New Jersey’s employment discrimination law protects employees from being discriminated against on the basis of certain protected characteristics. Discrimination takes many forms and is, unfortunately, widespread in our state. If you believe you have suffered discrimination, you can submit a complaint to the state’s Division on Civil Rights (DCR) or in the Law Division of a Superior Court in New Jersey.
DCR vs Court Complaint in New Jersey: Different Deadlines
An employee has only 180 days from the date of the alleged violation to file a complaint with the DCR. You can do so by visiting one of the four DCR offices in the state. By contrast, an employee has two years to file a complaint with the Superior Court. These different deadlines might influence where you file.
An employee will need to provide roughly the same information regardless of where they file a complaint. Generally, an employee needs to provide factual allegation’s supporting his or her claim of discrimination, which should include:
- Date, time, and location of discriminatory acts
- Facts that support an inference that the employer acted with discriminatory intent
- Identities of witnesses to the incident
Different Investigatory Process
After an employee files a complaint with the DCR, the agency will serve it on your employer who must respond. The agency will then refer the case to mediation or to an investigator. An investigator is empowered to visit your employer, interview people, and obtain medical or employment records (or both). The investigator will check whether or not probable cause exists and send a written finding.
If you file a lawsuit in court, then no investigator takes over the case. Instead, it is up to the employee to gather relevant information to present at trial. An employee should have an attorney who can perform this investigation.
Prosecuting a Case
If the DCR finds that there is probable cause, the agency might recommend that the parties come together for a conciliation hearing to determine whether they can reach a mutual resolution. If not, then the agency has two choices: it can transmit the case to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) or file the case in Superior Court. The employee might also be able to use their own attorney when presenting a case to an ALJ.
If the agency finds no probable cause, an employee can appeal by filing an appeal with the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.
After hearing evidence in a case, an ALJ will issue a decision. There is no jury. The agency Director can choose to accept, modify, or reject a decision.
When a case goes through the Superior Court, a jury will decide whether the employee has been a victim of discrimination. The Director of the DCR has no say on whether the jury got the case right. However, an unhappy employee can try to appeal, if possible.
Let Us Help You
Every employee deserves a worksite free of discrimination. At Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP, our staff has helped many clients file complaints with the state agency or file lawsuits in court. Contact us today to schedule a meeting.