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June 28, 2017
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HARRASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
Updated On: Dec 17, 2008

   New Jersey has some of the most stringent laws in the country regarding workplace harrassment. Generally speaking, however, to be illegal, harrassment in the workplace must be based on a particular "protected characterstic" of the indivdual being harrassed. The most obvious classifications are gender, age, ethnicity, martial status or sexual preferences. It is illegal to discriminate, harrass or retaliate against someone based upon such characteristics. Recent decisions of the New Jersey Supreme Court have made clear that words alone, even if uttered in a joking manner, can constitute discrimination in certain circumstances. In Cutler v. Dorn, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that police officers in Haddonfield violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("LAD") through frequent and pervasive comments which were directed at a Jewish police officer. The Court concluded that a hostile work environment claim can be sustained under the LAD if a reasonable person of plaintiff's religion or ancestry would consider the workplace acts or comments made to, or in the presence of, plaintiff to be sufficiently severe or pervasive.

   In this case, the plaintiff police officer observed that his supervisor would makes negative and demeaning comments or "jokes" about Jews in his presence. For example, the Chief of Police would comment on his ancestry a couple of times a month, often referring to him as "the Jew" when he was present. The Chief also asked the plaintiff on one occasion "where [his] big Jew... nose was", and the Lieutenant also made derogatory comments directed at plaintiff's ancestry. Stickers were also placed on the officer's locker including a German flag which was placed above an Israeli sticker. On one occasion, fellow officers referred to "dirty Jews" when speaking to the plaintiff.

   At trial, the trial court denied the employer's motion for a dismissal and allowed the claims to be decided by a jury. The jury found in the plaintiff's favor on the hostile work environment claim but awarded him no damages. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed the verdict and dismissed plaintiff's complaint. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

   In its decision, the Court found that the comments directed at the plaintiff constituted a hostile work environment based upon its prior decisions. Specifically, the Court concluded that plaintiff succeeded in establishing a hostile work environment claim because the conduct at issue would not have occurred but for his religion and ancestry, and because it was "severe and pervasive" enough to make a reasonable person believe that the working environment was hostile and abusive.

   The Cutler opinion follows similar previous decisions addressing hostile work environment claims of sexual or racial harassment, and accordingly rejects the theory that these comments were "just teasing". The Court noted that stereotypical ethnic references made in the presence of an individual could in the aggregate create an objectively humiliating and painful environment. While each comment, in and of itself, might not be considered harrassment, the Court emphasized that one must look at the comments as a whole, particularly if comments are uttered by one's supervisors.

   In Kwiatkowski v. Merrill Lynch, a recent Appellate Division case, the court made it clear that even a single insult can result in an LAD violation if it is sufficiently egregious. That case involved a claim by an employee that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.He claimed that his supervisor called him a "stupid fag", and that this demonstrated bias and the real reason for his termination. While the trial court dismissed the contention that this single comment could trigger LAD liability, the Appellate Division disagreed and reinstated the case. It held that a jury could find that the single statement "stupid fag" created a hostle work environment, even if it was made by a different supervisor than the one who actually fired plaintiff.

   In short, the courts have been very active in addressing hostile work environment claims. It is important to understand that even workplace comments made in a teasing or joking manner in certain instances can support hostile work environment claims. Those comments could be made about a person's gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. And while it is usually the cumulative impact of these incidents which may constitute a hostile work envirnment, in some instances even a single outrageous comment may be sufficient and trigger liability. We caution that these decisions certainly do not mean that all workplace jokes and teasing are unlawful. But if the remarks are numerous, made by supervisors directed towards subordinates, or outrageous and egrerious when made by a co-worker, the courts are more likely to find LAD vioaltions.


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Current Campaigns
  • The IBT and your Atlanta Committee members, Geoff Maloney and Chris Rogers have been negotiating with Company management since 2010; almost as long as the IBT have been negotiating for the Express Jet CRJ members. 

    The Company has now given us their final, closeout proposal on wages. Neither the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Airline Division, the Business Agents of Local 210 and Local 19, nor your rank-and-file committee members are recommending this be ratified. A detailed letter from your ExpressJet CRJ Negotiating Committee can be found here. A copy of the company’s last, best and final offer can be found here.

    Ballots were mailed on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.  Each member will receive voting instructions and credentials required for voting.  Voting will close on Monday, July 10, and will be counted the same day. 

  • The ‘Let’s Get America Working!’ campaign seeks to restore a dynamic and prosperous middle class to drive economic growth by helping to advance policy decisions that create and maintain good middle-income jobs, guarantee retirement security, expand access to the American Dream, and ensure that the benefits of the ongoing economic recovery are felt by the many, not just the few.

  • We Are eXPOsing XPO’s Global Greed

    XPO Logistics is a top ten global logistics and transportation company with annual revenue of $15 billion and 89,000 employees, another 10,000 workers classified as independent contractors, and thousands more working for firms that subcontract with XPO. We are the REAL workers at XPO Logistics worldwide exposing the truth about the company’s global greed, illegal wage theft, unsafe conditions, and abhorrent and vicious anti-worker, anti-union tactics. 

    This greed includes mistreating former Con-way Freight workers in the United States who are being kept in the dark about terminal closures and layoffs, and the company’s illegal refusal to bargain contracts and denying their workers’ federally protected right to organize. It also includes port, rail and last-mile drivers around the country and in Southern California fighting wage theft in excess of $200 million because they are misclassified as independent contractors and denied the right to form their union. This greed has caused numerous lawsuits and strikes.  Greed also means an unsafe workplace and mistreating its warehouse employees.

    XPO’s greed extends to Europe beginning with breaking its promise to not layoff any workers for at least 18 months. French workers and the unions have been fighting back against XPO’s disrespect, lies and attempts to slash jobs. Similar struggles are taking place in Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and across Europe.

    Join the worldwide struggle now! Get involved with this campaign by joining the Facebook group “XPO Exposed.”

    Together, we can eXPOse the company’s global greed and win fairness, respect and dignity for tens of thousands of XPO employees around the world!

  • This webpage provides information on the Teamsters Union’s legislative advocacy at both the federal and state level as well as our field activity to support those policy positions and to get strong labor candidates elected to office.  Among other resources, you will find our federal legislative scorecard, formal statements of policy position and communications to Capitol Hill,  a weekly update on federal legislative happenings, an overview of bills we are tracking at the state level, and quick links to take action on priority issues.

  • Negotiations for the National Master Automobile Transporters Agreement (NMATA) recently concluded and a tentative agreement has been reached. On Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 representatives from carhaul local unions met in Detroit to endorse the National Agreement and the Central-Southern Supplement, paving the way for members to vote. The Eastern and Western Supplements were approved in 2016, and will not be re-voted. However, all carhaul members will get to exercise their right to vote on the National Agreement and General Monetary Changes.

    Ballots will be mailed out on or about March 10 and are tentatively scheduled to be counted on March 30.

    The tentative agreement is from September 1, 2015, until May 31, 2021.

  • Workers’ pensions are being endangered by both Congress and those charged with overseeing them. The Teamsters and our members are standing united to say “No!” to cuts and “Yes!” to greater retirement security!

  • On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Southwest Airlines reached an agreement covering more than 300 material specialists. Details of the agreement are available on this webpage, along with materials explaining the components of this contract.

    Ballots will be mailed on or about Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Each member will receive voting instructions and credentials required for voting via mail, along with paper copies of the tentative agreement’s highlights, the tentative agreement, and a copy of the seniority list. Voting will close on June 21, ballots will begin to be counted the same day.  Please continue to check this page for more information, it will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

  • The Teamsters Union represents more than 250,000 members at UPS and UPS Freight. UPS remains an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) despite the organization’s anti-worker and anti-union agenda that seeks to undermine and weaken worker protections.

  • This web page provides information on our fight against fast-track legislation. The measure requires Congress to take only a quick up-or-down vote on secret trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and does not allow such agreements to be amended. It limits Congress’ constitutionally mandated oversight of such trade deals and lets others decide what’s best for America. The result is fewer good-paying U.S. jobs and unsafe food and products for Americans. Read more to find out why fast track is the wrong track for Teamsters and America.

  • Workers across the country at FedEx Freight and Con-way Freight are standing shoulder to shoulder to form their unions with the Teamsters to win a more secure future. Momentum is building with a first wave of victories with many more to come.

    There is growing worker resentment toward the companies after years of being treated unfairly. While the companies have suddenly made improvements since workers began to organize, workers know that without a legally binding contract the company can take these things away at any time.

    The unfulfilled promises that have been made to drivers and dockworkers over the past decade are coming back to haunt management.

    But now workers are taking action and standing up for themselves by forming their union. It's a different era now. It's Teamster Time! LIKE our Facebook page, here.

 
 
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