Comp Department Attorneys Run CASA Kids Superhero 5K

CASA RunMt. Laurel, NJ – –  Several attorneys from Capehart Scatchard’s Workers’ Compensation Department participated on April 26, 2014 in the CASA Kids Superhero 5K Run.  The event was held to raise money for the Mercer and Burlington Counties affiliate board of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for children.   CASA is an independent, non-profit organization committed  to speaking up for the best interests of abused and neglected children.

NJLAD Now Expressly Prohibits Pregnancy Discrimination

By: Ralph R. Smith, 3rd, Esq.

Until this past January, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), one of the broadest discrimination laws in the country, did not expressly prohibit discrimination against pregnant women. That has changed due to an amendment to that law, which went into effect on January 21, 2014.   Pregnant women have now been given protected status under the LAD. Under the revised law, along with barring pregnancy-based discrimination in employment, employers are now obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women in the workplace.  These potential accommodations expressly include: bathroom and water breaks, rest periods, help with manual labor, job restructuring and possible transfers to a less strenuous or hazardous job position.  In addition to imposing this reasonable accommodation requirement, the law also prohibits any retaliatory actions against a pregnant woman who asks for or seeks such workplace accommodations.

The revised law also recognizes certain limited exceptions to this accommodation duty.  Where the requested accommodation would impose an undue hardship upon the employer, the accommodation request need not be honored.  In making such an assessment, the revised law requires that, among other things, the employer’s size, type of business, and the expected cost of the requested accommodation be taken into consideration.  Another relevant factor in this analysis involves whether the requested accommodation would constitute a waiver of an essential job function.  Therefore, depending upon how these various factors are judged, the employer may be able to avoid the accommodation requirements of the statute.

The amended LAD has essentially overruled an earlier New Jersey Supreme Court decision which required that pregnancy be treated no differently from any other medical condition or illness under medical leave laws.  With the imposition of an express accommodation duty specifically for the condition of pregnancy, the present law clearly imposes unique obligations for the benefit of pregnant women.

In light of these new requirements, employers should revise all workplace policies that deal with employee accommodation requests and expressly reference the possibility of workplace accommodations for pregnant employees.  Moreover, since termination/failure to hire decisions based upon a woman’s pregnancy status have always been prohibited under federal law, employers should continue to make employment decisions free of any discriminatory bias because of a woman’s pregnancy status.

No Liability for School Sued for Dog Bite Injury to Third Party

By: Betsy G. Ramos, Esq.

Charlotte Robinson walked across school grounds as a short cut to reach a local diner. As she walked across the grounds, a stray dog, owned by a neighboring resident, attacked her, causing her injuries. The attack occurred on a Saturday when school was not in session, nor when a school event was ongoing. In Robinson v. Vivirito, 2014 N.J. LEXIS 243 (2014), Robinson sued the school district and its principal on the basis that they had a duty to protect her from a known dangerous dog. This appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court determined whether the school district and its principal could be liable for this attack.

This dog had slipped its leash before and had attacked a passersby, and the school principal had notice of the incident. The plaintiff contended that the principal and the school district had a duty to prevent future attacks.

The Appellate Division found that a duty did exist to take measures to prevent entry of a known dangerous dog onto school property. However, the Supreme Court reversed, finding that a school principal owes no duty of care to a third party who decides to use school property after hours for personal purposes and is injured by a stray animal that is neither owned nor controlled by school personnel.

The Court looked at whether the harm to plaintiff was foreseeable and whether recognition of a duty of care to plaintiff under these circumstances comports with considerations of fairness and public policy. While the Court recognized that the principal could have called the police or the animal control officers during the week, neither the principal nor the school had any control over the dog or activities on the neighboring property. Moreover, once the school day ended, the principal had no ability to monitor conduct on or near school grounds.

Further, in looking at other factors, the Court noted that there was no relationship between Robinson and the school. She was a trespasser and it was her unilateral decision to use the school yard as a short cut.

While Robinson certainly had a claim against the dog’s owner, a non-owner has no ability to control the location and behavior of the neighbor’s dog. The principal’s actions to prevent an encounter would be limited to calling the police or animal control. As a result, the Court found no public interest in imposing a duty of care on school personnel to protect persons with no relationship to the school from attacks by a neighbor’s dog. Otherwise, it would render the school an insurer of the negligent behavior of others, which is contrary to the Tort Claims Act. Accordingly, this case was dismissed.

Firm Adds Associates Grant J. Henderson and Aristotel Moumas to Its Workers’ Compensation Department

grant-hendersonaristotel_moumasMt. Laurel, NJ – – Capehart Scatchard is pleased to announce that Grant J. Henderson, Esq. and Aristotel Moumas, Esq. have recently joined the Firm’s Workers’ Compensation Department in its Mt. Laurel office.

Mr. Henderson and Mr. Moumas, both Philadelphia residents, represent insurance carriers and employers in the defense of workers’ compensation claims at all stages of litigation.

Mr. Henderson received his law degree from Temple University Beasley School of Law, cum laude, and his B.S. degree in Communications, Public Relations from Boston University.  He is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Moumas received his law degree from Drexel University School of Law and his  B.S. degrees in Business Administration and Economics from Drexel University.   He is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.