If you’ve been fired or “let go” from your job and you don’t believe your termination was justified, you may be considering a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. However, there are some important legal issues to understand about the topic of employment before you seek out a lawyer. You would be best advised to explore these legal issues before pursuing legal action or sharing your ideas with others.
In the state of New Jersey, employees work “at will.” That’s a legal term, and it means employees can be fired at any time and for any reason. An employer does not need a reason to fire you. Employers have no obligation to retain you for a particular period of time, unless you have a written contract specifying the date your employment begins and the date it ends.
What Is Considered a Wrongful Termination in NJ?
A written contract is one exception to employment at will. Without a legal contract you cannot sue your employer for wrongful discharge. With a written, legal contract, however, you may be able to take your former employer to court for wrongful termination.
The type of written contract you have signed with your employer is significant as well. Since employers usually provide the employment contract for you to sign, you may not understand the consequences of the contract language without consulting an attorney. If you seek out legal advice, you may discover that an action for breach of contract could be one of your options as well.
Another legal exception would be established if you are the victim of discrimination in the workplace, as it is defined by federal or New Jersey state law. If you have been discriminated against, you may also have a claim against your employer for wrongful termination.
New Jersey discrimination laws protect you against inequity based on:
– Sex (including pregnancy)
– National origin
– Age (40 and older)
– Genetic information
– Citizenship status
– Sexual orientation
– Marital status
– HIV/AIDS status
– Gender identity
– Hereditary or blood trait
– Military status
– Unemployment status
– Use of a service or guide dog
Regardless of the size of the company and the number of employees, all NJ employers are required to comply with this list of protected employee classes.
In addition, no NJ employers are ever allowed to discipline you if you complain to your human resources department or directly to the owner because you were passed over for promotion based on these protected classes. You cannot legally be disciplined or fired in retaliation for making a complaint.
What Should You Do If You Suspect Wrongful Termination?
Once you determine whether you have a written employment contract or are an at-will employee, you’ll need to file a complaint before filing a lawsuit against your employer. The regional Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) governs federal discrimination matters in New Jersey, so you’ll need to get in touch with your closest office to file a complaint based on federal discrimination laws.
The New Jersey Division of Civil Rights in Concord enforces NJ State laws prohibiting discrimination and will provide a portal for you to file a complaint against your employer on the state level, prior to initiating a lawsuit.
John J. Zidziunas & Associates will provide you with expert help understanding wrongful termination matters in your New Jersey workplace and will representing you in court if necessary. Contact us for a consultation at no charge, either by email or by calling 973-509-8500.
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