If you think that your employer has treated you differently than other employees because of your protected characteristics, you might have grounds to file a discrimination claim. If you have evidence to support your suspicions, an employment discrimination attorney at Swartz Swidler will likely want to speak with you to evaluate your potential case. Here is some information about how a New Jersey employment attorney might evaluate your case and determine whether or not to accept representation.
Understanding Illegal Workplace Discrimination
Illegal workplace discrimination occurs when an employer engages in discriminatory acts against an employee because of the employee’s protected characteristics. These are different statuses that are protected under state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and several other federal laws, employees with the following characteristics are protected against workplace discrimination:
- Genetic information
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Citizenship status
- Military status
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) offers broader protection to employees than the federal anti-discrimination laws. For example, Title VII covers employers with 15 or more employees, but the NJLAD covers employers of any size. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers who are 40 and above against age discrimination. By contrast, the NJLAD protects adult workers of any age against discrimination. The NJLAD also protects additional categories that are not protected under federal law, including ancestry, familial status, marital or civil union status, domestic partnership status, creed, and others.
How Does a Lawyer for Work Discrimination Analyze Cases?
Not every case involving unfair treatment will amount to a legally merited discrimination claim. When you meet with a New Jersey employment lawyer, the attorney will analyze the following factors to determine the viability of your claim:
- Whether you have a protected characteristic
- Whether your employer treated you unfavorably as compared to other employees
- Were other employees who share your protected characteristic also treated less favorably?
- Do you have evidence to support your claims?
- What losses have you suffered?
- Would you be a good witness?
We’ll take a brief look at these factors below.
Your Protected Characteristic
To have a claim for illegal discrimination, you must have a protected characteristic. While discriminatory treatment by an employer against you because of something like personality differences might be unfair, it is not illegal. The lawyer will analyze whether you are a member of a protected class as a preliminary matter. If you aren’t, you won’t have a case.
Your Treatment vs. Other Employees
An employment discrimination attorney will also look at your treatment and whether it was less favorable than the treatment other employees without your protected characteristic receive. For example, if you think that you were disciplined because of your disability, you won’t have a good case if non-disabled employees are also disciplined the same way for similar conduct. The attorney will also look at whether other employees who share our protected characteristics are treated less favorably in general. For example, if you believe you are discriminated against because you are a woman, you will have a stronger case if women at your company are generally treated unfavorably as compared to men.
You will have the burden of proving that your employer discriminated against you by presenting evidence. A New Jersey employment attorney will want to review the evidence you have and analyze it. You will need to bring any evidence you have that supports an element of your claim when you meet with a lawyer for workplace discrimination. Your evidence might include disciplinary notices, performance reviews, emails from your supervisor, photographs, text messages, voicemails, and others. Bring a list of potential witnesses with you when you go to your consultation with the attorney so that the lawyer can contact them.
Damages are an element in any civil action. You will need to prove that you suffered actual damages to recover compensation. The types of losses that might be recoverable in a discrimination lawsuit include lost wages, lost benefits, and emotional distress damages in some cases. Punitive damages might be available in some cases, and you might also be able to recover attorney’s fees if your claim is successful.
Type of Witness You Will Be
How you might appear to a jury and judge is essential and can have an impact on the outcome of your case. An employment discrimination attorney will evaluate how you might appear in terms of your credibility and whether you are organized, clear, and able to present yourself well. If you come across as sincere and honest, those attributes can be very helpful in your case. By contrast, if you seem to be hiding something or can’t concisely describe what happened, a jury or judge might not believe your testimony. When you talk to an attorney, you need to be open and honest when discussing what happened.
Speak With a New Jersey Employment Attorney
If you believe you were illegally discriminated against at your job, you might be entitled to pursue a discrimination lawsuit. However, employment attorneys will only agree to accept your case if you have evidence to support your claim, can show that your treatment was less favorable than other employees without your protected characteristic, and can honestly discuss what happened. To learn more about your potential case, call Swartz Swidler today at (856) 685-7420.