Discrimination and Retaliation Claims During the COVID-19 Pandemic
For example, it is unlawful discrimination for your employer to choose to fire or furlough you for an unlawful reason, such as because of your age, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, religion, national origin, color, marital status, veteran status, or your membership in another legally-protected category.
Similarly, in New Jersey, employers still cannot select you to be fired or have your hours reduced because you objected to, disclosed, or refused to participate in an activity that you reasonably believed violated the law or a clear mandate of public policy. That includes, for instance, prohibiting your employer from choosing to fire you because you objected to a policy or practice that you reasonably believe violates a new law, order, or other state, federal or local requirement relating to COVID-19.
Likewise, employers still must comply with other laws, such as the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”), the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (“WARN Act”), the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Wage Payment Act and the New Jersey the Wage & Hour Law.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights issued guidance expressly stating that the Law Against Discrimination extends to situations involving COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance emphasized that employers cannot terminate an individual’s employment based upon a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 or the employer’s perception that the employee may have COVID-19.