The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) makes it illegal to retaliate against employees simply because they’ve filed a discrimination complaint.
Employees know this law. So, all too often, employees who are having trouble at work file an internal complaint as a preemptive strike. Then, when they’re disciplined, they pull the complaint card, alleging they were retaliated against for making the complaint.
The good news: The New Jersey Supreme Court just made it much harder for employees to avoid discipline by filing frivolous internal complaints. Now, they must prove their complaints were made in good faith.
Recent case: Reinaldo Carmona, a hotel front-desk clerk, was a recovering cocaine addict with multiple relapses. Because of those relapses, Carmona had missed many days of work and was in danger of termination under the company’s no-fault attendance policy. That’s when he filed an internal complaint alleging the company applied its attendance policy unevenly due to racism.
The day before he filed the complaint, Carmano was observed giving room upgrades in exchange for tips. He was fired for violating the company policy.
Carmano sued, alleging illegal retaliation for filing the LAD complaint. While a jury sided with Carmano, the employer appealed, claiming it was Carmano’s burden to prove he had made a good-faith complaint, not simply that he had made a complaint.
The N.J. Supreme Court agreed with the employer. Employees who claim they were fired in retaliation for complaining about discrimination must prove that their complaint was made in good faith, and not just that they filed a complaint. (Carmano v. Resorts International Hotel, No. A-83, Supreme Court of New Jersey, 2007)