Federal and state laws limit where someone may file a lawsuit. The court must have the legal authority to hear the case and issue rulings affecting the defendant, known as jurisdiction. The location of the court, known as the venue, must have some connection to the events of the case or either of the parties. In many lawsuits, determining jurisdiction and venue is easy, such as when both parties are located in the same vicinity. New Jersey employment laws apply to employees, employers, and events in New Jersey. It can be more complicated when the events or the parties’ locations cross county or state lines. A recent decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, for example, addressed an employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit that involved events in both New Jersey and Connecticut.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) bars New Jersey employers from discriminating against employees and job seekers on the basis of a wide range of factors. These include race, religion, sex, disability, and sexual orientation. The statute also prohibits retaliation by employers against employees who report unlawful acts, assist in investigations, or engage in other protected activities. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has similar provisions, although its protections against workplace discrimination are not as broad.
Both of these statutes provide guidance on where employees may file a lawsuit. Title VII states that an individual may file a lawsuit in U.S. district court in the district where:
– The alleged violation occurred;
– Relevant employment records are located;
– The individual would have worked had the unlawful act not occurred; or
– The employer’s main office is located.
The NJLAD only states that a person may file suit in Superior Court. The New Jersey Rules of Court state that the proper venue for an employment lawsuit is the county where:
– The events leading to the lawsuit occurred;
– Where either the plaintiff or defendant resides; or
– Where an out-of-state defendant was served with a summons.
A defendant that is a business organization may “reside” in the county where their main office is located or any county where they do business.
The case before the Third Circuit involved an employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed in New Jersey. The plaintiff lived and worked in Connecticut, and the alleged employment actions directly affecting him took place in that state. He claimed that the defendant retaliated against him because of actions he took in support of two employees at a facility in New Jersey. One employee was allegedly experiencing harassment, and the plaintiff believed the other had experienced pregnancy discrimination. Both New Jersey employees also sued the employer.
The defendant fired the plaintiff after he objected to the alleged treatment of the two New Jersey employees. The plaintiff filed suit under the NJLAD in a New Jersey Superior Court. The defendant removed the case to federal court and moved for summary judgment. It argued that the plaintiff should have sued in Connecticut because the events in New Jersey did not affect him. The plaintiff argued that the New Jersey events were central to his claims. The trial and appellate courts agreed with the defendant’s argument.
If you believe your employer is engaging in practices that violate state or federal employment laws, you need a knowledgeable advocate who can help you assert your legal rights. The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group have many years of experience representing workers in New Jersey and New York. Please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.