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What are common causes of wrongful termination in New Jersey?

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In at-will employment states, including New Jersey, employers have more leeway as to when they can legally terminate employees. This means an employer can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it is not illegal.  

The reason becomes illegal when the termination happens based on protected class. If an employer takes an adverse action and decides to terminate for reasons related to protected class, it is classified as wrongful termination. Additionally, you may also have a case for wrongful termination in New Jersey based on retaliation or breach of contract.

Common Reasons For Wrongful Termination

The main reasons for wrongful termination in New Jersey include discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract. Understanding each of these can help you determine if your termination was an illegal act.

  • Discrimination based on protected class: New Jersey law protects employees and offers them certain rights based on the following:
    • Age
    • Citizenship
    • Disability
    • National origin
    • Race
    • Sexual orientation
    • Gender
    • Religion
    • Pregnancy 

If you believe you have been fired because you belong to a protected class, you may have grounds to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer. If you or another employee claims that someone is being mistreated due to them belonging to a protected class, firing the employee who complains is also wrongful termination. 

  • Retaliation: New Jersey and federal laws protect you against retaliation for reporting discrimination in the workplace, demanding overtime or minimum wage, or taking leaves for child care, adoption, foster care or caring for a family member who has a serious health condition and cannot work. 

If you tell your employer that they are violating the law, a statute or a regulation, and report their behavior to authorities, you become a whistleblower. Termination for being a whistleblower is illegal. 

  • Breach of contract: Employment in New Jersey is at will unless you have a contract. If an employer violates that contract, it could be considered wrongful termination. Some of the common types of employment contracts include union collective bargaining agreements and oral contracts with witnesses. Violating the terms of a company handbook can also pose grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. 

To know for sure whether you have a basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit, discuss your situation with a trusted employment law attorney who can provide you with the answers and guidance you need.

Bad Treatment Does Not Necessarily Mean Your Termination Was Illegal

New Jersey does not have laws that completely protect you from termination. Yet, your employer does not have the unilateral legal right to dismiss you. They cannot violate a contract or discriminate or retaliate against you for exercising your rights. Understanding what qualifies as wrongful termination and when your rights are violated is an important part of the legal process.

There are deadlines for bringing a wrongful termination claim. Discrimination claims must be filed within 180 days of the termination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and within 300 days in New Jersey courts. Contractual claims must be filed within six years, and tort claims must be filed within three years.

There are employment laws in place to protect you against wrongful termination. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to guide you and protect your rights and legal options.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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