Our Precedent Setting Cases
Our attorneys have worked on many important employment law appeals that have improved and expanded the rights of employees in New Jersey. Below is a brief description of some of our most important precedent-setting employment law cases.
In Cole, our client alleges her employer's decision to fire her constitutes disability discrimination and unlawful retaliation. The trial judge dismissed her case because she signed an employment contract that includes an arbitration provision. However, Jonathan Nirenberg successfully persuaded the Appellate Division to reverse the trial court's decision on the basis that the employer waived its right to enforce the arbitration agreement by choosing not to assert it as a defense until 3 days before the trial. As a result, the case will be decided by a jury, rather than by an arbitrator. For more information about Cole, please read our article New Jersey Court Finds Employer Waived Right to Enforce Arbitration Agreement.
Prior to the appeal, a jury determined that Berkeley Educational Services of New Jersey had discriminated against Ms. Padilla because she was pregnant. However, due to an error in the jury verdict sheet, the trial judge did not allow the jury to award her any damages.
On appeal, Jonathan I. Nirenberg convinced New Jersey's Appellate Division to send the case back to the trial court so a jury could award damages for the lost wages and benefits, emotional distress, and attorney's fees caused by the pregnancy discrimination. Importantly, the appellate court recognized that an employee does not need to have a doctor or expert witness testify to recover emotional distress under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
In this disability discrimination case, the trial court found that the plaintiff, Lois Myers, did not have enough evidence of discrimination for a jury to even consider whether AT&T fired her because she was a survivor of ovarian cancer. The trial court dismissed Ms. Myers' case even though her immediate supervisor admitted she lowered Ms. Myers' performance rating because she perceived that, as a cancer survivor, Ms. Myers was not working as hard as her non-disabled coworker. It was also undisputed that AT&T selected Ms. Myers to be included in a mass layoff because of her lowered performance rating.
On appeal, Jonathan I. Nirenberg helped convince the Appellate Division that Ms. Myers was entitled to her day in court. In fact, the appeals court found that the admission by Ms. Myers' supervisor was "direct evidence" of discrimination, and therefore instead of Ms. Myers having to prove that AT&T fired her because of her disability, the company would have the burden to prove that it would have fired Ms. Myers even if she never had cancer.
The Myers decision is extremely important since it makes it significantly easier for an employee to place the burden of proof on the employer in employment discrimination cases.
In yet another important victory for employees in a disability discrimination case, Jonathan I. Nirenberg helped to convince the New Jersey Supreme Court to substantially lower the threshold for victims of discrimination to have his case decided by a jury.
After a jury found that Stanley Roberts, Inc. fired Stewart Zive because he was disabled after he suffered a stroke, the company unsuccessfully attempted to convince the Appellate Division to reverse the decision. The company again appealed, this time to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court not only denied the appeal, but looked carefully at the elements an employee has to prove before a case can go to a jury. Ultimately, the Court recognized that the plaintiff has a minimal burden before he is entitled to a trial, and essentially ruled that a jury should be able to decide whether discrimination made a difference in the employer's decision so long as the facts are not consistent with the possibility of discrimination.
In this federal civil rights case, Firefighter William J. Brennan was awarded a substantial jury verdict against the Township of Teaneck, New Jersey, and numerous of its employees for violating his First Amendment rights.
On appeal, the defendants sought to reverse the jury's verdict. Jonathan I. Nirenberg, who represented Mr. Brennan, attempted to convince the court to send the case back to the district court to determine whether the defendants had retaliated against Mr. Brennan in violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA"), even though he had not sent a "notice of claim" to Teaneck. Filing a notice of claim is a legal prerequisite to bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the state or local government.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the District Court, concluding that CEPA is a civil rights statute, not a personal injury law. As a result, the Court held that plaintiffs do not need to send a "notice of claim" before bringing a whistleblower retaliation claim against the government under CEPA.