Court Sides with Business in Shortened Statute of Limitations

New Jersey Employment Attorneys Discuss Workers’ Rights

In April of 2010, Sergio Rodriguez injured his knee while delivering furniture for the moving company where he had worked for three years. Diagnosed with a torn meniscus, Rodriguez was forced to take a leave for reparatory surgery. Rodriguez returned to light work in September, and then to unrestricted work two weeks after that. Three days later, the moving company instituted a company-wide layoff, letting a total of 102 workers go, including Rodriguez.

In July of 2011, Rodriguez filed suit against the movers, alleging that he was discriminated against because of his disability and let go in retaliation for having submitted a workers’ compensation claim.

Rodriguez believes that his former employer acted in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) as well as the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, which contains specific anti-retaliation provisions. Each has a two-year statute of limitations for filing a suit.

However, when Rodriguez was hired several years before, the moving company inserted a clause into his employment contract which shortened that two-year statute of limitations to just six months.

The moving company asked to have the case dismissed, since Rodriguez’s complaint was filed nine months after his termination, and the court agreed, dismissing the complaint as time-barred.

This decision illustrates a disturbing recent trend in New Jersey employment law. Judges more and more support enforcing contracts between employers and employees that are blatantly unfair to the worker.

I Have an Employment Dispute and I Need a New Jersey Employment Attorney

Anyone who has ever applied for a job knows that the applicant often has absolutely no option to dispute any given clause in a proffered employment contract. Telling your potential new boss, “Thanks for the job offer, but this clause is unfair and needs to be altered” is as good as saying “No thank you, I don’t really want this job.” Ethical or not—legal or not—that employer is going to simply skip to the next applicant and offer them the job.

There is a term for this kind of strong-arm approach to human resources. A document such as the one forced on Sergio Rodriguez is known as a “contract of adhesion.” In simple terms, this is a contract that so strongly benefits one side over the other that it gives the first party no alternatives when entering into it.

Offering employment with strings attached which limit the employees’ rights is patently unfair and the practice needs to be stopped immediately.

If our courts continue to favor business owners in this kind of dispute, it will lead to a greatly disenfranchised workforce. Employees should be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

Employment disputes require wide knowledge of federal and state labor and employment law. When facing an employment dispute, it is essential to speak with a lawyer with a solid understanding of the statutes and regulations governing these kinds of claims. Contact an experienced employment law attorney who can help you recognize when a hiring practice goes from being merely unfair to becoming a serious exploitation of the law.


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