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New Jersey Workers Allege Discrimination Based on Race, Religion, and National Origin

Discrimination against Muslims, people with Arab heritage, and people perceived to belong to either or both of those groups has been an ongoing problem in New Jersey and around the country for a long time. This includes workplace discrimination and harassment because of a person’s religious beliefs or practices, or stereotypes about that person’s religion. New Jersey employment discrimination on the basis of religion violates both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). With regard to Muslim workers, this type of discrimination can, in some cases, overlap with discrimination based on national origin or race. A New Jersey woman brought attention to this issue earlier this year with allegations of discrimination and harassment because of her Muslim faith. This led to a commitment by the employer to change how it investigates such claims. Another case, which alleged race discrimination by the same employer, resulted in a lawsuit and settlement.

Title VII bars employment discrimination on the basis of five factors: race, color, religion, national origin, and sex. This includes a wide range of actions by managers, supervisors, co-workers, customers, and others. The NJLAD also prohibits discrimination based on these factors and includes many more protected categories. Employers may not take overtly discriminatory actions against someone because of a protected factor, such as refusing to hire job applicants who are or are perceived to be Muslim. These laws also address less obvious forms of discrimination, such as workplace harassment motivated by an employee’s religion, race, sex, or other protected characteristics.

The two cases mentioned above involve female former employees of a major Wall Street asset manager. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a Black woman who worked there from 2014 to 2020. She alleged that despite putting forth a “commitment to racial equality and inclusion” after the social justice protests of 2020, the firm had “​​serious race and sex discrimination problems of its own making.” The company, she claimed, routinely promoted white employees over Black employees with more experience and qualifications. She filed suit against the company at the beginning of 2021, alleging that she was forced out of the firm in retaliation for expressing her concerns about race discrimination. The suit was settled in the summer of 2021.

The other case involves a New Jersey woman who was reportedly one of the first women to wear a hijab on a Wall Street trading floor. She alleges, however, that her experience turned negative soon after she was hired. She has described numerous instances of harassment and discrimination among both supervisors and co-workers, such as mockery of the way she says “Assalamu Alaikum,” a common greeting among Muslims. She published a blog post, co-authored an open letter to the CEO with another employee, and created a petition calling on the company to improve its work environment. Her efforts have produced results. Several months ago, the company announced changes in its training programs and its procedures for investigating complaints.

If you are involved in a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York, the employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group are available to answer your questions and discuss your options. Please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our knowledgeable and experienced team.

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