Given that New Jersey is an "at-will" state where employees can be fired for nearly any reason, how can you tell if your employer violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) when firing you?
You have to approach the question in steps.
-- Are you a member of a protected class under the LAD?
The protected classes covered under the LAD include: race, religion (creed), color, national origin, age, ancestry, nationality, marital status, sex, gender identity or expression, mental or physical disability, military service, affectional or sexual orientation, atypical cellular or blood trait (including HIV status) and genetic information.
-- Were you able to perform your job duties adequately?
If you simply couldn't meet your employer's reasonable expectations for your work, that's not discrimination.
However, if your employer fires you despite your good performance and somehow either indicates or demonstrates that your firing has something to do with your membership in a protected class, that is a violation of the LAD. Similarly, suddenly unreasonable expectations for your performance are likely to be viewed as a pretext for firing you.
For example, imagine that you've worked for your employer for years without problems or a bad review, and then you let it slip that you are HIV positive. Shortly afterward, your employer begins telling you that you aren't meeting expectations, puts you on a performance improvement plan that gives you thirty days to meet a laundry list of vague expectations and then fires you -- that's a pretty good indicator that your firing violated the LAD.
-- Were other employees in your job, but outside your class, treated differently?
Sometimes the prejudice of an employer is clear to see. For example, if you're female and you find out that you're being paid less for the same work than your male counterparts, that's obvious discrimination. If you get fired after asking the boss to increase your pay to match that of the men, you likely have a good case for discrimination.
If you aren't sure if you have a case for discrimination based on the way you were fired, an attorney can review the circumstances particular to your case and indicate what legal options are available. For more information on how our firm approaches these types of cases, please visit our web pages on the subject.