Many New Jersey workers are aware of at least some legal protections afforded them while on the job. Certainly, Bergen County employers know the rules they must follow concerning the treatment of job applicants and employees. But, there are numerous employment laws at the federal and state levels and even local laws in some jurisdictions, not to mention rules within individual businesses. With all these employment regulations, it's not surprising some workers are unclear about what constitutes workplace discrimination. State laws like the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination are often an expansion of federal rules that safeguard protected classes. Protected classes include workers with specific characteristics. Protected classes under LAD include familiar categories like national origin, sex, race, color, gender and creed and other classes that may not be well recognized. The state law also offers protections against discrimination for civil unions or domestic partnerships, gender identity, genetic history, disabilities and other categories. Knowing whether you're a member of a protected class is just the first step. You have to be able to recognize signs of mistreatment. Generally, discrimination is banned at any level of the employment process from hiring to promotions to termination. However, discrimination isn't always blatant – it can be subtle. You may be able to spot an unwelcome sexual advance from a co-worker a mile away, but what about the off-color joke you heard in the lunchroom? An employment attorney may ask whether offensive behaviors in the workplace are isolated or repeated incidents or how an employer responded to a complaint about abusive, hostile or sexual behaviors. Sometimes, employees are afraid to complain for fear an employer will take revenge by denying a raise or termination. Laws protect workers against employer retaliation, too. Many workers suspect discrimination but just aren't sure how to address it. An attorney can assess your claim to help you decide what to do next. Source: The State of New Jersey, Office of the Attorney General, "Employment Discrimination" accessed Mar. 20, 2015