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Newark Litigation and Appeals Law Blog

Voluntarily inactive lawyer found to have been acting as attorney

An attorney in New Jersey can choose to go on voluntary inactive status with regard to his or her law license. Having done so, it is an assumption that the inactive attorney will not serve in the capacity of attorney for others, but in a recent Bergen County case this appears to have been what happened when an inactive lawyer became involved first as an advisor and later as an investor in a commercial real estate transaction that ultimately led to litigation against her and which may spread to other attorneys before it is ultimately concluded.

The inactive attorney became involved in the transaction when she was contracted by a married couple who were attempting to help structure a multi-million dollar commercial real estate purchase. She eventually became in investor herself in the planned purchase, but the basis of her compensation was never made clear. That was when things began to go wrong.

Non-clients can bring legal malpractice claims

Every licensed attorney must comply with a code of ethics. When an attorney fails to do so and the client is injured as a result, that client may be able to sue the attorney for legal malpractice. In most cases, legal malpractice claims are brought by clients. In New Jersey, however, non-clients can also bring legal malpractice claims. 

In 2014, a New Jersey court held that non-clients can recover for damages caused by an attorney's negligence. In that case, Innes v. Marzano-Lesnevich, a man succeeded on his claim of legal malpractice against his ex-wife's attorneys. The attorneys gave the ex-wife his daughter's passport. Upon receiving the passport, the ex-wife took the daughter out of the country without permission

Many employees don't report sexual harassment

It is illegal for New Jersey businesses to discriminate against their employees on the basis of their sex. Additionally, both male and female employees are legally protected against sexual harassment and retaliation. However, employees who experience sexual harassment often fail to file complaints against the supervisors, co-workers or other individuals hired by the company.

There are many reasons that employees may refrain from filing sexual harassment complaints. For the most part, many fear that the complaints could keep them from being able to seek employment elsewhere, especially if the industry is close or difficult to break into. Additionally, there are fewer women than men in certain industries, and thus some female employees may not be willing to risk their position should their employers retaliate against them.

Verizon sued by ESPN over Custom TV plan

New Jersey residents may be interested to learn that Verizon is being sued by ESPN over its new 'Custom TV" programming plan. According to ESPN, Verizon violated its contract with ESPN by offering customers a new slimmed-down TV plan. However, a spokeswoman for ESPN has stated that the details of the breach of contract claims are unable to be revealed because of confidentiality agreements that the two companies have entered into.

Verizon began offering customers the new Custom TV plan in late April. The plan costs $55 a month and provides some of the most popular cable channels as well as local TV stations. In addition to these channels, customers who subscribe to Custom TV can customize their TV plan by selecting two of seven different channel bundles. Two of those bundles include ESPN channels.

Dealing with harassment in the workplace

An individual in New Jersey who feels that they have been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace should take a few important steps to ensure that there is a better chance that harassment is adequately addressed. Thorough documentation can be crucial. This means noting the date and time for small and large incidents as well as collecting emails and other types of messages. Once the information is gathered, individuals should not hesitate to move forward with reporting the incidents. As the time between harassment and reporting lengthens, people may begin to question why a complaint was not filed sooner. Furthermore, witnesses may leave the company in the meantime.

Individuals need to turn over all their documentation to support their harassment claims. Corroborating evidence strengthens a claim, and having it all available in a timely fashion allows the investigation to move along efficiently. However, individuals should not expect an immediate decision. An investigation takes time and has to work with other people's schedules.

New Jersey man sues employer for obesity discrimination

The Mountain Creek ski resort and water park in Vernon is the object of a lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims that the company violated both federal and state discrimination laws. The man, who worked for the resort as a food manager for three years, alleges in his lawsuit that he was ignored for promotions and openly ridiculed because of his weight. With a body mass index over 40, the man, whose weight is over 300 pounds, meets the definition of morbidly obese set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Americans with Disability Act.

According to his lawsuit, he was repeatedly told by his boss that he needed to lose weight. Additionally, he said management did not consider him for promotions and assigned him duties that he disliked. His lawsuit states that he was ordered to avoid paying vendors and find busty women to work in the bar. The president of the resort denies the allegations.

New Jersey landfill company faces civil lawsuit and grand jury

Strategic Environmental Partners, the owner of the Fenimore Landfill seized by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2013, is embroiled in two legal battles. One is a civil case challenging the state's confiscation of its property. The other is a criminal grand jury investigation. The lawyer for Strategic Environmental Partners said subpoenas have been issued to company accountants, former company lawyers and other witnesses.

According to the lawyer, the grand jury investigation began two days after the company appealed the landfill seizure in the New Jersey Appellate Division. Suspecting that the criminal investigation was retaliation for continued civil action, the lawyer told to the U.S. magistrate that Strategic Environmental Partners would not supply requested information for the civil case's discovery because the company intended to use its Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating itself during the parallel grand jury probe. The magistrate agreed and granted a 60-day delay.

Woman awarded $25,000 in workplace harassment claim

A woman in New Jersey was awarded $25,000 in a workplace harassment claim she filed against a construction company. According to the plaintiff, she was subjected to both sexual harassment and racial slurs throughout her employment at Dane Construction. In addition to the award for the victim's pain and suffering, the construction company was ordered to reimburse the Division of Civil Rights for $31,000 in legal fees and pay a $5,000 penalty.

The plaintiff was hired by the company in 2008 to work as a secretary and bookkeeper. During her employment, the woman says that the company owner was aware that she was Chinese, that her husband was black and that she had a biracial son. However, a state Division of Civil Rights investigation that was completed in 2010 determined that the owner used the 'n-word" repeatedly in the woman's presence.

Insurance company accused of Hurricane Sandy fraud

On March 13, a New Jersey couple filed a lawsuit in federal court against their insurance company. The lawsuit stated that the couple may have been defrauded when they filed their Superstorm Sandy claim. According to the couple, the insurance company used their software to shortchange them out of their sales tax.

The couple was reportedly paid just over $108,000 after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. However, this did not cover the full cost of the repairs. The insurance company reportedly claimed that the sales tax was included on each item represented in the claim, but it was revealed that their software at the time did not have that function. As such, the couple was seeking the costs of the sales tax and other damages. The couple's attorney stated that others may also have been affected, leading them to seek class-action status.

What can be done about sexual harassment in the workplace?

In New Jersey and throughout the United States, a large number of workers report being sexual harassed while on the job. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace, boundaries are still sometimes crossed. This makes it important for individuals to know what can be done in the event that they become a victim of sexual harassment.

Although the best course of action depends on the severity and regularity of the harassment, for many workers, the best thing to when sexually harassed is to report the incident to the appropriate authority within the company. Federal law requires employers to follow certain requirements in the event that an employee reports sexual harassment or the employer otherwise becomes aware of sexual harassment taking place. Federal law also protects employees from being retaliated against if they report sexual harassment.

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