Recently, due to covid-19 vaccine mandates and recent Executive Orders, many employers have imposed new and ever-changing vaccine mandates. Some employees have had the sincerity of their religious beliefs questioned and even outright denied. Others have had their medical conditions questioned. This has caused many employees to be faced with difficult and costly decisions to either comply with their employer’s new vaccine requirements or feel forced to leave.
New Jersey has many laws in place to protect employees from discrimination at the hands of their employers. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the “LAD”) is the most well-known and wide-ranging. The LAD prohibits unlawful employment discrimination and harassment based on any one or more of a variety of characteristics. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, age, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, mental or physical disability, and more.
The LAD applies to all different types of employers - Private Employers, State and Local Government Employers, Employment Agencies, and Labor Unions. “Discrimination and harrassment” under the LAD can range from derogatory remarks that create a hostile work environment all the way to termination based on any of the protected characteristics. A hostile work environment occurs when an employee can show that (1) the harassment is based on at least one protected characteristic and (2) it was severe and pervasive enough to make a reasonable person of the same protected class believe that the conditions of employment and the work environment are hostile or abusive. Remedies for employment discrimination can include back pay, damages for pain and humiliation experienced as a result of the unlawful discrimination, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
If you feel as though your employer has discriminated or retaliated against you based on your vaccination status, or if your employer has failed to recognize your valid religious and/or medical exemption request, contact Phyllis Widman, Esq. today to see what options for recourse may be available to you.