New Jersey Court Discusses Disparate Treatment in Discrimination Claims

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In any case in which it is alleged that a New Jersey employer discriminated against an employee, the employer can refute the claim by showing that it has a legitimate reason for the allegedly adverse treatment the employee experienced. Even if an employer sets forth a purportedly valid reason for its actions, however, the employee can still prevail if it can show that the supposedly valid reason was merely pretext for the discriminatory acts. One method of proving pretext is by showing that other employees in similar situations were treated differently than the employee alleging discrimination. In a recent case, the United States District Court of the District of New Jersey analyzed what constitutes adequate evidence of disparate treatment in an employment discrimination case. If you were the victim of discrimination in the workplace it is imperative to meet with a trusted New Jersey employment discrimination attorney regarding your potential claims.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Discrimination

It is alleged that the plaintiff, who is African-American, worked as a driver for the employer, a company that owns and manages thrift stores. The plaintiff was written up for multiple infractions and was ultimately suspended and then terminated. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging violations of Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Specifically, he argued that the disciplinary actions he faced for his alleged infractions were due to his race. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

Proving Disparate Treatment

Upon review, the court found that the Plaintiff had set forth a prima facie case of discrimination, in that he alleged he faced disparate treatment due to his race, which resulted in his suspension and termination. The court then analyzed whether the defendant had established non-discriminatory and legitimate reasons for the adverse employment actions and found that it had. Finally, the court assessed whether the plaintiff had established pretext for the detrimental acts. To establish pretext a plaintiff must show that a defendant’s allegedly legitimate reasons are so implausible and inconsistent that they are unworthy of credence.

In the subject case, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s justification for its disciplinary acts against the plaintiff was pretext because white drivers who committed the same transgressions were not reprimanded. Thus, the plaintiff cited comparator evidence to support his claim of disparate treatment. The court held, however, that the plaintiff had not presented adequate comparator evidence. The court stated that to prove a claim of disparate treatment, the plaintiff must demonstrate that a comparator employee was similarly situated to the plaintiff in every relevant respect.  Here, however, the comparator employees identified by the plaintiff were unnamed and unknown. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Consult a Knowledgeable New Jersey Employment Discrimination Attorney

If your employer engaged in discriminatory behavior that adversely affected your employment you may be able to pursue compensation and should consult a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss your potential claims. At the Jaffe Glenn Law Group, our New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys will work diligently to help you establish your claims against your employer.  You can contact us at 201-687-9977 or via our online form to schedule a free and confidential consultation.