The crackdown by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on employers who shorten the two-year limitations period on discrimination claims is expected by some employment lawyers to have far-reaching impact.
The court’s recent decision in Rodriguez v. Raymours Furniture Co. said the state’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) could not be contravened by a private agreement between an employer and employee. Setting deadlines for raising workplace discrimination claims to something less than the law allows is uncommon, but the June 15 ruling is worded broadly to permit its application in other workplace disputes and even in consumer contracts, according to some lawyers who have been closely watching the case.
Thomas Doherty, a labor and employment lawyer at McCarter & English in Newark, said limitations clauses like the one used by Raymours & Flanigan are not commonplace in New Jersey but are used by some national or multistate employers.
Doherty said he was not surprised by the court’s ruling, except that one section giving him “some pause” is where the court indicates willingness to accept challenges to contract language based on unconscionability for provisions in job applications. Although the Raymours case was brought based on an unconscionability argument, the court did not base its ruling on that argument. The Supreme Court said courts may refuse to enforce contracts or contract provisions they deem unconscionable.