ) wrongful termination claims will not prevail merely because a co-worker has age bias. If it can be proven that the person who held the decision-making authority to terminate and did terminate based on his age bias, then the decision-maker himself is the aider and abettor to the employer’s wrongful termination.

Under the NJLAD in the employment setting, the prohibited “aiding and abetting” mechanism applies to “any person”:

N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(e): For any person, whether an employer or an employee or not, to aid, abet, incite, compel or coerce the doing of any of the acts forbidden under this act, or to attempt to do so.

The NJLAD’s strong prohibitions against aiding and abetting discrimination appear elsewhere in the statute:

(n). For any person to aid, abet, incite, compel, coerce, or induce the doing of any act forbidden by subsections l. and m. of section 11 of P.L.1945, c.169 (C.10:5-12), or to attempt, or to conspire to do so.

An exception to this in "Disparate Impact" type claims which is the subject of a whole different discussion not addressed here. A concise version of disparate impact analysis that it is an established legal doctrine which civil rights advocates use to help enforce a wide range of anti-discrimination laws. Disparate impact arguments usually rely on statistical data to demonstrate that a policy that may seem facially neutral actually has a disproportionate effect on a defined group of people protected by statute from discrimination. As an example, in the banking industry, a bank's requirement that borrowers must prove a certain length of employment history may seem neutral, but in fact might have a disparate impact on disabled persons who may have enough income to cover loan payments even with a limited work history.

Age discrimination litigation can be lengthy and complex. This firm, Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, has successfully represented both corporate and blue collar plaintiffs over the years against state governmental entities and private businesses and has a successful track record in recovering money for its clients. This firm has successfully represented septuagenarians and octogenarians.

If You Are Thinking of Simply Resigning

If you are thinking of simply resigning because of age discrimination in your workplace and/or because you notified your employer about age harassment and no action was taken, you should contact an attorney experienced in employment law before you do so, to explore your legal options in the safest way for you.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to age discrimination. If you have experienced ageism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in age discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.

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