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Articles Tagged with “New Jersey Employment Lawyers”

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It is interesting that the trend in New Jersey employment law is to enforce arbitration agreements in employment contracts, while at the same time finding them unenforceable in consumer and commercial contracts.  However, the law is the same: whatever the area, arbitration agreements are interpreted and enforced – or not enforceable – under New Jersey contract law.  It’s therefore worth looking at two recent opinions in these areas to see what can be learned.

The Knight Case:  Consumer Contracts and Consumer Fraud

In the first, a published opinion in case of Knight v. Vivint Solar Developer, LLC, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey stuck down an arbitration agreement which the defendants tried to enforce in a consumer fraud lawsuit over the sale of solar panels.  After Knight sued, Vivint filed a motion to courthouse-1223280__340-300x200dismiss her complaint and enforce an arbitration agreement which required the parties to arbitrate their disputes.

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Background

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal issued two directives amending New Jersey’s Internal Affairs Policy and Procedures (commonly referred to as the “Attorney General Guidelines” or the “IAPP”).  The thrust of these directives is to allow for the disclosure of New Jersey police-1714956__340-300x200law enforcement officer disciplinary records to promote transparency and confidence in police departments and internal affairs disciplinary procedures, as well as to broaden the discovery available to criminal defendants.  Those issues are worthy of a dissertation in themselves, but here I want to focus briefly on their effect in New Jersey employment litigation.

Problems Shielding Records in Employment Law Cases

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Federal versus State Courts for New Jersey Employment Law

Employees who sue their employers for violating New Jersey employment law most often choose to litigate in state court because New Jersey employment law and courts are viewed as more favorable to employees, while employers seek to litigate in Federal court, because federal courts and employment law are seen as courthouse-1223280__340-300x200more friendly to employers.  However, there are exceptions.  For instance, public employees sometimes have additional remedies under federal employment law, and employees can litigate their state and federal law claims together in federal court.  A good example of this can be seen in a decision in  Chesler vs. City of Jersey City by Judge Susan D. Wigenton of the United States District (New Jersey’s federal trial court).

The Chesler Case

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A recent appellate decision in the case In the Matter of Christopher D’Amico, City of Plainfield Fire Department demonstrated once again that New Jersey civil service employees have an effect means of redress for when they are wrongfully disciplined.

civil-servcie
The D’Amico Case

Christopher D’Amico passed the New Jersey Civil Service test and was hired to be a firefighter by the City of Plainfield, a civil service jurisdiction.  As part of his application, D’Amico was required to prove their residency.  D’Amico submitted several documents, including an insurance card.  He admitted that he modified the card to list his actual residence in Plainfield.  Plainfield’s hiring committee recommended against hiring D’Amico because of the alteration, but the Fire Chief hired him anyway.  D’Amico attended the fire academy.  A citizen questioned several cadets’ residencies.  The concern about D’Amico was determined to be unfounded, but the City reexamined his application.  Even though the address was accurate and the change was known by the City when it hired him – and was admitted by D’Amico – the Director of Public Safety ordered the Chief to terminate D’Amico’s employment.  When D’Amico and two other cadets reported to the Department for their first day of work they were fired, in D’Amico’s case not because of his residence, but because of the alteration.

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The New Jersey Supreme Court once again expanded  the enforceability of arbitration agreements under New Jersey employment law.  In its opinion in Skuse vs. Pfizer, Inc., the Court left in place the requirements necessary for agreements to arbitrate employee/employer disputes columns-round-300x201under New Jersey employment law, but in its application let the exceptions swallow the rule.

Pfizer’s Arbitration Agreement

Pfizer adopted an arbitration “agreement” – actually, more of a policy.  It was not a contract signed by an employee and Pfizer.  Rather, the employee was deemed to have agreed to arbitrate employment disputes if she continued working for Pfizer for sixty days after the policy’s effective date.  Employees were notified by email (to over 28,000 employees) about the policy and given a deadline to “acknowledge” having received it.  Whether the employees did or did not acknowledge receipt, they would be deemed to have “agreed” to the policy by their continued employment.  There was a training module with four slides which purported to explain the policy; one of the slides gave the employees the option to print a copy, but they were not given a copy by Pfizer; another thanked the employee for taking the training.  In the FAQ section of the training module employees were told that if they did not agree they would be fired.

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Employment Law Evidence Issues

Our employment lawyers represent employees and employers in all aspects of New Jersey employment law.  One of the most litigated issues is the evidence which an employee must present to demonstrate that retaliation or discrimination was behind an adverse action, such as supreme-administrative-court-3565618_960_720-300x200firing or demotion.  The Appellate Division recently issued an important decision on the ability of jurors to infer retaliation from circumstantial evidence.

The Yatauro Case

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In the tough economic times brought on by COVID-19, many governors and veterans-300x200mayors, including New Jersey’s Governor Murphy, have said that widespread layoffs may be necessary if federal assistance is not forthcoming.  Our attorneys represent New Jersey Civil Service employees, and we see the struggles they are facing.  Given this, we thought the time was right to review the layoff rights available under New Jersey Civil Service law.

 
Layoffs

A layoff is the termination of a permanent employee’s employment because of economic reasons.  Demotions or reduction of hours for economic reasons are also treated as layoffs, triggering the rights and procedures applicable to layoffs.

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Epidemic, Coronavirus, Lurking, Virus
As a result of the coronavirus (“COVID19”), the state and federal governments have been taking significant steps to enact laws to assist with relief efforts, particularly in relation to the economic strain that many individuals, families, and businesses are facing as a result of widespread closures, business limitations, and stay-at-home orders.

The federal government previously passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which provides emergency relief in relation to job protection and paid leave. Now Congress is working on a new stimulus bill which would provide $2 trillion in relief aid through several different avenues.  This bill has not yet been passed and therefore is still subject to change at this point. However, it appears that several core areas are likely to remain and be ultimately signed into law.

This includes: unemployment assistance, rebates to individuals (relief checks), tax credits to businesses which were closed or significantly effected by COVID-19 and continued to pay employees, bailout loans for major companies such as airlines and hotels (this is perhaps the area most disputed in Congress and therefore most subject to change), and funding to hospitals and health care facilities.

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Addict, Addiction, Amsterdam, Cannabinol
New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) protects employees from adverse employment actions (being fired or demoted for instance) based on any protected characteristic such as disability, race, gender, age, etc.  For employees with disabilities, the LAD has been interpreted by the Courts  to require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

In July of 2019, Governor Murphy signed the Jake Honig Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, amending New Jersey’s Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act (“CUMMA”). This amendment  added several provisions, including that it is now unlawful to take adverse employment action against an employee who is registered as someone permitted to obtain and use medical marijuana. However, this does not protect an employee from being fired or otherwise subject to an adverse employment action for possession of marijuana at work or using during work hours or at the workplace location.

While this is a new law, the Courts have already been coming to much the same decisions.  Indeed, in the case of Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc., the court considered a case where an employee was fired in 2016 when the employers found out that he used medical marijuana (legally) as part of his cancer treatment/pain management.  Plaintiff sued the former employer for unlawful discrimination and failure to accommodate a disability.  The trial court dismissed the action based on the law’s language (which has since been removed as part of the amendment) that nothing in the act “shall be construed to require an employer to accommodate the medical use of marijuana in any workplace.”)

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Hello everyone, I am Pauline Young. I am one of the partners here at McLaughlin & Nardi, LLC.  First of all, I should say forgive me for my informal attire today, with the coronavirus, we are working with what we have here.

New Jersey Coronavirus Employment Issues

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