Most workers in New Jersey are considered at-will employees. At-will employees can be dismissed at the discretion of their employer without warning. However, employees who are members of a protected class or who engage in protected conduct cannot be fired on the basis of those attributes and actions. Employers who violate these rules can be held accountable for wrongful termination. Here is an overview of what employees should know regarding their rights.
Wrongful Termination: Frequently Asked Questions
Am I a member of a “protected class”?
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) firmly establishes that an employee cannot be fired for being a member of several protected classes. These include:
If I am successful on a wrongful termination claim brought under NJLAD, what am I entitled to?
Employees who prevail on a wrongful termination claim under NJLAD are entitled to:
- Reinstatement to their previous position;
- Back pay;
- Damages for pain and humiliation;
- Reimbursement for the loss of fringe benefits; and
- Restoration of health and pension benefits.
If I speak out about misconduct by my employer, can I be terminated?
No. Employees who voice concerns about unsafe work conditions or object to illegal business practices cannot be fired on the basis of those complaints.
Known as whistleblowers, these workers are shielded from wrongful discharge by the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). Under the CEPA, employees are protected from retaliation such as demotion or termination after speaking out about misconduct by their employer.
If I am successful in a whistleblower claim, what am I entitled to?
Employees who shed light on wrongdoing by their employer are protected under state and federal law, and can receive:
- Reinstatement to their position;
- Back pay; and
- In some cases, a portion of whatever funds government officials recoup from the offending employer.
Am I entitled to a warning before I am terminated?
No. You are not entitled to “three strikes” or any sort of warning before you are terminated. New Jersey is an “at-will” employment state.
What does “at-will” employment mean?
“At-will” employment means that an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, without reason or cause. An employer may not, however, terminate a worker’s employment for unlawful cause, such as in violation of NJLAD, in retaliation for reporting harassment or discrimination in the workplace, or for whistleblowing. If you suspect you’ve been terminated for an unlawful reason, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
What role does my employment contract play in helping my wrongful termination case?
Your employment contract could potentially help your wrongful termination case. Another exception to at-will employment is the existence of an employment contract which sets forth:
- Acceptable grounds for termination; and
- Procedures and protocols to be followed by an employer when termination of employment will be sought.
Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys For A Free Consultation
At McOmber McOmber & Luber, we are highly successful in a wide range of employment law matters and regarded throughout the state for our tenacious representation, even against large corporations and staunch opponents. We take a proactive approach to each and every legal issue our clients face, helping both employers and employees with legal areas including employment contracts, discrimination, law, litigation, whistleblowing, and retaliation issues. Please call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.