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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

New Jersey Employers Gain Defenses to Fire Certain Workers under Proposed Federal Guidelines

In what is not good news for employees working for religious organizations, a Federal agency, the EEOC, in November issued proposed updated guidelines for its Compliance Manual on Religious Discrimination. These proposed revisions to the Compliance Manual follow case law on religious discrimination, including US Supreme Court opinions such as those issued in the Court’s July 8, 2020 ruling in Our Lady of Guadalupe Sch. v. Morrissey-Berru.

In this US Supreme Court opinion, the Court expanded the reach of a successful employer defense to defeat employment discrimination lawsuits bought by employees of religious organizations. This extremely wide latitude given to such employers in effect prohibited many of its employees from filing discrimination claims under Federal law. Prior, in much case law, the “ministerial exemption” employer defense applied to ordained ministers or formally titled religious leaders, and such “ministerial exemption” employees were prohibited  from filing discrimination lawsuits.

In the November, EEOC proposed revisions, it incorporates Supreme Court opinions. What this translates to is that not only an employee who is a formally titled minster or religious leader is prohibited from bringing a discrimination lawsuit against their employer. According to the new proposed guidelines,  “ministerial exemption” applies to a widely expanded group of employees. These employees, who in many instances were allowed to have their lawsuits against their employer proceed,  are prohibited from bringing a discrimination lawsuit against their employer.

Religion discrimination is frequently tied in with ethnic discrimination. Employees in New Jersey may bring ethnic and religion discrimination lawsuits under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The ethnic and religion discrimination claims may be brought in the same lawsuit. Such employment discrimination plaintiffs do not have to rely on the Federal Law, Title VII.

By filing in State Court under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) rather than Title VII, employment discrimination plaintiffs save time: they do not have to first file and exhaust time consuming administrative procedures before they get to a Court. In New jersey, an employment discrimination plaintiff may file his lawsuit directly and more expeditiously in NJ Superior Court.

Statistics also bear out that employment discrimination plaintiffs fare better in State Court than in Federal court. In a study by the Harvard law and Policy Review, its statistics bore out that in Federal Court employment discrimination Plaintiffs fared poorly compared to other claims. It found that such discrimination plaintiffs won at only 15% of employment discrimination cases during a three-decade period in Federal Court. This is in distinct contrast to the plaintiffs prevailing and receiving a favorable judgment in 51% in all other civil cases.

More telling is the conclusions of the  Federal Judicial Center which is the research arm of the Federal Courts. The Center found that nationwide, Federal Courts terminated 12.5% of employment-discrimination cases before the suits reached the trial stage through Summary Judgment proceedings where they found against the employee plaintiffs. The Center found that in the majority of those cases, it was the employers, and not the employees, who requested the summary judgment proceedings to attempt to get the case dismissed before it went to trial. By contrast in Federal Court, only 3% of contract cases and 1.7% of personal-injury and property-damage lawsuits were dismissed via Summary Judgment proceedings as compared to 12.5% of employment-discrimination cases. Another reason why many New Jersey discrimination plaintiffs bring their claims under the NJLAD rather than Title VII.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing employees who were subjected to illegal discrimination, harassment and retaliation in private and public employment. I only represent employees and never represent employers. I have been successful in obtaining six figures monetary compensation for victims of racial employment discrimination.

Even if you have not been fired, but you think you will be fired or are thinking of resigning, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination law. If you have experienced discrimination at work, call our offices 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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