Wrongful Discharge / Wrongful Termination
WHAT IS LEGALLY ACTIONABLE "WRONGFUL DISCHARGE" OR "WRONGFUL TERMINATION"? CAN MY EMPLOYER FIRE ME FOR NO REASON?
Wrongful termination is on of the most common employment claims filed in New Jersey and New York. Unfortunately, good, hardworking and dedicated employees are often fired for no good reason. For example, it is much too common that long term employees are laid off because their salaries are too high, top performers are fired because they are unfairly blamed for someone else's mistakes, and dedicated employees lose their jobs as the result of “office politics.” However, while these decisions might be completely unfair, they oftentimes do not constitute legally actionable wrongful discharge.
That is because both New York and New Jersey are what is known as "employment at will" states. Employment at will is the general rule that unless you have an individual employment contract, a group employment contract such as a Collective Bargaining Agreement, or a legal entitlement to your job such as a tenured or civil service position, then your employer can fire you for any reason, or even for no reason at all, with or without notice. For example, in New Jersey and New York, it is generally legal to fire someone based on nepotism or favoritism, as long as the decision was not based on illegal discrimination or another unlawful reason, like retaliation against a whistleblower. That is the cold hard reality of the workplace.
Fortunately, there are many exceptions to employment at will in New Jersey and New York. For example, it is illegal discrimination if your company fired you because of your gender, race, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, religion, or sexual orientation. In many instances, it can also be unlawful for an employer to fire you in retaliation for raising objections or complaints about illegal or other improper activities, or for exercising your legal rights. Likewise, depending on the circumstances it can be illegal if your employer fires because you took a family leave or medical leave, or because your company refused to provide a reasonable accommodation for your disability. In New Jersey, it is even illegal to fire someone if the firing violates a clear mandate of New Jersey's public policy.
These are just a few examples of reasons that could be an actionable. There are many different laws that protect employees from being wrongfully discharged. Some of those laws include the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, the New Jersey Family Leave Act, the New York Human Rights Law, the New York City Human Rights Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
For more information about your legal rights, please contact a New Jersey or New York employment attorney online, or call us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced employment lawyers. We have offices in Essex County, New Jersey and New York City.