New Jersey Court Analyzes the Waiver of the Right to Sue for Discrimination

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Under both New Jersey and federal law, employees have a right to pursue claims against their employers for discriminatory behavior. Although an employee can contractually waive the right to sue an employer for discrimination in a court of law, the waiver must be clear and unambiguous. Recently, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey analyzed what constitutes a valid waiver of the right to sue, in a case in which the Plaintiff alleged her employer engaged in religious discrimination.  If you work in New Jersey and your employer discriminated against you in the workplace you should meet with a skilled New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss your right to seek compensation.

Factual Background of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant employer required the plaintiff, who worked for the defendant as a flight attendant, to review a “training module” which was a series of slides on computer screens that described the defendant’s mandatory arbitration policy. One of the slides in the presentation asked the plaintiff to “acknowledge” the arbitration policy. The presentation further stated that if the plaintiff did not acknowledge the policy but continued to work for the employer for sixty days or more, she would be deemed to be bound by the arbitration policy. The module did not request the plaintiff’s signature indicating she consented to the agreement or ask her to memorialize that she expressly consented to the agreement.

It is reported that the plaintiff, who is a Buddhist, was subsequently asked by the defendant to obtain a vaccine for yellow fever. The plaintiff declined to obtain a vaccine due to her religious beliefs.  The defendant continued to pressure the plaintiff to obtain the vaccine and ultimately terminated the plaintiff due to her refusal. The plaintiff subsequently filed a discrimination lawsuit against the defendant. In response, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, asking the court to compel the plaintiff to submit to binding arbitration. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Waiver of the Right to Take Legal Action

The key issue considered by the court on appeal was whether the plaintiff validly agreed to arbitrate any claims against the defendant. The court noted that under New Jersey law, a valid waiver requires a person to have full knowledge of his or her legal rights and intend to surrender such rights. Thus, for a waiver of the right to pursue a discrimination lawsuit to be effective, the party must agree to waive the right to have his or her claims litigated in court. Further, it must be shown that the employee unambiguously agreed to knowingly and voluntarily agreed to arbitrate any claims against the defendant. In the subject case, the court found that the purported consent to arbitrate that was obtained through the training module was insufficient to show a knowing and voluntary waiver of the right to pursue a discrimination lawsuit. Thus, the court reversed the trial court decision.

Consult a Skilled New Jersey Employment Discrimination Attorney

The law affords employees the right to seek recourse for any discrimination that adversely affects them in the workplace. If you were discriminated against at work you should consult a skilled  New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case and your options for seeking compensation. The New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys of the Jaffe Glenn Law Group will work diligently to help you recover any damages you may be owed. We can be reached at  201-687-9977 or through our online form to schedule a meeting to discuss your case.