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Monday, April 4, 2022

NJ Age Discrimination Attorney, I’m a Reasonable Older Employee Getting Harassed at Work, What’s Reasonable?

Older employees may become distraught when after they report to their employer that they are being harassed as a result of their age, the employer responds that they are not being reasonable, or that a harassed employee is being too “sensitive”. Employees who don't receive what they believe to be appropriate responses to their complaints may begin to doubt themselves and their own perceptions. They may even begin to ask themselves, “Am I being too sensitive? Am I being unreasonable?”

The Legal Standard That New Jersey Courts Apply as to “Reasonable Person” in Hostile Work Environment Cases Has an Objective Component and a Subjective Component.

Various courts have used the “reasonable” person standard in harassment and hostile work environment cases going back to the 1990's, predominantly in the 9th Circuit to analyze Federal sexual harassment cases that were filed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

This standard of the “reasonable” person considers the perspective of one who possesses the same fundamental characteristics of a member who is in the same legally protected class as the plaintiff. In addition to sex hostile work environment claims, New Jersey cases of hostile work environment are analyzed according to a plaintiff being a member of other legally protected classes besides sex, such as ethnicity. This is true in all matters of discrimination such as age and race hostile work environment claims, the latter of which was at issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Taylor v. Metzger, 152 N.J. 490 (1997) which was brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq.

The New Jersey courts have grappled with the concept of “reasonable person” applying the standard in all types of discrimination cases: sex and sexual harassment, race, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion, and others. This standard must satisfy an objective component and a subjective component.

Whether conduct by others constitutes a discriminatory hostile work environment or illegal harassment requires the court to consider, among other legal issues and thresholds, whether the complained about conduct would cause a reasonable person, other than the plaintiff, who is a member of the same legally protected class as the plaintiff, to believe that the conduct constitutes a hostile work environment. It is considered objectively from the viewpoint of a person of the same protected class who would be standing in the plaintiff’s shoes; i.e., when the plaintiff is female, the inquiry is whether another female employee (as opposed to a male employee) would have found the conduct to be offensive when standing in the plaintiff’s shoes, considering the totality of the circumstances. Another example is when it is a Black plaintiff in a race hostile work environment claim, the inquiry is whether another Black employee (as opposed to a White employee) would have found the conduct to be offensive, when standing in that person’s shoes.

This culture as a whole does not consider the gravity of the effect of age discrimination on the victim to the same extent it considers the effects of other forms of discrimination such as race and disability.

One only has to stroll down a greeting card section in a stationary store to see cards created to be sent to seniors, that are numerous examples of poking fun at older persons implying that they are moving too slow or having memory problems or generally incompetent. This apparently is considered acceptable humor by some, “all in good fun”. Yet, in considering the design of the card for a certain type of recipient with a certain characteristic, if one were to substitute a protected class of race, or sex, or disability, it would not be considered “all in good fun”, but horribly bad taste and offensive to imply because of that protected characteristic of race, or sex, or disability, the card recipient moves too slow or has dementia of sorts.

If you quit your job, you may lose right to prevail in a lawsuit.

In many instances of age discrimination, if you quit your job, you may lose right to prevail in a lawsuit. If you are thinking of quitting, or think you will be fired, you should contact this office immediately to discuss your options in the safest way for you. I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons with age claims who were subjected to unequal pay, harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired, and am successful in recovering money to compensate them.

If you have experienced age discrimination 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 employment 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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