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How Your Employment Contract Can Impact an Employment Discrimination Claim

When executing an employment contract with an employer, the importance of having a lawyer review the contract promptly can hardly be overstated. The importance of seeking legal advice regarding a prospective employment contract is illustrated by the recent decision Gavin vs. AT&T SERVICES, INC. In this case, a federal judge in New Jersey rejected an employee’s claim against an employer under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) as barred by a contract provision waiving the statute of limitations.

Impact of employment contract terms on statutory employment law rights

The case involved a woman who had significant physical impairments in her feet and legs and requested the right to telecommute as a reasonable accommodation for her physical disability. The employer opposed the NJLAD claim based on modification of the statute of limitations in the employee’s job application. The NJLAD requires that a discrimination claim be brought within two years of the discriminatory act or decision.

The employee signed an application for employment that contained a provision entitled Waiver of Statute of Limitation for Employment-Related Claims, which shortened the statute of limitations for such claims to a mere six months. The court interpreted the provision in the employment application as a contract, because the employer conditioned employment on acceptance of the waiver of the statute of limitations.

The application stated it must be interpreted according to Illinois law, which does not provide any prohibition against contracting around the statute of limitations in employment agreements. Because the six-month period had passed by the time the employee pursued her claim, the court found that the statute of limitations barred her NJLAD employment discrimination claim.

While this decision is not binding precedent in New Jersey employment  discrimination cases, the case does provide insight into the reasons to seek timely legal advice both when executing an employment agreement and when pursuing a claim for employment discrimination or wrongful termination.

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Neil H. Deutsch
Senior Partner

About Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for…

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Bruce L. Atkins
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About Bruce L. Atkins is regarded as one of New Jersey's premiere practitioners of employment and civil litigation. Mr. Atkins has also been included in the Thomson Reuters list of New Jersey Super Lawyers* in Employment Litigation since 2005. Mr. Atkins believes employees have rights that should be aggressively pursued when an employer has wrongfully dealt…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt
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About Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigations such as discrimination, retaliation, and whistle blowing matters.  He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for some of his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict in a…

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Robert J. Pantina
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About Robert J. Pantina joined the firm in 2018. Mr. Pantina received his B.A. from Rider University in 2008. He received his J.D. from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in 2017. While in law school, Mr. Pantina interned for the Hon. Bonnie J. Mizdol, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of…

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Diane Englander Peyser
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About Diane Englander Peyser joined Deutsch Atkins, PC in September 2018 where she represents employees in wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, and discrimination matters. Prior to joining Deutsch Atkins, PC, Diane represented clients in all aspects of employment law on behalf of employees involving unemployment appeals, claims of sexual harassment, LGBT discrimination, disability discrimination, FMLA, New…

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