Zatuchni & Associates Newsletter
Employer's Post-Termination Retaliatory Conduct Actionable Under the LAD
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently held that an employer's actions after terminating an employee may serve as the basis of a claim under the Law Against Discrimination ("LAD"). In Roa v. Laffe, the plaintiffs were a husband and wife, Fernando and Liliana Roa, who both worked for the same company. The Roas claimed that their supervisor harassed and threatened them after Fernando told the supervisor's wife that her husband was having an affair. They also claimed they suffered additional retaliation after Fernando informed the company owner that the supervisor was sexually harassing other female employees. Ultimately, the company terminated both the Roas, and prematurely cancelled Fernando's health insurance before he had completed his last day of work on October 3, 2003. As a result, the couple was billed roughly $6,000 in medical expenses Liliana incurred on October 2, 2003. The company eventually corrected the premature cancellation and insurance covered the expenses. Then, two years later, the Roas filed a retaliatory discharge claim against the company under the LAD.
The NJ Supreme Court held that the Roas' discharge claim was time-barred under the statute of limitations. However, the Court ruled that the company's premature cancellation of Fernando's health insurance was actionable and not time-barred, even though it occurred after Fernando was discharged. The company argued that it could not be held liable for the cancellation, since it no way related to Fernando's present employment (he had already been fired when the cancellation occurred) or future employment prospects. The Court, however, reasoned that placing the company's post-employment retaliatory conduct outside the reach of the LAD would undermine the purpose of the law. The Court further ruled that the cancellation of the Roas' insurance was actionable because it was "materially adverse" within the meaning of the LAD, since it had impaired the Roas' credit and caused them financial difficulty and distress. All in all, the Roa decision helps ensure that employers cannot continue to retaliate against en employee past the date of his termination.
LAD Requires Employers to Accommodate Employees' Religious Practices
Did you know that, under the LAD, employers must accommodate their workers' religious observances? Specifically, the law prohibits an employer from requiring a worker to violate or forego a sincerely held religious practice or observance, such as attending services for Sabbath or other holy days. The law also prohibits an employer from withholding leave from a worker, when the leave is for purposes of a religious practice or observance. The only exception to this duty is if the accommodation causes the employer "undue hardship", defined as an accommodation that creates "(1) unreasonable expense or difficulty; (2) unreasonable interference with the safe or efficient operation of the workplace or a violation of a bona fide seniority system; or (3) a violation of any provision of a bona fide collective bargaining agreement." In addition, an accommodation rendering an employee unable to perform the essential functions of the job constitutes undue hardship.
In cases where the employer DOES provide leave as a reasonable accommodation, however, the law allows the employer to require the worker to make up the lost hours at a "mutually convenient time", to treat the absence under the company's leave policy (as long as it is not counted as sick leave), or to treat the absence as leave without pay. As such, the law attempts to strike a balance between the employer's business needs and the demands of the worker's religious faith.
With three offices in New Jersey and New York, the employment law firm of Zatuchni & Associates represents people who have suffered from unfair employment practices in Mercer County, Essex County, Union County, Hudson County, and Middlesex County, and the communities of Newark, Trenton, Camden, Princeton, Irvington, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Orange, South Orange, and New Brunswick in New Jersey, and New York City, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island in New York.