A New Jersey jury said a bank must pay nearly $1 million for retaliating against an employee after she complained to management about illegal gender discrimination. This past summer, New Jersey’s appellate court agreed.

The case shows some of what it takes to prove retaliation for a discrimination complaint. It also illustrates that discrimination still happens, those who object are still retaliated against, and legal action remains a way to hold discriminatory workplaces accountable.

Bank employee looks through glass ceiling for 35 years

Hired by Hudson City Savings Bank in 1975, the employee had multiple conversations with her supervisor over the years about the gender discrimination she felt prevented her from rising higher than First Vice President on the bank’s corporate ladder.

In 2010, with the support of her supervisor, she requested a promotion to Senior Vice President with the same salary and respect she felt her male coworkers had received. Instead, she was investigated and demoted for what appear to be minor violations of company policy.

Winning under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

She objected that this was discriminatory retaliation and was fired six months later. She soon filed suit.

Retaliation suits commonly turn on whether:

  • The person filing suit (the plaintiff) engaged in activity protected by law, such as raise concerns to management about discrimination
  • The employer took an “adverse employment action” toward the employee, such as a demotion, pay cut or termination
  • The protected activity resulted in the adverse action

The jury found the facts of the case met all three conditions. The appellate court agreed and therefore found the employee’s treatment represented a clear violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.