In a surprising turn of events, a 2009 decision by an Atlantic City, New Jersey court has been vacated. The appeal annulled a $2.5 million award to a Margate man for wrongful termination under the New Jersey Law against Discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Both laws protect individuals with mental and/or physical impairments.
Of the various issues at trial, the main question is whether South Jersey Gas knew of the employee's depression at the time he was fired. South Jersey Gas says it arose only after the man was terminated for cause. Numerous trial errors prompted the reversal and order for a new trial. Among them are findings that hearsay evidence was allowed and the jury was instructed incorrectly. The court decision does not mean the worker has lost, but only that the case must be retried due to cited legal errors.
In the original case, the South Jersey Gas worker claimed disability and age discrimination, arguing the employer would profit by firing him. Pension savings and reduced salary for a replacement were cited as reasons. According to South Jersey Gas's attorney, this is not the case at all.
The utility's attorney claims the Margate man had ample opportunity to increase his performance at work. Since he allegedly chose not to improve his work performance, he was ultimately terminated. Instead, the gas company's attorney believes disability allegations did not come into consideration until after the employment termination.
Although the $2.5 million award is substantial in New Jersey or anyplace, it is important that anyone facing age or gender discrimination or feels victimized by a wrongful termination should seek legal help. An attorney dedicated to employment law litigation can explain a victim's rights and responsibilities, as well as provide support and assistance through the legal process. Employment discrimination, in any form, does not have to be suffered alone.
Source: The Press of Atlantic City, "Court overturns $2.5M. judgment against South Jersey Gas," Brian Ianieri, Aug. 31, 2011