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Complaint policy ignored? You face punitive damages

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Warning! If you have a robust discrimination policy, but don’t follow it, you may face punitive damages under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. That law authorizes courts to punish employers financially for conduct that is “especially egregious.”

Recent case: Christine Barnes, who worked for Office Depot, needed frequent restroom breaks when she became pregnant. Her supervisor said that interfered with her productivity, and she claims she was frequently harassed for taking the necessary breaks.

Barnes tried to use the complaint process outlined in the company handbook, but HR kept telling her to discuss the matter with her supervisor instead.

Office Depot terminated her, and she sued, asking for punitive damages since the company ignored its own anti-discrimination complaint process.

The court said a jury should hear Barnes’ case. (Barnes v. Office Depot, No. 08-1703, DC NJ, 2009)

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