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December 11, 2023 | BusinessEmployment

How to Legally Terminate an Employee in New Jersey

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Ellie Sanders

Associate Attorney

Employee termination is a complex process that requires careful adherence to state-specific regulations.  In the state of New Jersey, employers must navigate through a series of legal considerations to ensure a lawful and fair termination.  One of our employment attorneys can help advise you further on specific questions about terminating an employee in the Garden State.

Required Steps to Terminate an Employee in New Jersey

Before terminating an employee in New Jersey, it is important that employers follow specific steps to mitigate legal risks.  Best practices for terminations require employers to clearly communicate expectations, provide feedback, and document performance issues throughout the employee’s tenure at the company.  Additionally, keeping thorough records of any warnings and performance improvement plans for each employee is essential.  Employers should also review their employee handbooks and company policies at least once a year to ensure these are updated with all relevant grounds for termination.

When employers terminate an employee, the termination meeting should be documented with written notes of the meeting.  While this step is not explicitly required by law, it is beneficial to retain records should the employee seek to challenge the grounds for their termination.  An employer should consider seeking legal advice before taking any termination action if there are concerns about navigating the process smoothly.

Is New Jersey an At-Will State?

Yes, New Jersey is an at-will employment state, which means that, absent an employment contract providing otherwise,  employers can terminate employees without prior notice and for any reason, as long as it is not illegal.  Similarly, employees can leave their jobs at any time without providing a reason.

Exceptions to At-will Terminations

Despite being an at-will employment state, New Jersey recognizes exceptions to this rule.  Employers cannot terminate employees based on discriminatory factors such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected characteristics.  Additionally, terminating an employee for refusing to participate in illegal activities or reporting workplace violations, sometimes known as “whistleblowing,” is prohibited.  Understanding and respecting these exceptions is crucial to avoid negative legal consequences.

Are You Required to Pay Severance?

New Jersey law does not generally require employers to provide severance pay to terminated employees.  However, if the employer promised to provide severance in an employee’s employment agreement or in any company policies, they would be required to honor that and distribute severance payments.  Employers should carefully review any applicable agreements to determine their obligations in each specific case.


Navigating the intricacies of employee termination in New Jersey requires expert legal guidance.  Whether addressing at-will concerns or severance issues, consulting with a knowledgeable employment attorney can help safeguard your business interests and maintain compliance with state and federal employment laws.  Reach out to a member of our team to learn more about our employment law services in New Jersey.



Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash
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