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The Appellate Division recently issued a decision exploring the limits of progressive discipline in New Jersey civil service discipline in thepolice-officer-829628_640-300x199 case of Matter of Collins.

Background

Darius Collins was a senior corrections officer at Norther State Prison.  He had been a corrections officer for more than two years and had no prior discipline.  On January 6, 2019, he was the patrolling supervisor of prisoners in a high security unit.  Collins admitted that he left a gate between two floors open.  This allowed two prisoners to leave their tier to take unauthorized showers.  When they got back the contents of their cells had been destroyed.  The prisoners then became out of control and a ten man extraction team was required to get the two inmates back under control.

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Background: Disability Discrimination and the Requirement of Reasonable Accommodation

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination bars employers from discriminating against employee’s because of a disability, provided they can perform the job with “reasonable accommodation.”  Because no two employees or workplaces are the same, no accommodations will be the same for two employees, or reasonable for different employers.  Thus, the regulations interpreting this requirement in the Law Againstwheelchair-1595794__340-300x200 Discrimination require that employers must engage in an “interactive process” with a disabled employee to explore whether there are accommodations which the employer could implement to assist her in performing her duties without imposing an undue hardship on the employer.

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently explored these issues in the case of Richter vs. Oakland Board of Education.

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The State Supreme Court recently issued an important decision concerning New Jersey employment law.  In the case of Pritchett v. State, the Court confirmed that punitive damages are available against public employers under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination andjustice-2060093_960_720-300x200 whistleblower protection laws, and defined the heightened standard under which trial judges must review such awards.

Background

Shelly Pritchett was a New Jersey State corrections officer.  She suffered injuries breaking up a fight between two inmates.  She received medical treatment and went on workers compensation leave.  She recovered from the injuries, but during her treatment it was discovered that she might be in the early stages of multiple sclerosis (MS).  She requested unpaid leave.  Her captain wanted to deny the leave, but was advised by human resources, her supervisor and the facility’s deputy executive director of operations that the leave should be approved.  While the captain remained adamantly against it, the leave was approved.  However, Pritchett was told that no further extensions would be granted.

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The Kengerski Case

The United State Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently issued an important employment law decision interpreting Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the case of Kengerski v. Harper.

Kengerski filed a lawsuit alleging that he objected to racially offensive comments by a supervisor, and that he was fined in retaliation.  This isdc-court-appeals-district-columbia-building-abraham-lincoln-statue-74985350 not a novel issue as Title VII, like New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, prohibits retaliation against employees who make complaints about discrimination. The novel question in this case was whether an employee could maintain a claim for retaliation when the complained of racially offensive conduct was not aimed at or about the employee himself.  The court ruled emphatically that he could.

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The law invests law enforcement officers with significant authority.  New Jersey employment law therefore imposes on them a high standard of conduct. stone-judge-778488-m-thumb-240x320-71245-thumb-220x293-71246-thumb-220x293-71247 And while progressive discipline governs the review of disciplinary infractions, particularly in the civil service context, serious offenses can result in termination even for a first offense.  Sometimes these cases are close calls; some are not.  A New Jersey appeals court recently examined these principles in the case of In the Matter of Ruiz, City of Perth Amboy, Department of Public Safety.  The case is a good examination of some of these legal principles, even though the court found that it wasn’t a close call.

Background

Benjamin Ruiz was police chief for Perth Amboy, New Jersey, a civil service jurisdiction.  After being charged in 2014, he was indicted on February 6, 2015 for official misconduct, theft of services and witness tampering.  He was suspended with pay and required to turn in his badge and gun.  He was acquitted by a jury of all charges on September 20, 2016.

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A recent New Jersey employment law decision by the Appellate Division of the State Superior Court in the case of Matter of Brian Clancy, illustrates the procedures – and some of the pitfalls – of appeals from the removal of candidates from civil service eligible lists.imagesCAWQ89PS

Background: Removal from the Eligible List

Clancy hoped to become a sheriff’s officer with the Bergen County Sheriff’s Officer, a civil service employer.  He took the civil service exam, passed, and was placed on the eligible list.  Thereafter, the Sheriff’s Office conducted a routine pre-employment background investigation, which is normal procedure after a candidate for a law enforcement officer position is placed on an eligible list for an agency.  Based on the results of the investigation, the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office removed Clancy’s name from the eligible list.

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In an important employment law decision, New Jersey’s Supreme Court once again considered the actions necessary to constitute illegal workplace harassment in the case of Rios v. Meda Pharmaceutical, Inc.  In this case the alleged harassment was based on an employee’s racecolumns-round-300x201 and ethnicity in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.

Background

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination prohibits workplace discrimination because an employee’s protected characteristic, including the employee’s:

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The Problem: Getting Paid

One of the most important considerations for construction contractors and subcontractors is getting paid for the work they perform.  A recent construction law opinion examined some of the issues which contractors and subcontractors face under New Jersey construction law whenconstruction seeking to get paid for their work.

The J&M Interiors Case

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New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination prohibits employment discrimination, including age discrimination.  In interpreting this state law, New Jersey courts look to federal employment law, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the “ADEA,” passed by Congress in 1967.  A recent case by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed a typical issue in age discrimination cases.  Sincejudge-gavel-1461998219JBc-300x200 the Third Circuit hears federal appeals from the Federal District Courts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and the United States Virgin Islands, the case, Martinez v. UPMC Susquehanna, is binding on New Jersey cases under the ADEA.  However, it is also influential on how New Jersey state courts will interpret the Law Against Discrimination.

Background

Zeferino Martinez, M.D., was a board certified orthopedic surgeon who had four decades of experience practicing medicine.  At the time of these events he was seventy years old.  A hospital hired Doctor Martinez in 2016 with a three year contract; he was the hospital’s only orthopedic surgeon.  In 2017, UPMC Susquehanna purchased the hospital and took over its management.  One month later UPMC’s chief operating officer and the executive director of UPMC’s musculoskeletal division fired Martinez.  They explained only that UPMC was “moving in a different direction and [Martinez’s] services were no longer needed,” and that his termination “had nothing to do with [his] performance.”

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It is always wise to have the terms governing the owners’ of a business’s relations and the management of the business spelled out in writing, whether this be a shareholder agreement for a corporation, a partnership agreement for a partnership, or an operating agreement for aoffice-2009693__340-300x200 limited liability company (“LLC”).  Since limited liability companies offer both the shield from personal liability of a corporation and the single taxation structure of a partnership, these are often the preferred structure for small businesses.

Adoption of Operating Agreements Under the New Jersey Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act

The New Jersey Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act defines an operating agreement thus:

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