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Can I take papers from my job to prove my discrimination claim?

Under both New Jersey and federal laws, employers are barred from discriminating against protected classes within the workplace. Generally, discrimination occurs when an employer fails to hire an employee or treats an employee unfairly based on unlawful reasons. A good example of this might be an employer transferring a gay woman from a sales position because the employer did not want potential clients to know that the company employed homosexuals.

Oftentimes, victims of workplace discrimination encounter difficulty when attempting to prove that an employer has committed some discriminatory action against them. Other employees who may have witnessed the discriminatory actions can be reluctant to step forward and corroborate a victim’s story due to fear of retaliation. Another reason workplace discrimination can be difficult to prove is that a victim may have no verifiable documents that actually reveal some adverse action that an employer has taken against them.

If you are currently considering pursuing a workplace discrimination lawsuit, there are a few things you should know. On June 23, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against a woman who removed confidential company documents in an effort to prove that her employer discriminated against her in the workplace. Without getting too complicated, the New Jersey Supreme Court basically said that New Jersey’s antidiscrimination laws do not provide immunity from criminal prosecution even if an employer is discriminating against one of their employees.

This is important for you to know because an attorney experienced in New Jersey’s antidiscrimination laws has powerful tools available to them to prove workplace discrimination. For example, an attorney can request that an employer provide documents and make them available for examination. An attorney can also question your employer and potential witnesses under oath. The important thing for you to know is that helping yourself to company documents in order to prove your case could potentially undermine your entire claim. It may be a wiser decision to retain an employment law professional to obtain those documents and witness statements in a manner that will withstand further legal scrutiny.

Source: Judiciary of the State of New Jersey, “State v. Ivonne Saavedra (A-68-13) (073793),” accessed June 26, 2015

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