Rights of Employees
Our Significant Cases
Our employment attorneys have worked on many significant New Jersey employment law cases and appeals that have improved and expanded the rights of employees in New Jersey. Below is a brief description of some of our most important and precedent-setting employment law cases.
- Borough of Bogota v. Tasca: The Borough of Bogota, New Jersey suspended and then fired our client after she had worked for it as a police officer for a decade. On appeal, the Appellate Division agreed that our client was entitled to have a jury decide her retaliation, sexual orientation and gender discrimination claims before a judge would decide whether Bogota had violated any of her other rights in its disciplinary decisions. After winning the appeal, the trial judge ordered Bogota to reinstate our client with more than $300,000 in back pay. Ultimately, Jonathan I. Nirenberg helped to settle the case for $2.25 million.
- Brennan v. Norton: In this whistleblower case, Firefighter William J. Brennan was awarded a substantial jury verdict against the Township of Teaneck, New Jersey for violating his First Amendment rights. On appeal, the defendants sought to reverse the jury's verdict. Jonathan I. Nirenberg, who represented Mr. Brennan, convinced 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 tort claim" to Teaneck. Filing a notice of claim is a prerequisite to bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the state or local government. The Court ruled that plaintiffs do not need to send a notice of claim before bringing a whistleblower claim against the government under CEPA because it is a civil rights claim rather than a personal injury claim.
- Carlson v. City of Hackensack: In the Carlson case, David Ben-Asher represented a tenured tax assessor of the City of Hackensack, New Jersey. In this litigation the Firm succeeded in having the Court order Hackensack to reinstate our client's full salary and benefits reinstated after the City attempted to reduce his salary from full time to part time, thereby eliminating his benefits.
- Cole v. Jersey City Medical Center: In Cole, the employee alleged her employer's decision to fire her constituted disability discrimination and retaliation. The trial judge dismissed her case because she signed an employment contract that included an arbitration provision. However, Jonathan I. Nirenberg successfully persuaded the Appellate Division to reverse the trial court's decision on the basis that the employer had waived its right to enforce the arbitration agreement by choosing not to assert it as a defense until three days before the trial. As a result, the case could 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.
- Community Action Programs Executive Directors Assoc. of N.J., Inc. v. Ash: Prior to joining the firm, David Ben-Asher and Elliot Baumgart secured a landmark impoundment decision on behalf of various community action agencies. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found the United States was required to spend $239 million for summer jobs for urban, disadvantaged, young persons, as had been appropriated by Congress.
- Grinbaum v. Township of Livingston Board of Education: Our law firm obtained an important appellate decision with regard to a jury finding that the school district and certain of its personnel were liable for failing to provide academic accommodations to a student on account of his disability. The verdict was rendered under the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Section 1983. The Court rejected the defendants' argument that the plaintiff's academic success negated their liability. The Court vacated the damage award ($250,000 after remittitur) because of confusion about how the reversal of the verdict against an individual defendant would impact the school district's liability. On remand, trial counsel obtained a ruling that permitted Grinbaum's $250,000 verdict to stand.
- Guslavage v. City of Elizabeth: In an important appellate decision regarding New Jersey’s whistleblower law, we preserved a $960,000 judgment which had been awarded to an employee. In the process, we established new law under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) concerning both the proof an employee must provide to show he or she reasonably believed there was a violation of law or public policy and CEPA’s requirement to report certain violations internally before reporting them to an outside government agency or body. The Appellate Division also awarded the plaintiff $100,000 in attorney’s fees as the prevailing party.
- Myers v. AT&T: In this disability discrimination case, Jonathan I. Nirenberg helped convince New Jersey's Appellate Division that Ms. Myers was entitled to her day in court. The appeals court ruled that a supervisor's admission she lowered Ms. Myers' performance rating because she believed that, as a cancer survivor, Ms. Myers was not working as hard as her non-disabled coworkers was "direct evidence" of discrimination. As a result, instead of Ms. Myers having to prove that AT&T fired her because of her disability, the company would have to prove it would have fired Ms. Myers even if she never had cancer. The Myers decision is extremely important because it makes it significantly easier for an employee to place the burden of proof on the employer in employment discrimination cases.
- NAACP v. North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue: In an important decision regardingrace discrimination, David Ben-Asher and Eugenie Temmler of our firm, along with Rose Legal Advocate, were successful in securing a court ruling that overturned a residency requirement imposed by the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue fire department for firefighter positions. We successfully argued on behalf of the plaintiffs that such a residency requirement had a discriminatory impact by excluding not only non-resident, but also well-qualified African-Americans who otherwise would be eligible for jobs as firefighters.
- New Jersey Builders, Owners and Managers Assoc. v. Blair: Prior to joining Rabner Baumgart, David Ben-Asher obtained a decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court that landlords can be required to report the race of their applicants and tenants to the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights so rental properties can be monitored for possible race discrimination.
- Padilla v. Berkeley Educational Services of New Jersey, Inc: In Padilla, prior to the appeal a jury had determined that Berkeley Educational Services of New Jersey discriminated against Ms. Padilla because she was pregnant. However, 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 emotional distress caused by the employer’s pregnancy discrimination, as well as attorneys' fees. The appellate court recognized employees do not need to have a doctor or expert witness testify to be able to recover emotional distress damages under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
- Rendine v. Pantzer: In Rendine, our firm represented two plaintiffs in a pregnancy discrimination case at the trial court level and won a jury verdict of $935,000. In this case, the employer had asked the plaintiffs about their intentions to have children during their tenure with the company. The employer subsequently fired one of the plaintiffs following a brief period away from work after she gave birth. The employer took away the majority of the other plaintiff’s job responsibilities following her return from a maternity leave. The trial court awarded “enhanced” attorney’s fees to the plaintiff (beyond the attorney’s reasonable hourly rates). The decision about attorney’s fees was later upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the leading decision establishing the standard for awarding enhanced attorney’s fees to employees under New Jersey law.
- Shapiro v. Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders: In a New Jersey Supreme Court case, prior to joining Rabner Baumgart, David Ben-Asher secured a ruling that a County Executive, rather than a County Board of Freeholders, has the power to fix the salary of county employees.
- Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc: The issue in this discrimination lawsuit was whether an employer has the right to read private emails one of its employee sent to her employment lawyer from her work computer, even though she used Yahoo, a private password-protected email service. Jonathan I. Nirenberg co-authored the amicus ("friend of the court") brief submitted by the National Employment Lawyers' Association of New Jersey (NELA-NJ) in support of the employee's privacy rights. The New Jersey Supreme Court ultimately ruled that even though companies have a right to monitor communications that pass through their computer systems, this company should not have read the employee's emails because they were protected by the attorney-client privilege.
- Woolley v. Hoffman La Roche: In this landmark case, the firm was one of the two law firms which represented the plaintiff employee before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The Court found that “absent a clear and prominent disclaimer” an employee can enforce a promise in an employee handbook, such as a promise the company will discharge employees only for cause.
- Zahorian v. Russell Fitt Real Estate Agency: David Ben-Asher, prior to joining the firm, was one of the attorneys who secured a landmark New Jersey Supreme Court decision holding for the first time that the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights has the power to award pain and suffering damages in discrimination cases.
- Zive v. Stanley Roberts, Inc: In yet another significant New Jersey employment law cases involving 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 their cases decided by juries. A jury found Stanley Roberts, Inc. fired Stewart Zive because he had a disability after he suffered a stroke, and awarded him $300,000 in damages. The company unsuccessfully attempted to convince the Appellate Division to reverse the decision and the New Jersey Supreme Court to affirm. In the process, the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized that employees have a minimal initial burden in discrimination cases before they are entitled to a trial, essentially ruling that a jury should decide whether discrimination made a difference in the employer's decision as long as the facts are consistent with the possibility of discrimination.