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Wrongful termination is a widely misunderstood concept in New Jersey. New Jersey is an "employment at will" state which adheres to the general rule that unless you have an individual employment contract, 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 no reason at all.
Fortunately, there are exceptions to the employment at will doctrine in New Jersey. For example, one of these laws is the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination or NJLAD, called one of the most comprehensive civil rights statutes in the United States. The LAD prohibits "wrongful discharge" when it is motivated by discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, disability, perceived disability, ethnicity, national origin, age, military status, familial status, religion, creed, pregnancy, gender identity, gender expression, or cellular blood trait. Additionally, the LAD prohibits wrongful discharge of a person who assists, encourages or provides information relating to the claims of another.
The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), New Jersey's "whistleblower" statute, has also been called one of the most comprehensive whistleblower statutes in the nation. It affects all employment, whether public or private, and prohibits termination or other adverse employment actions that were taken in retaliation for engaging in protected "whistleblowing" conduct under the act. This would include objecting or refusing to participate in conduct that is fraudulent or illegal or that violates a compelling public policy of a local government, the state government or the national government.
Additionally, depending on the specifics of your case, 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 a disability.
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, 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.
If you are an employer and do not have a policy in place prohibiting wrongful conduct in the workplace or would like further guidance on how to prevent wrongful termination from occurring in the workplace, we offer training seminars. We also draft employee handbooks for small companies, which have become a fundamental tool in safeguarding the workplace from unlawful conduct.
For more information or to set up an employment law consultation with a lawyer at Gebhardt & Kiefer, P.C., call 908-735-5161,or send us an e-mail. With offices in Clinton Township (Annandale) and Bridgewater, our firm serves clients throughout central and northwestern New Jersey.