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New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog - 5 new articles
A recent opinion by New Jersey’s Appellate Division finds that an employee cannot bring a retaliation claim against a private employer for firing her for posting racially insensitive statements on Facebook.
Heather J. McVey was a Corporate Director of Customer Service for AtlantiCare Medical System Incorporated and Geisinger Health System Incorporated. Ms. McVey was an employee at-will, meaning AtlantiCare had the right to fire her for any reason, or for no reason at all, as long as it did not violate the law.
During the protests following the murder of George Floyd, Ms. McVey engaged in a discussion on Facebook about the Black Lives Matter movement. She expressed her opinion that Black Lives Matter is “racist” and “causes segregation,” and that Black citizens were “not dying” but rather “killing themselves.” Ms. McVey identified herself on her Facebook profile as a Corporate Director at AtlantiCare.
As a New Jersey employment lawyer, I have had numerous clients tell me their employer has asked or required them to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination. However, anti-discrimination laws limit when an employer has the right to send an employee to a medical exam.
Protection Under Anti-Discrimination Laws
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) both prohibit employers from sending employees for a fitness-for-duty exam unless the exam is “job-related” and “consistent with business necessity.”
A recent unpublished decision from the Third Circuit concludes that an employer can fire an employee because it honestly believes she abused her Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave.
Marsha VanHook worked as a patient representative for Cooper Health System for approximately nine years. One of her sons has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), severe oppositional defiance disorder, chronic depression, and anxiety.
For many years, Cooper allowed Ms. VanHook to take an intermittent FMLA leave to care for her son when he was not in school or supervised by someone else. However, Ms. VanHook’s supervisor eventually heard from another employee that Ms. VanHook might be using her FMLA leave inappropriately. In addition, Cooper’s Human Resources Department heard that Ms. VanHook was often using her FMLA Leave immediately before a weekend or another day off, which raised suspicion.
A recent decision from New Jersey’s Appellate Division recognizes it can be retaliation in violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”) for a police department to harass one of its members because he objected to a new policy he reasonably believed is an illegal arrest quota system.
Calvin Anderson has been a member of the East Orange Police Department for over 20 years. His supervisor, Anthony Cook, instituted a “productivity improvement system” that Anderson believed violated a New Jersey law that prohibits police departments from instituting arrest quota systems. Anderson, who was a lieutenant at the time, complained about the productivity improvement system and refused to implement it.
Anderson filed a lawsuit against the Department and Cook, alleging they retaliated against him in violation of CEPA. He claims Cook retaliated against him by investigating him for neglect-of-duty regarding his supposed failure to complete an accident-reconstruction report. Even though the investigating officer concluded Anderson did nothing wrong, Cook then filed a complaint to the Internal Affairs Department about the same incident. In addition, Cook required Anderson to increase his productivity in terms of stops and arrests in a crime zone, and issued him a written warning notice for failing to do so. Cook also threatened to bring neglect-of-duty charges against Anderson for failing to file an incident report about another officer, even though doing so was the responsibility of a sergeant. In addition, Cook ordered another captain to investigate Anderson, and threatened to issue a written warning to Anderson, for failing to report to a lineup for a July Fourth celebration. Likewise, Cook berated Anderson in front of the mayor for supposedly neglecting his duty and wasting taxpayer dollars, and frequently assigned him to the midnight shift, which prevented him from working traffic details, which Anderson claims caused him to lose $10,000 to $12,000 in compensation.
In a recent opinion, New Jersey’s Appellate Division reinstated Margaret Gatham’s whistleblower claim against Care One Management, LLC, its Executive Vice President, Elizabeth Straus, and its Deputy General Counsel, Thomas A. McKinney.
Ms. Gatham worked for Care One from 2005 until she resigned in July 2012. In 2015, Care One’s Chief Strategy Officer, Timothy Hodges, contacted her to discuss her potentially returning to Care One based on her past success turning the facility around, including her success collecting money. In August 2015, Ms. Gatham returned to Care One as its Director of the Shared Business Office.
In approximately September 2015, Ms. Gathman discovered that Care One had failed to return to Medicare, Medicaid and other entities and individuals, overpayments and security deposits for residents who had died, in violation of the Affordable Care Act. In early 2016, Ms. Gatham reported this issue to her immediate supervisor. Ms. Gatham came up with a plan for Care One to return the money. Ms. Gatham indicated she was concerned about the company’s failure to return those funds, which she estimated could have been $13 million. She also periodically updated members of the company’s senior management, including Ms. Strauss, about those plans.