In today’s market, workers are increasingly demanding more pay, more job perks and, most importantly, job security. Too often, not fully realizing what the terms of employment are, or trusting the words of a boss who may not have your best interests in mind, can leave you shocked and angry when they lay you off.
Workers in New Jersey need to know the terms of employment from the start, as well as the federal and state laws that protect them from wage theft violations, loss of benefits, or job loss. Knowing your rights is the first step toward fighting back against wrongful termination, retaliation, or contract violations.
What does at-will employment mean?
An at-will employment relationship is one in which the employer can fire or lay off a worker, terminate their benefits, or reduce their paid time-off with no advance notice, unless the terms of employment have been modified by contract or collective bargaining. The employee likewise can quit at any time and with no notice to the employer. This at-will presumption exists in all 50 states except Montana.
The courts recognize some exceptions to the at-will presumption when there is:
- Public policy, as outlined in the state’s constitution or laws, regulations, or code of ethics, that shields employees from adverse employment actions.
- An implied contract, in which an unwritten understanding exists in the form of spoken assurances or written promises in handbooks or a company’s policies and practices.
- An implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, limiting the adverse actions of an employer acting in bad faith.
What protections are there against wrongful termination?
There are both federal and state laws for workers that protect them from workplace discrimination that can take many forms, such as:
- National origin
Job termination or retaliation that is discriminatory based on any of these and other categories is against the law.
Employees who are under contract have protections that guarantee a pay rate or salary, specified paydays and other benefits according to the terms of the agreement. A contract may include conditions for job termination, a severance package, or the notice period for termination. Firing an employee against the terms of the agreement will hold the employer in breach of contract.
Union employees also work under collective bargaining agreements that will often include a grievance procedure for wrongful discharge. Going through the grievance process does not guarantee that the worker will get their job back. But if they believe their discharge violated the terms of the contract or that the union did not serve their interests in good faith, they may file a claim against both the employer and the union.