New Jersey Court Affirms Dismissal of Employment Discrimination Case

New Jersey, like many other states, places a high burden on employees seeking to recover on an employment discrimination claim. If a terminated employee is unable to prove each element of an employment discrimination claim it will result in the dismissal of his or her entire lawsuit, as recently illustrated in a case decided by the Superior Court of New Jersey. If you believe you are the victim of employment discrimination you should consult a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination attorney to discuss your options for pursuing damages.

Plaintiff’s Employment History

Reportedly, the plaintiff worked for the defendant, a company that processes workers’ compensation claims. He began working for the defendant in 2001. He initially worked in the call center and was later transferred to the finance department. His last position with the company was as a sales data management coordinator. In 2007, the plaintiff’s supervisor gave him permission to take naps on his breaks. He suffered from Crohn’s disease but did not request any accommodations. He was advised on two occasions that other employees had observed him sleeping at his desk, after which he advised the defendant that he was on medication that made him sleepy but did not elaborate as to his underlying medical condition. He was spoken to repeatedly about sleeping at his desk and advised if he was caught sleeping again, he would get a warning.

Allegedly, in mid-2015, the plaintiff had a colitis attack and soiled his pants, after which he went home to change. He returned to work and was found asleep at his desk later that day, and was terminated immediately. He filed an employment discrimination lawsuit, alleging he was terminated due to his age and disability. He was 71-years-old at the time he was terminated. Following his termination, his duties were shifted to his supervisor.  During depositions, it was revealed that sleeping on the job was prohibited, and a single offense could result in termination. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court granted. The plaintiff subsequently appealed the dismissal of his case. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Plaintiff’s Burden in Demonstrating Employment Discrimination

On appeal, the court noted that in cases where a plaintiff has alleged employment discrimination, New Jersey has adopted the burden shifting analysis set forth by the United States Supreme court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green. Under this analysis, a plaintiff must prove he was discriminated against due to age or disability by showing he was in a protected class, he was performing his job at the level expected by his employer but was fired regardless, and his employer replaced him after his termination. If a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to set forth a legitimate reason for terminating the plaintiff that is not discriminatory. The plaintiff can then refute the employer’s alleged reason for termination as pretext.

Here, the court found that the plaintiff failed to set forth a prima facie case of age discrimination. Specifically, the court noted that a new employee was not hired to take on the plaintiff’s duties following his termination. Regarding the plaintiff’s disability claim, it was noted he never requested an accommodation for his disability and therefore the defendant was not obligated to provide him with any accommodation. Lastly, it was noted the plaintiff was terminated because he was sleeping at his desk. Thus, the court held that he was terminated for a legitimate reason, and upheld the trial court ruling.

Consult an Experienced New Jersey Employment Discrimination Attorney

If your employer took adverse employment action against your after you reported illegal activity you may be able to pursue a claim for damages. It is in your best interest to meet with a knowledgeable employment discrimination attorney to help you formulate a plan for seeking compensation.  The New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys of The Jaffe Glenn Law Group will keep you apprised of any developments in your case and work diligently to help you seek any damages you may be able to recover. Contact our office at 201-687-9977 or through our online form to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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