Every state in the country has some form of at-will employment, and New Jersey is no exception. That means, unless some form of exception exists, your employer can fire you for any reason or even no reason.
However, those exceptions matter. Thus, the question in New Jersey isn’t what reasons can you be fired for. The important question is, what reasons can you not be fired for? If an employer fires you for an illegal reason, they have committed wrongful termination.
One of the most important reasons that you can’t be fired for is discrimination. Certain classes are protected. This means that an employer can’t base firing or hiring people on whether they are part of that class. A partial list of these classes includes:
That doesn’t mean your employer is required to keep you on staff just because you are Christian, for example. It just means that they can’t fire you for being Christian. However, if you do something that would cause them to fire you, regardless of any protected classes you are part of, you will still be fired.
Your employer also has engaged in wrongful termination if they fire you for certain public policy reasons. In short, this means you can’t be fired for an action that is protected by either state or federal law. A common example of this is that your employer can’t fire you for refusing to perform an illegal act.
Imagine that your job will pay you a sizable bonus on December 31st if you successfully sell at least 500 cars during the year. It is December 14th, and you have already sold over 600 cars, meaning the bonus is guaranteed.
It would be wrongful termination if your employer fired you just to avoid paying the bonus that they promised to give you. New Jersey law enforces an implied covenant of good faith. This means that you can’t be fired just so your employer can avoid paying benefits or because you are taking advantage of benefits that you are contractually owed.
Both state and federal law also protects employees from retaliation. This means you can’t be fired for reporting illegal activities or for enforcing your rights as an employee.
Some workplaces might try to fire you, for example, just because you hired a workplace discrimination lawyer or reported sexual harassment by a manager. This is illegal, and you can take civil action to get your rights restored if this happens.
Can I sue for wrongful termination?
Absolutely. While New Jersey employers have almost unlimited legal reasons they can fire you, if they fire you for an illegal reason, you have the right to sue to get damages.
Typically, those damages will be quite high. If you have been illegally fired, not only have you lost your main source of income, but you have also lost future opportunities associated with that job. You may additionally have lost other benefits, such as stock options.
Most importantly, though, your reputation has been damaged. It is often difficult to get another job after being fired and especially hard after you have sued the company you worked for, even if you are in the right. This means that you will often receive millions of dollars if you win a wrongful termination lawsuit.
If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact an experienced New Jersey employment law attorney at NJ Employment Lawyers, LLC. This is the best way to protect your rights as an employee.