WESTFIELD, NJ — Fred Shahrooz Scampato understands the nature of stereotypes from a couple of different perspectives.
When he was young, Scampato was exposed to a kind of bias unique to most individuals from this part of the world. An attorney in Westfield, Scampato was raised in neighboring Clark, but he spent part of his formative years living halfway around the globe.
“We moved from Clark to Teheran, Iran for two years. My father was transferred there when I was a teenager,” Scampato recalled.“I was in Iran, at an English speaking school, in the late 1970s.”
It was shortly after Scampato and his family arrived in Iran that the Shah of that nation was overthrown, an event that ignited decades of upheaval in the region.
“The revolution started, and my parents sent me to a boarding school in Garden City, New York. I stayed in boarding school for a year, and then I went back to Johnson Regional High School in Clark for my senior year, when my parents came back.”
During his time living in the Middle East, Scampato came face to face with something of which he had never been on the receiving end when he was growing up in Union County.
“Living in Iran helped direct me toward a career fighting against prejudice and discrimination because I was a light-skinned person with blue eyes living in a country where everyone saw that I was different from them,” Scampato said. “So I stood out as a foreigner, and people have these stereotypes about Americans, and a lot of people did not care to learn about me as a person. I am not a ‘stereotypical American.’ There were negative stereotypes, so when I went to find my calling in law, I gravitated toward people who were discriminated against because I was in that position of understanding what a minority experiences.”
Scampato attended Drew University as an undergraduate and later studied law at the University of Illinois. He contemplated establishing a practice in the Midwest, before eventually being drawn back East.
“I love the diversity of New Jersey,” he said. “Being close to the ocean and being close to my family.”
Scampato’s Westfield-based practice focuses on employment law, where his mission is both to protect the rights of employees as well as to provide guidance for employers in avoiding situations that might result in them being accused of either discrimination or harassment.
“As an employment law attorney, I civilly prosecute civil rights legislation,” Scampato said. “In the forum of the workplace, if someone is being harassed or discriminated against, I bring actions on behalf of that individual.”But rather than serving as an adversary to business owners, Scampato prefers to position himself another way: “I see my job as being helpful to companies. If I am called by them, I help them be in compliance with the law. I supply them with handbooks that I draft and sexual harassment training so that they can be sure not to worry about charges like that against them. The training focuses on sexual harassment but includes all types of discrimination.
“Obviously, it is important to educate the employee so that they know what they can and can’t do. The purpose is to rectify a wrong and make sure the person who was liable is either terminated or reprimanded. My clients come to me to pursue claims and also to make sure their harassers don’t harass other people after them. I am 'getting rid of the malignant growth and therefore helping that company.’”
Scampato understands stereotypes from another perspective, as well. He is not blind to the rap that is often leveled against those in the law profession, and he aims to operate counter to that stereotype.
“A lot of attorneys are perceived as being jerks and money-grubbers and not necessarily moral individuals,” Scampato said. “I am not going to defend the trade. I am just going to do my work and hope that people recognize that I am not that stereotypical ambulance-chasing attorney.
“I try to treat everyone as if they are a family member or a good friend," he said. "My referrals are from other attorneys or former clients. They are coming to me by being referred by people I trust or have serviced. So I try to treat them with that kind of care. My policy is to return all phone calls within 24 hours. I try to explain the law to non-lawyers in a way that they fully understand what their rights and their options are.”
Scampato also handled contract cases and says that his 21 years in practice at his law firm have helped him accumulate both the experience as well as the personal contacts he believes enhance his ability to litigate effectively.
“Having been in involved in organizations that have [dealt with] employment law, I have a wealth of resources to call upon,” he said. “If there is a particular case that requires using more resources than just myself, I will co-counsel with another attorney and accept less of a fee so that the client has the maximum probability of being successful.”
For more information or to set up a consultation, call Fred Shahrooz-Scampato, Esquire at 908-301-9095 or email him at Scampato@njlaborlaw.com. Visit his website at www.njlaborlaw.com.