Wrongful termination can be an emotionally and financially devastating event for a loyal, hardworking employee. New Jersey employment laws protect workers from being unjustly fired on the basis of discrimination or retaliation.
You may have the right to recover financial damages in a wrongful termination claim against an employer who violated state law. Compensation may include punitive damages, equitable back pay, attorneys’ fees and more.
Wrongful termination claims can be quite challenging to prove because New Jersey is an “at will” employment state. However, there is hope for employees who have been the victim of an employer’s illegal actions. The following information is intended to help you better understand your rights and options.
Can I sue my boss for treating me unfairly?
You may not recover damages in a wrongful termination claim based on an “unfair” or “unjust” firing. The dismissal must be considered illegal in order for you to pursue damages in a civil action. For instance, you cannot sue your boss based on his or her having fired you because your salary allegedly was too high. While this could be considered an unfair cause for dismissal, it does not — in and of itself — represent a violation of law.
New Jersey’s status as an “employment-at-will” state requires you to prove your employer violated a state employment law, such as the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
What does it mean to be an “employment-at-will” state?
Employment in New Jersey is considered to be on an “at-will basis.” This means an employer or employee may terminate the relationship:
- at any time (without having to give to notice);
- without providing cause; and
- without reason.
Exceptions may apply in cases where a contract exists between you and your former employer. A lawyer can determine the scope of such a contract.
What constitutes a wrongful termination in New Jersey?
Despite New Jersey’s “at-will employment” doctrine, employers must adhere to certain state standards. Your employer may be guilty of a wrongful termination if she or he violated a state employment law, such as:
- New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (makes it illegal to fire someone based on gender, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, marital status, pregnancy, religion, etc.);
- New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act (protects injured workers who file for medical compensation and other benefits);
- New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (protects employees who act in a “whistleblower” capacity); and
- New Jersey Family Leave Act (makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for going on leave of absence for the birth of a child or for a family medical emergency).
A lawyer can assess the circumstances of your case to determine if you have cause to file suit.
What evidence is necessary to prove a wrongful termination?
Your claim must prove your former employer violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws or that your dismissal was an act of retaliation. For example, you may need to prove your employer had a history of firing minority employees for being late to work, while failing to punish white male employees for the same infraction.
Potential evidence in your claim may include:
- emailed communications;
- witness statements;
- employment records/history; and
You will be unable to recover compensation without providing sufficient evidence of your employer’s motives for dismissing you from your job.
What damages are recoverable in a civil action against a former employer?
A successful wrongful termination claim may entitle you to a number of damages, such as:
- equitable back/forward pay;
- punitive damages;
- reinstatement at the position;
- compensatory damages; and
- legal fees.
Learn more about your options for financial recovery in New Jersey during a case evaluation with our employment attorneys at Dash Farrow LLP. Call 856-235-8300.