New Jersey Court Discusses Standard for Granting Punitive Damages in Discrimination Claims

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New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their race, gender, age, and other enumerated classes. If an employer takes adverse employment action against an employee based on the employee’s membership in a protected class, the employee can seek damages, including any wages lost due to the adverse action. In some cases, the employee may be entitled to punitive damages as well. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey recently analyzed when punitive damages should be awarded under the LAD, in a case in which the employer was found to have wrongfully violated the LAD. If you are a New Jersey employee who experienced adverse employment actions due to your employer’s discriminatory behavior it is essential to speak with a capable New Jersey employment discrimination attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover.

Facts Regarding the Discrimination Against the Employee

Reportedly, the plaintiff worked as a part-time night shift dispatch operator for the employer’s taxi service. When she was working one evening, a driver who was an independent contractor sent her messages on social media, touched her shoulder, and whispered in her ear. The following day the plaintiff claimed that the driver called her at work to tell her that he missed her, after which the plaintiff spoke with her supervisor regarding the driver’s behavior. The following day, the plaintiff was terminated.

Allegedly, the extent of the employer company owner’s knowledge of the plaintiff’s complaints about the driver’s behavior is disputed. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the employer and the company owner, seeking damages due to her retaliatory discharge in violation of LAD, lost wages, and punitive damages. Following a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff damages for the violation of LAD and lost wages from the employer but denied the claims against the company owner and the punitive damages claim. The plaintiff subsequently appealed.

The Standard for Granting Punitive Damages Under the NJ Law Against Discrimination

To recover punitive damages under the LAD, an employee who was wrongfully terminated must show upper management actually participated in or was willfully indifferent to wrongful conduct. The employee must also prove that the wrongful conduct was especially egregious. In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff failed to show that her supervisor was considered upper management. Further, the court stated that even if it accepted the proposition that the plaintiff’s supervisor was upper management, the plaintiff did not show that the driver’s conduct was sufficiently egregious as to warrant punitive damages. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with an Experienced New Jersey Employment Discrimination Attorney Regarding Your Case

An employer’s discriminatory acts can result in the loss of a promotion or wages, and in some cases may be grounds for punitive damages. If you faced adverse employment action at work due to a discriminatory bias you should speak with an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney regarding your case and what damages you may be able to recover. The New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys of the Jaffe Glenn Law Group will analyze the facts of your case and set forth convincing arguments to help you recover the full amount of compensation you may be owed. You can contact us at 201-687-9977 or via our online form to set up a confidential and free conference regarding your case.