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Newark Litigation and Appeals Law Blog

CFPB still has ongoing problems with discrimination

Some New Jersey workers experience workplace discrimination based on their statuses as members of protected groups at their jobs, despite federal and state laws that prohibit such actions. Workplace discrimination doesn't just occur in privately owned companies, however. It also happens within government agencies, as demonstrated by a report issued on June 21 by the Government Accountability Office.

According to the GAO, a chronically hostile work environment exists at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In its report, the GAO noted that a large number of employees at the CFPB who were surveyed stated that they are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation if they do so.

Report shows workplace harassment still prevalent

Workplace harassment is still a major problem for workers in New Jersey and around the country. A report issued on June 20 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace showed evidence that the American workplace is still rife with gender and race-based harassment.

According to the EEOC report, there were around 90,000 workplace discrimination claims made in 2015. Nearly one-third of these claims contained allegations about some form of harassment. However, these numbers are not likely to reflect the real size of the problem because about 75 percent of people who experience harassment at work fail to report it to anyone.

Death-penalty defendant sues former attorney for malpractice

New Jersey residents may be interested in a legal malpractice lawsuit that was recently filed in Boyle Circuit Court in Kentucky. The attorney who is being sued took over a death-penalty case for which her late husband had served as lead counsel before he was killed.

Sources report that the female attorney later withdrew from the case, which is still ongoing. In her motion to withdraw, she reportedly said she couldn't handle death-penalty work due to her lack of experience with defending against such serious allegations, other felonies she was handling and her emotional state of mind. Her husband had been killed outside of his office by a mentally ill person in 2014.

Judge dismisses Teresa Giudice's legal malpractice case

Teresa Giudice, star of the television show "Real Housewives of New Jersey" spent almost one year in federal prison after she and her husband both pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. According to Giudice, legal malpractice may have been responsible for her federal charges. Giudice claims that she suffered damages from her bankruptcy attorney's errors when inaccurate financial statements were filed and federal prosecutors built a fraud case against her.

Giudice filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against her bankruptcy attorney, but on May 26 a superior court judge dismissed the case without prejudice, so Giudice will be able to file the case again later on. The judge who dismissed the malpractice lawsuit pointed out that all lawsuits are stayed during a bankruptcy filing. In May, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge decided to reopen Giudice's bankruptcy case so that a decision could be made about whether her creditors would be entitled to receive any portion of her legal malpractice award should she receive one.

DTSA extends the protection of trade secrets

Human resources professionals and employment law attorneys in New Jersey and around the country were likely aware that the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act went into effect on May 11. The law extends the statutory protection of proprietary business information and trade secrets, and both businesses and individuals who own confidential information covered by the act may file private lawsuits when this information is taken without their consent.

One of the provisions of the DTSA requires employers to include a notice in contracts with workers, consultants and contractors that details the restrictions placed on confidential information. This notice must also disclose the legal immunity provided to whistleblowers who disclose trade secrets or other confidential business information to government officials when they suspect that criminal acts are being committed or to attorneys when complaints or lawsuits are being filed under seal. This protection applies to lawsuits filed against employers that are being sued for taking retaliatory action against workers for disclosing trade secrets.

Many New Jersey women doctors face sexual harassment at work

A study published in JAMA reported that nearly one out of three of female doctors throughout the country have experienced sexual harassment on the job. In comparison, 4 percent of male doctors reported sexual harassment at work.

More than half of women doctors who had faced sexual harassment at work said that it had affected their confidence. Just under half said it had negatively influenced their ability to advance in their career. The study's author said that she had expected the number of women who reported experiencing sexual harassment to be much lower because the numbers of men and women in the profession are equalizing. She said that it is increasingly important that all people have equal opportunities.

Companies that must comply with the ADA

New Jersey employers with 15 or more workers must generally abide by the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and make reasonable accommodations for those who qualify for protection under the 1990 federal law. While this may be true for the most part, there are a number of important exceptions, and certain employers are required to follow some ADA provisions while being exempt from others.

The ADA seeks to ensure that disabled workers are not denied the opportunities available to others or discriminated against because of their qualifying disabilities. The law defines an employer as being a person or entity engaged in commerce with 15 or more people who work full time for 20 or more calendar weeks per year. Religious organizations, certain private clubs and businesses entirely owned by members of a federally recognized Native American tribe are not required to follow the provisions of the ADA.

Woman claims she was fired for being pregnant

New Jersey expectant mothers may not be happy to learn that a woman was allegedly fired from her job for being pregnant. She has filed a lawsuit against against Procter & Gamble, accusing the company of refusing to make small accommodations for her comfort and wrongfully terminating her employment.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was working at P&G's Dolce&Gabbana shop at Saks Fifth Avenue when she became pregnant at the end of 2014. She was concerned it might cause a problem at work because of the company's strict guidelines on employee appearance. She alleges that she had previously mentioned to her manager that she would like to have a baby in the future, but he told her that pregnancy was not the image that the company wanted to project.

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.

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