New Jersey, like many other states in the country, has an at-will employment statute. As a result, the termination of employment arrangements in an at-will state does not usually carry any legal or financial consequences for either party. It is possible for a worker to quit with no advance notice without worrying about financial consequences, and it is also possible for a company to fire an employee in New Jersey for just about any reason.
However, at-will employment laws do not eliminate the possibility of a wrongful termination scenario. Even though a business can fire someone for almost any reason or no specific reason at all, it is still illegal to fire someone for a reason that has been prohibited at the state and/or federal level.
What constitutes an inappropriate firing or layoff?
Under both federal and New Jersey state laws, there are certain factors that should not influence whether someone keeps their job or not. Their protected characteristics, including their age, race, sex and religion, should not influence their career trajectory.
Additionally, if a worker engages in certain protected activity, such as reporting harassment by a supervisor or filing a workers’ compensation claim due to an injury on the job, they shouldn’t have to worry about retaliatory firing from the company. When a company terminates someone specifically because of a protected characteristic or because of their decision to make use of their employment rights, then the company could face allegations of committing a wrongful termination.
Some businesses try to hide wrongful terminations
It is very common for inexplicable changes in performance reviews or overly-aggressive disciplinary action to precede a wrongful termination. If a worker notices that they are receiving more negative attention from their employer after complaining about discrimination or disclosing their protected characteristics to a coworker, it may be personal factors or protected activities, rather than work performance, that leads to someone facing disciplinary effort.
The goal may be to create a paper trail justifying a termination when the business has actually engaged in misconduct such as discrimination or retaliation. Those who believe that their employer may have violated their rights often need help reviewing the details of the situation.
Speaking with a legal professional about circumstances that may constitute a wrongful termination can help someone to accurately evaluate their legal options and could lead to financial justice for the affected worker.