The Law Office of Matthew Stoloff accepts clients throughout northern and central New Jersey. We focus on the following issues: Special Education, Student Rights, Business Law, Non-compete agreements, Employment Law, Disability Rights, and Animal Law. Read more below:

Special Education

Approximately six million children with various degrees of disabilities have a right to a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The goals of these laws are to provide children with disabilities opportunities to acquire a meaningful education and develop appropriate social skills.

There are a number of questions that parents and school districts must address when a child attends school. These include: (1) Does the child have a disability? Or, if the parties agree that the child has a disability, what is the severity of the disability? (2) Does the disability affect the child’s educational performance? Does the disability impact the child’s ability to participate in school activies? (3) Does the Individualized Education Program provide an appropriate education for the child and permit the child to participate in school activities? (4) What services does the child need in order to grow and develop as normally as possible? (5) Are the services effective? (6) What is the least restrictive environment for the child?

Under the IDEIA, the definition of disability is broad; it includes children with mental retardation, hearing impairments, visual impairments, autism, brain injuries, and other health or learning disabilities. Sometimes, a school district may not agree that your child has a disability or its expert may misdiagnose the child’s disability. For your child to obtain a free and appropriate education, it is important that your child is properly diagnosed and that you and the school district develop a meaningful Individualized Education Plan.

Sometimes, the parents and school district are unable to agree that certain proposals in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are necessary for the child’s education. These proposals may include the type of services your child needs, transition services, placement, behavoral intervention plans, or disciplinary protocols. In these situations, parents have the right to file a complaint with a state or federal agency or request a due process hearing. A due process hearing may also be held if parents believe that the school district has not properly implemented the IEP.

Parents and guardians in New Jersey are encouraged to be familiar with the New Jersey Department of Education publication, Parental Rights in Special Education. We also recommend reading The Right to Special Education: An Advocate’s Guide, published by the Education Law Center. To learn more about special education, you are invited to peruse the many blog articles about special education on this site.

In New Jersey, more than 80% of all special education cases are resolved during the “resolution stage” or at mediation. These statistics are promising because it means that parents can work with advocates to address their issues with the school district, which saves parents money and accelerates the process of meeting the child’s needs.

If you require representation at a due process hearing or court proceeding, we invite you to contact us for a consultation to help you and your child.

Student Rights

In addition to our interest in helping children receive appropriate special education services, we are also interested in your children’s civil rights at school.

Children with disabilities and/or behavioral issues may be subjected to restraints, aversive intervention, or seclusion. Such methods are designed to address certain unwanted behaviors, such as fighting or hitting others. School use of these negative reinforcement methods may be improper and may not effectively address the child’s issues. Often, there are alternative, positive reinforcement methods of addressing the same issues with longer lasting impact. If you believe that your child may be a victim of a school’s improper use of negative reinforcement, please contact us for a consultation.

Your child’s civil rights also includes the right not to be bullied, intimidated, or harassed. New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws prohibit students and school faculty from teasing, mistreating, or threatening your child because of his or her sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, among other characteristics. These anti-bullying laws prohibit written, oral, or physical acts that causes mental or physical harm to your child or child’s property.

The first of New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws were passed in 2002 (NJSA 18A:36-13 et seq. (2002)). More recently, New Jersey enacted new legislation requiring that schools adopt and publish a policy prohibiting electronic bullying, such as electronic mail and websites. A coalition of New Jersey organizations that support anti-bullying laws currently publish an informative brochure to help students and their parents understand their rights. Additional information about New Jersey anti-bullying laws may be found at the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention.

The highest court in New Jersey strongly agree that your child should not be bullied, intimidated, or harassed at school. In 2007, the Supreme Court of New Jersey published one of its most important decisions. In L.W. v. Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education, L.W. was a student who had been repeatedly harassed by his peers. When the school district failed to take action to prevent the harassment, a lawsuit was filed against the school. The court held that a school district is liable for student-on-student harassment if the school district knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to end it. This case is a victory for children and their parents. We applaud the court for this decision, and we hope that the schools will avoid unnecessary litigation by developing, adopting, and implementing effective anti-bullying policies.

If your child is a victim of bullying, intimidation, or harassment, please contact us for a consultation.

Business Legal Matters

Small and large business owners will face one or more legal issues at some point before or during business operations. When a legal matter arises, an attorney should be consulted so that business owners can avoid surprises and mistakes.

Business owners should retain an attorney to draft and review operating agreements, landlord-tenant contracts, and releases and waivers.

An entrepreneur or small business owner looking to rent commercial space need to understand that the first draft of  the leasing contract will benefit the landlord. Issues relating to gas, electricity, equipment, structural defects, and parking, must be addressed in the leasing contract. Issues relating to security deposits, rent terms, and other important leasing issues should be addressed explicitly in the contract.

Some businesses, like fitness centers, martial arts studios, boxing and wrestling studios, tattoo and piercing studios, and tanning salons, need to prepare a release and waiver form for customers to sign. These releases are important because it may help protect the business from a very expensive, time-consuming litigation dispute. It is very important that these releases be carefully drafted and tailored to the business. It is equally important that business owners understand the limitations of those releases.

Employers who are required to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Laws should retain counsel as soon as a complaint is filed with the Department of Labor or a private lawsuit is initiated regarding unpaid wages, failure to pay overtime premium, and other violations.

If you need assistance with a business matter or a labor and employment issue, contact us for a consultation.

Non-compete Agreements

A “non-competition” agreement (or non-compete clause) is a very important part of an employment contract.

Former employees who quit their jobs may want to work for a competing business close by. A non-compete agreement, however, may prohibit the employee from working for a competing business.

However, some non-compete clauses are not enforceable. Employers must have legitimate business reasons to enforce non-compete agreements.

Employers who would like their non-compete agreement evaluated or seek to enforce the terms of the non-compete agreement are invited to contact us for a consultation.

Employees who are being threatened with enforcement action are invited to contact us for a consultation.

Disability Rights

Disability Rights is a broad area of law that is concerned with the rights of individuals with real (or perceived) disabilities. Individuals with disabilities have certain rights under Federal law and New Jersey state law. Some of these laws include the recently amended Americans with Disabilities Act, The Fair Housing Act, Sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).

Matthew Stoloff, Esq. writes extensively on disability law and disability discrimination on his blog.

Contact us for a consultation if you believe that your employer has discriminated against you on the basis of your disability or if you have been denied reasonable accommodation at a place of public accommodation (e.g., museum, restaurant, transportation services, school, doctor’s office).

As of mid-2009, the impact and the courts’ understanding of the recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) remains to be seen. However, it is clear that the language and spirit of the ADAAA seeks to effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s extremely narrow interpretation of the original ADA. This means that more people will be considered to have disabilities under the ADAAA, and such disabled persons may win cases that they could not otherwise have won prior to the enactment of the ADAAA.

Even if you do not have a disability, you are invited to contact us if you have been discriminated against because you have been regarded as having a disability or because you have been associated with others who have disabilities.

Employment Law

Employment law is a diverse body of law that is concerned with all aspects of the employer-employee relationship, including contracts, wages, benefits, overtime, and workers compensation.

As between employers and employees, we focus on the legal issues that arise under the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Pregnancy Anti-Discrimination Act, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, race, age, sex, national origin, pregnancy, and religion, or membership in other protected categories.

We will also work on cases involving the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives certain employees the right to return to their jobs after taking unpaid leave to take care of their family, and the New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act, which provides protection for employees who become whistleblowers.

If you believe you have been mistreated, harassed, terminated, or retaliated by your employer or co-workers, contact us for a consultation.

 

Animal Law

With more than 70,000,000 American households owning at least one pet or service animal, animal law is becoming a niche practice among attorneys. As more people introduce animals to be part of their family, we can expect to see new laws and cases over time. Currently, there are a number of state and federal laws that protect you and your pets. If you own a pet or a service animal, it is important to be aware of your rights.

Service animals and guide animals are trained to assist the handicapped. Service/guide animals are protected under New Jersey law and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Landlords, public transportation, businesses, and organizations must permit the disabled and their service/guide animals to wherever tenants and consumers are permitted. We will be pleased to work with you if you or your service dog has experienced discrimination. Matthew Stoloff, Esq. has written extensively about service animals on his blog and regularly keeps up to date on the latest service animal cases across the country. To learn more about how state and federal courts have protected service animals, we encourage you to read this Legal Briefing from an Illinois advocacy group.

Police shooting domestic pets can and does occur. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a pet owner whose dog was shot and killed by the police may sue the city and the police officers. In this case, the Court held that the police did not have qualified immunity and that the unnecessary shooting of a dog violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Although this decision is not binding on the courts of New Jersey, it is nonetheless persuasive. A similar fact pattern has yet to be tested in New Jersey.

If you would like to discuss any legal matter relating to your pet or service/guide animal, please contact us.