Wrongful termination in New Jersey is when an employee is fired or terminated for an illegal reason that goes against the laws in place or public policy. While New Jersey is an at-will state for employment, the laws are very clear that an employee cannot be fired or terminated for a reason that breaks the laws. For the past 25 years, the experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group have helped employees who are the victims of wrongful termination get the compensation they deserve.
Wrongful termination in New Jersey occurs when an employee is fired or terminated for a reason that goes against the law. This can include issues, such as discrimination, retaliation, or reasons that go against public policy. Reasons a termination can be illegal include:
• Discrimination based on age (over 40), race, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, color, disability, pregnancy, or citizenship status
• Breach of written or implied contract
• Retaliation against whistleblowers
• Retaliation against an employee who refuses to participate in criminal activity
• Retaliation against an employee who filed a worker’s compensation claim or complaint with HR
Several different forms can help prove wrongful termination considering there are several reasons and categories in which wrongful termination can exist.
1. Direct Evidence. Direct evidence is exactly as it sounds. This is when you are told or it is communicated to you or another person in writing that the reason you are fired is because you did not participate in an illegal act, did not engage in sexual relations with your supervisor, or for another discriminatory reason. This is the “smoking gun” evidence that is not as common as other evidence but does occur more often that you would like to think.
2. Disparate Evidence. Disparate evidence is when an event occurs that can be linked to the knowledge of another event or characteristic. For instance, if you are showing that you are pregnant, and within a few days you are laid off, that would be disparate evidence that you were fired because you are pregnant. This type of evidence is much easier to obtain and much more common in the workplace.
3. Contract Evidence. In New Jersey, there are two different kinds of contracts: expressed and implied. If you have an expressed contract, there are definitive terms that discuss employment terms, actions that would break the contract, and an end date for the contract and your employment. Firing you before this time is up could be a breach of contract.
An implied contract could be that an employee handbook states that an employee can only be fired for just cause. This means that that employer is no longer an at-will employer and cannot fire someone just because he wants to, as long as it is legal. A copy of the handbook or contract as evidence to support the termination was wrong and against the law.
New Jersey is an at-will employment state. This means that an employer can hire or fire an employee for almost any reason. Of course, it the reason breaks the law, the employer is not protected under the laws provided by an at-will employment state. Some examples of wrongful termination in New Jersey include:
• Retaliation for refusing sexual advances
• Retaliation for filing a whistleblower claim
• Retaliation for refusing to participate in illegal activity
• Firing an employee who needs to take once day a week off for three months to undergo chemotherapy for cancer
• Firing an employee who is 65 because of his age
• Retaliation for filing a worker’s compensation claim
• Firing an employee who is “too dark” or “too light” for a position
• Firing an employee who married his boyfriend in a Gay marriage ceremony over the weekend
• Firing an employee for taking breaks throughout the day to follow Muslim prayer rituals
• Firing an employee who is from the Middle East because she wears a burka to work
• Firing an employee once you learn she is pregnant
• Firing an employee who is taking time to attend active military training required to be a military reservist
• Firing an employee who is taking 3 weeks of FMLA to bond with his newborn child
• Firing an employee before his contract date is up for no justifiable reason
• Firing an employee for no justifiable reason when the employee handbook clearly states he can only be terminated for a justifiable business reason
• Firing an employee who is allowed to work in the US but is not a citizen of the US because the employer only hires US citizens
Depending on your claim, your statute of limitations will vary. In New Jersey, if you have a wrongful termination based on discrimination, they may file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the termination. If you choose, instead to file a claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), you are allowed a 2-year time limit to file your claim for wrongful termination or retaliation.
If you are filing a claim under NJLAD for whistleblower retaliation, you only have 1 year to file your lawsuit.
If your claim is for breach of contract, whether verbal or written, you have a 6-year time limit to file your lawsuit, unless your contract specifies differently.
Finally, if you were fired because you refused to breach public policy or you were defamed as a result, you have a 3-year statute of limitations to file your wrongful termination claim.
As a victim of wrongful termination in New Jersey, you are entitled to seek justice. The court will often award some, if not all, of the following remedies:
• Reinstatement of employment and/or benefits
• Reimbursement of employee benefit premiums
• Reimbursement of medical and other related expenses
• Attorney’s fees and court costs
• Back pay
• Future pay
• Pain and Suffering
• Emotional distress
• Punitive damages
A wrongful termination lawsuit can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months to one year or longer. Should your employer choose to negotiate a fair settlement prior to trial, the case should settle within 4 to 6 months. However, if your employer wants to go to trial or simply refuses to offer a fair settlement, the case can take a year or more to prepare for trial. The trial then may take a few days to a few months or more.
As a victim of wrongful termination in New Jersey, there are several things you can do as you prepare to file a lawsuit and get the justice you deserve.
1. Contact a wrongful termination attorney immediately.
2. Gather all of the evidence you can find. Include text messages, emails, any written documentation, including your contract and employee handbook, detailed notes that you may have, and witnesses that can attest to the issues leading up to your termination.
3. Do not waste time. Depending on your case, you may have less than a year to file your lawsuit. Do not waste time before contacting a wrongful termination attorney and getting the process started.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Wrongful Termination Attorneys Today for Your Free Consultation
Even in an at-will employment state, you deserve to know that you cannot be judged and fired because you are part of a protected class or choose to do the right thing. If you are the victim of wrongful termination in New Jersey, the experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help. Contact us today at (973) 388-8625 for your free consultation. We do not collect any money until you win your case.