If you find yourself in a situation where you suspect that you have been wrongfully terminated, it's crucial to take appropriate actions to seek justice. This article will guide you through the steps to take if you believe you've been wrongfully terminated in New Jersey.
In New Jersey, employees have certain rights and protections aimed at ensuring fair treatment in the workplace. These rights include protection against discrimination based on factors such as race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, and age, thanks to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Employees also have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, as enforced by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Occupational Safety and Health Program. It's crucial for employees to be aware of their rights, as well as the avenues available for addressing violations of these rights, to ensure they are treated fairly and justly in the workplace.
Understanding Employment at Will in New Jersey
Before we cover the steps to take if you've been wrongfully terminated, it's important to understand the concept of "employment at will." New Jersey, like many other states, follows the employment at-will doctrine. Unless you have an employment contract stating otherwise, you can be terminated at any time, for any reason (with some exceptions) or no reason. However, this doesn't mean employers have complete freedom to terminate employees without any constraints.
Exceptions to Employment at Will
While New Jersey follows the employment-at-will doctrine, there are several exceptions and protections in place to prevent wrongful termination:
- Discrimination: Employers cannot terminate employees based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, or age (if over 40). This protection is provided under various federal and state laws, including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
- Retaliation: Employers cannot terminate employees in retaliation for engaging in protected activities, such as reporting workplace harassment, discrimination, or unsafe conditions. Retaliation is also prohibited under NJLAD.
- Breach of Contract: If you have an employment contract, your employer must adhere to the terms and conditions outlined in the contract. If they violate these terms, it may constitute wrongful termination.
- Violation of Public Policy: Employers cannot terminate employees for reasons that violate public policy, such as firing an employee for refusing to engage in illegal activities or whistleblowing on unethical or illegal conduct within the company.
- Implied Contracts: Sometimes, courts may recognize implied contracts based on oral or written representations made by the employer. If you can prove that your employer made specific promises about job security, this may create an implied contract that protects you from wrongful termination.
Steps to Take if You Suspect Wrongful Termination
If you believe you've been wrongfully terminated in New Jersey, follow these steps to protect your rights and seek legal recourse:
- Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant documents and evidence related to your employment and termination. This may include employment contracts, performance reviews, emails, texts, or other communication that could support your claim.
- Consult an Attorney: It's advisable to consult with an experienced employment attorney who specializes in wrongful termination cases. An attorney can assess the strength of your case, explain your rights, and guide you through the legal process.
- Review Employment Policies: Carefully review your employee handbook or any company policies relevant to your termination. This can help you understand whether your employer followed their own procedures.
- File a Complaint with HR: If you believe your termination is due to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, it's important to report the issue to your company's human resources department. Make sure to keep records of your complaints and any responses received.
- File a Complaint with Government Agencies: Depending on the circumstances of your termination, you may need to file a complaint with government agencies such as the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies can investigate your claim and may take action on your behalf.
- Negotiate with Your Employer: In some cases, it may be possible to resolve the issue through negotiation or mediation. Your attorney can help you negotiate with your former employer to seek a favorable resolution, such as reinstatement or a settlement.
- Consider Legal Action: If negotiations and agency investigations do not result in a satisfactory outcome, you may need to consider filing a lawsuit against your former employer. Your attorney will guide you through the legal process, including filing the necessary paperwork and representing you in court.
- Preserve Your Rights: Be aware of deadlines for filing complaints or lawsuits, as there are strict statutes of limitations in employment law cases. Your attorney will ensure that you meet all deadlines to protect your rights.
It's important to remember that you have legal rights and protections as an employee in New Jersey. If you believe you've been wrongfully terminated, gather evidence, consult an attorney, and take appropriate steps to seek justice.
By understanding the exceptions to the employment at-will doctrine and knowing your rights, you can take action to hold your former employer accountable for any unlawful actions and potentially secure compensation for your losses. Remember that seeking legal advice early in the process is crucial to building a strong case and increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.
Get Help for Difficult Workplace Conditions
Employment attorneys focus on protecting you from discrimination, sexual harassment, wage violations, and more. The employment attorneys at Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, bring together our knowledge and insight to construct a strong case for our clients and maximize any future settlements. Thanks to our teamwork and extensive familiarity with both state and federal employment laws, we can take on essentially any employment law case for you.
Contact us now for a free legal review.