Workers have legal rights at all stages of employment, although they often don’t realize it, says Hanan M. Isaacs, founding partner of the Kingston Law Group.
Isaacs will cover those rights at a meeting sponsored by the Breakfast Club NJ, a networking resource with Professional Service Group, on Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 a.m. at the Days Hotel in East Brunswick. Cost: $10. To register visit www.meetup.com/The-Breakfast-Club-NJ.
Isaacs’ talk, titled “Essential Principles of NJ Employment Law for Workers or Those in Transition,” will show how workers’ rights apply to employees while working in their current jobs, when leaving a company, and when considering other employment options.
“A trial lawyer attending PSG is like a surgeon attending a patient meeting at a rehab unit. I observe the bigger picture, learn directly from the group, and offer expert help and guidance when asked,” Isaacs says. He sees his work with the group as an opportunity to give back to the community.
Employers often provide employees with company handbooks that describe their policies and standards related to what employees can and cannot do. But the real handbook, says Isaacs, is based on what federal and New Jersey laws permit, require, and prohibit. These laws affect interview questions, paid medical leave, disability issues, arbitration, and non-disclosure requirements. Isaacs will discuss what is legal, questionable, and unlawful. He will confirm some beliefs and debunk others.
For example, a company handbook might say that employees are entitled to four paid sick days per year. But in New Jersey, the law states that for every 30 hours a person works, they get one hour of paid sick leave. Typically, that works out to seven days of paid leave per year.
“Employment-at-will” is a term often used in company handbooks. The term means that an employer can let an employee go for any reason or no reason, with or without notice. For non-union workers, this is legal, says Isaacs. However, an employer cannot fire or take action against someone if the motive is defined as discriminatory under the state’s employment law. Race, creed, color, nation origin, ancestry, nationality, domestic partnership, gender identity, and disability are among the 15 cases defined by New Jersey.
If you believe — and can show evidence — that your employer is denying you a promotion or has fired you for discriminatory reasons, you can fight the decision. If you cannot prove discrimination, “employment-at-will” applies, and it is best to move on, Isaacs says.
In 2004 Isaacs represented a white male employee who claimed reverse race and sex discrimination (Ryan v. FAA/DOT, U.S. 1, June 16, 2004). As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to conduct a review of its hiring and promotion policies, and the agency agreed to promote Ryan, provide him a back pay differential, and pay his attorney fees.
Throughout his career, Isaacs has fought for workplace whistleblowers. Because of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), he says that whistleblowers who have been fired or demoted can be reinstated to their positions, receive back pay, future pay, compensation for emotional suffering, attorney fees, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Isaacs is the author of several employment law articles and blog posts based on his experience in the field and specific cases he has worked on. He also provides advice on dealing with workplace bullying, ageism, the negative effects of Facebook posts, wage theft, sexual harassment, telecommuting, religion, voice recordings, documenting harassment, human trafficking and employment law, and more.
Isaacs has been practicing law for 40 years. He is a Supreme Court of New Jersey-certified family law specialist, mediator, arbitrator, and trial lawyer. His law practice emphasizes employment litigation, business litigation, personal injury law, family law, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in those fields. He is a past president of the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators and a past chair of the Dispute Resolution Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, where he received the section’s 1999 ADR Practitioner of the Year Award.
Isaacs grew up in Fair Lawn, where his father was a CPA. He received his bachelor’s degree and a master’s in American legal history from Rutgers and his law degree from the University of North Carolina. A former adjunct professor in Rider University’s Law and Justice Program, Isaacs also taught at Seton Hall Law School. He continues to teach periodically on employment law, family law, and ADR topics.
The purpose of PSG’s offerings is to help working professionals make seamless transitions from one employment opportunity or career path to another. “PSG surrounds participants with positivity,” Isaacs says.
“Through weekly stories of challenge and success, PSG members teach me about the devastating personal and financial problems that often accompany unemployment. They also attest to people’s resourcefulness and resiliency in applying to, interviewing for, and being offered new work,” he says. PSG events include Friday general meetings, small group workshops, plus technology classes and skills workshops hosted by the Princeton Public Library. The group’s services include job boards and links to several career resources.
Members who land work through PSG or the Breakfast Club NJ often come back to the group to share what they learned and how they applied that knowledge to land their new positions.
For those interested in attending the group’s events, Isaacs suggests that you come with an open mind. “Prepare to listen,” he says. “You’ll do a lot of networking.”