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What constitutes wrongful termination in New Jersey?

New Jersey, like most other states, has at-will employment laws. This means that in most circumstances, both businesses and individual workers have the right to end an employment arrangement at any point and for any lawful reasons, without legal or financial penalties. Of course, employment contracts can sometimes impose additional obligations on employers, but the law allows businesses to control costs and workers to pursue the best job opportunities possible.

However, it is still possible for a business to wrongfully terminate a worker. When would a company’s decision to fire a worker be legally wrongful?

(1) When the decision relates to discrimination

There are many personal characteristics that employers should not consider when deciding who to hire or fire. Age, race, sex, religion, medical condition and marital status are all examples of characteristics that should not have any influence on an individual’s job opportunities or termination.

When a company has a track record of firing workers once they reach a certain age or prioritizing the retention of workers from one background over those of another, a worker recently fired or laid off may have reason to believe that the decision to let them go was discriminatory. They could have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.

(2) When the decision is retaliatory

Federal and State law prohibits employers from punishing employees for making use of their employment rights. Employees have the right to discuss their wages, to unionize, to take unpaid leave and to report workplace safety violations. If companies fire a worker for reporting sexual harassment or asking for disability accommodations, for example, that retaliatory firing might constitute a wrongful termination.

Understanding what might be a wrongful termination can help employees stand up for themselves against employer misconduct. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to gain clarity when an individual is concerned that they have been terminated unlawfully.



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