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December 18, 2023 | EmploymentGeneralLitigation

Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination in New Jersey?

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Joseph Ford

Client Coordinator

In the intricate landscape of employment law, wrongful termination poses a significant challenge for employees who find themselves at the unfortunate intersection of job loss and potential injustice.  Understanding key legal aspects and available recourse is crucial for those facing unjust dismissal in the Garden State.

What Constitutes Wrongful Termination in New Jersey?

Given that New Jersey is an at-will employment state, proving wrongful termination is not as easy as it may be elsewhere.  As an at-will employment state, employers generally have the freedom to terminate employees at their discretion, with relatively few exceptions.  The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) serves as a critical piece of legislation outlining specific instances where termination is considered discriminatory and therefore illegal.  Protected classes under the NJLAD encompass factors such as gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ethnic group, religious affiliation, pregnancy, disability, and age.  Any termination based on these characteristics is deemed discriminatory and prohibited.

Moreover, the NJLAD safeguards employees who raise complaints about discrimination, establishing a protective shield against retaliatory actions by employers.  Additionally, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act  plays a pivotal role by preventing employers from terminating employees who act as whistleblowers, exposing illegal activities within the workplace.

While New Jersey follows at-will employment, these legislative safeguards offer protections against wrongful termination, emphasizing the importance of legal recourse in cases where employees face unjust dismissal.  Federal legislation, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, further reinforces these protections at the national level.  While at-will employment provides flexibility for employers, it is essential to recognize the established exceptions that safeguard employees from unjust termination based on discriminatory and other unlawful practices.

How To File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in New Jersey involves a series of crucial steps to assert your rights.  The initial phase begins with identifying the grounds for wrongful termination, which can include:

  • Discrimination and harassment, especially based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, or age, are common grounds for wrongful termination claims. Instances of overt or subtle discriminatory practices and harassment, ranging from derogatory comments to preferential treatment, can contribute to a valid claim.
  • Retaliation for exercising legal rights is another significant ground for legal action. If an employer terminates your employment in response to your engagement in protected activities, such as reporting unsafe working conditions or filing complaints based on unlawful treatment, you may have a claim for retaliation.
  • Breach of contract comes into play when an employment contract or union agreement outlining job security is violated without cause. Various forms of employment contracts, including written, oral, or implied agreements, can serve as grounds for a breach of contract claim.
  • Public policy violations, such as termination for reporting illegal activity, also may constitute wrongful termination.

Once the grounds are identified, reporting the wrongful termination to the appropriate authorities is vital.  This involves filing a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) for state law violations or reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for federal law violations.  In New Jersey, the timeframe within which a wrongful termination claim must be filed, or the statute of limitations, is contingent on the cause of action for the claim.  Although the standard time limit is commonly two years to file a lawsuit in New Jersey, this duration can fluctuate based on the unique circumstances surrounding the case and the legal statutes or administrative agencies involved.  It is imperative for employees who suspect wrongful termination to grasp these limitations and respond promptly to safeguard their legal rights.

What Evidence Do You Need To File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit?

When filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in New Jersey, the strength of your case relies heavily on the evidence you gather to support your claims.  Documenting the events leading up to your termination is necessary for building a solid case.  This documentation includes preserving copies of relevant emails, performance reviews, or any other documents substantiating your allegations.  Save voicemails, text messages, or any forms of communication that might serve as valuable proof in establishing the legitimacy of your claim.

In addition to chronicling the events, keep track of emotional and financial damages resulting from your termination, such as lost wages, medical bills, and emotional distress.  To counter potential attempts by employers to cover up their actions, act swiftly to preserve evidence if you suspect any interference.

Obtaining witness statements can significantly bolster your case.  If colleagues witnessed the events leading to your termination, seek written statements from them detailing what they observed or heard. Approach potential witnesses with sensitivity, recognizing they may fear retaliation from your former employer if their communications with you are not kept confidential.  Meticulous documentation and a commitment to gathering substantial evidence enhance your chances of obtaining justice and compensation for the harm suffered due to wrongful termination.

Conclusion

Dismissal from a job is a difficult transition, even more so if the termination is unjust.  If you believe that you’ve been wrongfully terminated, seek guidance from an experienced attorney to help navigate you through the legal process and protect your rights.

 

Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash
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