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Newark Litigation and Appeals Law Blog

Reality TV star sues former lawyer

In April 2016, a New Jersey judge gave reality television personality Teresa Guidice permission to sue her former lawyer. According to Guidice, the attorney failed to tell her that she was acting improperly by failing to reveal certain assets she and her husband shared during a bankruptcy proceeding. The woman contends that had her lawyer properly listed her assets, she wouldn't have ended up spending 11 months incarcerated.

Guidice's lawsuit accused the lawyer of failing his fiduciary duty, breach of contract and legal malpractice. Her current attorney says the previous lawyer made material errors when he filed her original case. The ex-lawyer didn't address the alleged disclosure issues that may have contributed to her jail sentence, but he maintained that her courthouse confession to committing crimes was the real reason she was convicted.

Lawyer sued after hackers use her AOL account to scam clients

New Jersey residents may find it amusing to a degree that a Manhattan couple is suing their former attorney for malpractice after cyber criminals hacked into her AOL email account and used it to scam them out of almost $2 million. The lawsuit was filed on April 18.

According to court documents, the plaintiffs had been communicating with the defendant via email regarding their purchase of a $19,380,000 condominium when Chinese hackers gained access to the defendant's AOL email account. The criminals then used the information found in their correspondence to impersonate the condo sellers' attorneys and convince the plaintiffs to wire $1.9 million to a fraudulent bank account. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff's former lawyer chose to use AOL for sensitive legal communications even though the company's email accounts are "notoriously" easy to hack.

Gay federal employees can take FMLA leave

New Jersey employees may be familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act. Enacted in 1993, the FMLA allows covered workers to take leave from their jobs without risk of termination for certain family and medical-related reasons. Now that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the rights that are extended to married employees by the FMLA apply to employees in same-sex marriages.

On April 8, the Office of Personnel Management updated its FMLA regulations to reflect the new laws about same-sex marriage. The language in the regulations now states that federal employees in both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages can take leave to care for a sick spouse. The FMLA allows each employee 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.

Paid family leave in New Jersey

New Jersey workers may not be aware that they are allowed to take paid leave to take care of sick family members or to care for new babies. The law, passed in 2009, allows people to take up to six weeks off from work while receiving two-thirds of their salary up to a weekly maximum of $615.

Reportedly, many companies are not letting their employees know about the family medical leave insurance program. The payments for the insurance are made by deductions from payroll. Employees who are signed up for the insurance pay around 50 cents each week up to a yearly maximum contribution amount of $26.08.

How companies handle reports of sexual harassment

New Jersey companies can face many negative consequences if an employee is sexually harassed. To avoid litigation fees and damaged reputations, many companies will take action as soon as it is reported. Most businesses have written policies about what should be considered sexual harassment and how and to whom any incidents should be handled.

Though many workers who have been sexually harassed file formal complaints, there are some who only report what happened to them to the human resources department of their company. If the human resources department takes action and successfully prevents further harassment from occurring, the worker may choose not to pursue any litigation. An employer who is informed of sexual harassment and does nothing to stop it leaves the company open to a lawsuit.

Illegal workplace harassment and employee rights

There are many forms of workplace harassment about which both New Jersey employees and their employers need to be aware. When people are harassed at work based upon their protected status, their employers may be held to be civilly liable if they do not take the appropriate steps to quickly correct the problem.

Harassment may take many forms and be based on sex, race, disability, national origin or religion. Harassment may involve offensive slurs, sexual language, advances, jokes and other unwelcome behaviors. When such harassment does occur at work, the employee is legally allowed to complain about it as prescribed by the employment manual.

Anthem sues Express Scripts, alleges breach of contract

Some New Jersey residents may be familiar with Anthem as a medical insurance provider in some Blue Cross- Blue Shield health insurance policies. It has been reported that Anthem has filed a lawsuit against Express Scripts, which is a company that acts as a pharmacy benefits manager.

Anthem has a contract with Express Scripts for the company to run Anthem's prescription drug coverage. According to Anthem, Express Scripts has been charging the insurer higher drug prices than what are competitive, a practice that Anthem claims is against what is called for in the contract.

The EEOC seeks to broaden Title VII

New Jersey professionals who have faced hostile work environments or discrimination may be pleased to learn that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed lawsuits against two employers asserting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The two actions mark the first instances of EEOC litigation revolving around sexual orientation. Legal observers say the cases may offer an indication of whether the commission can successfully augment the protections of Title VII anti-discrimination laws. The cases are also notable in that the conduct by the accused employers would have been illegal had it occurred for reasons other than sexual orientation.

In one of the cases, a gay male employee claimed that his supervisor continually created a hostile work environment by requesting intimate details about his home life and relationships. When the employee filed a formal complaint, his bosses outright declined to do anything, and he eventually had to quit.

Woman files employment law suit in New Jersey court

A lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Gloucester County by a former employee of Woodbury Child Development Center. The whistleblower suit, filed in February 2016, alleges that she was terminated because she reported a fellow employee for theft. The suit seeks pay and benefits that would have accrued had termination not taken place. She had worked there since 2000 and served as an administrative assistant.

In 2014, she noticed unusually high charges on a Sam's Club card associated with the office. The charges were reported to supervisors out of concern that the charges could represent misappropriation of state funds. The director of the center was let go, but the woman continued to push the issue and asked the accountant why he never reported the irregular charges. She also alleged that he was in on the misappropriation. In 2015, a new director was hired, and the woman was subsequently terminated.

Workplace sexual violence remains underreported

No reliable statistics exist regarding sexual violence in the workplace, making it hard to address. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 43,000 rapes and sexual assaults occur in workplaces every year. However, New Jersey workers might be shocked that advocates against sexual harassment say this number is too low because many victims are too discouraged or scared to report the incidents.

Employment laws provide protections for workers, including those who are undocumented. Many employees do not know about these protections, and outreach programs are leading to an increase in sexual harassment filings. The EEOC has noted that about 17 percent of the complaints filed with the agency involve men.

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