The “MeToo” movement strives to stop sexual harassment and assault by empowering women to speak out about abuse or conditions of discrimination. The movement has profoundly impacted our politics and changed society as a whole. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than in the law of the workplace.

Recently I wrote about big changes in store for New Jersey’s workplaces, with dramatic legislation aimed at improving conditions for New Jersey’s workers and preventing unlawful discrimination. Amendments to the Law Against Discrimination, the enactment of New Jersey’s Equal Pay Act, and New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Act are now law. Each of these laws protect workers from retaliation for simply speaking with other employees or an attorney about discrimination. Among other things, the Law Against Discrimination in New Jersey states that it is illegal for:

  • any employer to take reprisals against any employee for requesting from, discussing with, or disclosing to, any other employee or former employee of the employer, a lawyer from whom the employee seeks legal advice, or any government agency information regarding the job title, occupational category, and rate of compensation, including benefits, of the employee or any other employee or former employee of the employer, or the gender, race, ethnicity, military status or national origin of the employee or any other employee or former employee of the employer…

N.J.S.A 10:5-12(r).
In other words, if you face discriminatory work conditions such as unequal or discriminatory pay, you may speak with other employees or former employees or a lawyer in
connection with the claim of discrimination free from the fear of reprisal. It is a good idea of course to also check your employer’s handbook concerning an employer’s protocol for investigating discrimination. Moreover, an employer cannot refuse to hire someone simply because she refuses to waive her rights under the Law Against Discrimination. These rights include the right to a jury trial as well as the right to file a claim in court within two years of any alleged discrimination.

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The MeToo movement seeks to empower women in particular to have the courage to seek the support of others. Often this means inquiring in good faith whether other co-employees or former employees are also subjected to harassment or discrimination. Rules by an employer which prevent victims of harassment from exchanging information with an attorney or a co- employee pertinent to such claims are invalid. Furthermore, an employer who attempts to silence victims of harassment and discrimination by such rules may be sued and the victim may recover reasonable attorney fees for the suit.

The workplace is changing. Silencing women and others faced with discrimination and harassment is no longer acceptable. “MeToo” lives in today’s workplace.

 

**The information contained in this article is not intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need help with a specific legal problem, contact a qualified attorney. If you have a question about your rights or responsibilities in the workplace please feel free to contact the Law Office of David Rostan, an attorney who has focused his practice for over twenty-four years on employment law. He can be reached at 973-520-8301, by email at rostanlaw@aol.com, or by visiting his web site www.davidrostanlaw.com.