How do I file a discrimination claim?
A discrimination claim can be filed on a state level or on a federal level. In the State of New Jersey, there are two ways to file a discrimination claim at the state level. The first is to file a lawsuit in the New Jersey Superior Court. The second is to file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
To file a discrimination claim federally, you must first file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Upon receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, you will have 90 days to file a federal lawsuit.
We will now break down these options.
Lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court
If you have been the subject of discrimination in your New Jersey employment, you are entitled to file a discrimination claim in the New Jersey Superior Court. Each county in the state of New Jersey has a courthouse of the Superior Court. The Lawsuit must be brought within two years of the act of discrimination. Sometimes, a plaintiff can sue for incidents that are older than two years old if the incident is part of a continuous stream of harassment.
The New Jersey Superior Court gives 450 days of discovery to a discrimination lawsuit. This is the time period that the parties have to exchange information before trial. When you reach trial, you have the right to a jury so long as it was requested in the original Complaint.
New Jersey Division on Civil Rights
An alternative to filing a federal or state lawsuit is to file a discrimination claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. This is a state agency dedicated to enforcing the New Jersey Law against Discrimination.
You are not permitted to file both a state lawsuit and a complaint before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. You must choose one or the other. One of the disadvantages of a complaint before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights is that you will not receive a decision from a jury. You only get a jury trial in a lawsuit, not an administrative proceeding before the DCR.
To file a discrimination claim in federal court, a plaintiff must first file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC. The EEOC is the federal agency charged with investigating claims of discrimination.
The EEOC usually issues a letter at the end of its investigation giving the plaintiff the right to file a federal lawsuit. The lawsuit must be filed within 90 days.
Once a lawsuit is filed in federal court, the case is managed by a magistrate judge. The magistrate judge will set the schedule of proceedings, make discovery rulings, and host settlement conferences. The substantive decisions in the case are made by the District Judge.
Employers will sometimes require employees to sign arbitration clauses. Arbitration clauses are not always enforceable. Arbitration is different from a State or Federal proceeding. A plaintiff is given less discovery from the employer. The case is decided by arbitrators who are either former business people or Judges. Arbitration is a forum that favors the employer. Every effort should be made to avoid arbitration.