Jose works for a large company selling machine parts. Jose a very successful salesperson continuously exceeds his sales quota and often receives rewards for his outstanding job performance. One month his employer omitted a sale from his overall sales total and as a result Jose did not receive $10,000.00 in commissions. Jose informed his boss of the mistake and followed up with the boss several weeks later when his pay check was not corrected. The boss apparently feeling bothered by Jose’s persistence made a derogatory comment to Jose about Jose’s religion. Jose was shocked and hurt over his bosses’ choice of words. Shortly thereafter, Jose noticed that his boss was treating him differently; the boss required Jose to work exclusively from the local sales office (no longer was Jose permitted to work from home as he had done for years), Jose’s sales quotas were increased and were higher than any other sales person, and the boss began to publicly berate Jose at weekly sales meetings. Jose complained to his Human Resource department but the retaliation continued. Within a short period of time, Jose’s employer fired him. Jose filed a law suit against his employer and his boss for lost wages and punitive damages. Should Jose win his case?

The New Jersey Courts look unfavorably upon discriminatory remarks made in the workplace such as the statement made to Jose. The Courts have held that an employer and/or an employee’s supervisor who takes harmful action against a worker after subjecting that worker to a discriminatory remark is subject to a law suit for money damages in the form of lost wages, emotional distress , punitive damages and attorney fees. Workers, the Courts have stated, should be free from a hostile work environment; in other words work is a place where race, religion, gender or sexual preference have no place in deciding how an employee is paid or the work he or she is made to perform. Jose lost his job as a result of unfair and hostile treatment and not over poor work performance. Jose was the subject of retaliation and is therefore entitled to recover his lost wages, money for emotional distress and attorneys fees.

Employers must be careful and properly train and supervise their employees. Employers have a responsibility to insist that the work environment is free of hostility toward a protected class. Once an employer is made aware of a problem as Jose faced it has an affirmative duty to investigate and resolve the conflict in favor of the harmed individual. Whether an employee or an employer is involved it is smart business to contact an employment law attorney to guide you through your options.