Generally employees in New Jersey can be fired at any time for any reason and the judicial system will not get involved. However there are some circumstances which constitute wrongful termination. If an employee is wrongfully terminated, the employee will be able to take legal action against the employer.
One ground for wrongful termination is a breach of contract. A contract can stipulate that employment is not at will and an employee can only be fired at specific times or for specific reasons. If an employer has agreed to such a contract they must honor. Otherwise the fired employee can sue for a breach of contract.
Unfortunately one of the more common grounds for wrongful termination is discrimination. It is illegal not only under state law but also federal law to fire an employee on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, citizenship status, genetic information, or old age. Federal law provides an exception for employers with under fifteen employees for most of these criteria. Additionally, employers with under twenty employees can discriminate based on age and those with under four employees can discriminate based on citizenship status.
New Jersey laws do not provide such exceptions. New Jersey also protects employees from being fired because of any age, sexual orientation, marital status, HIV/AIDS, gender identity, military service, or use of a service or guide dog. If an employee was terminated for any of these reasons, they need to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before filing a lawsuit.
Wrongfully terminated employees may also be able to turn to tort law for aid. Good examples would be infliction of emotional distress or violation of public policy. Employees also cannot be fired for taking military leave, serving on a jury, or taking family leave.
If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated, or want advice on whether it is proper to fire and employee, you can contact Stone Law at 732-444-6303 or leave us a message on our website.