It is important to recognize that not all NJ employment terminations are unlawful. In New Jersey, as in most states, employment is at-will. That means that generally either an employee or an employer can terminate the employment relationship at-will – at any time, for any reason or for no reason.
There are several exceptions to that general rule and many cases of wrongful termination in NJ, however. An employer is not permitted to terminate an employee for a discriminatory purpose. An employer may not retaliate against an employee for whistleblowing or for filing a workers compensation claim. An employer may also face liability if the termination is in violation of a contract or collective bargaining agreement. Finally, an employer may not terminate an employee for a reason that would violate public policy, including, in some instances, constitutional violations.
Types of Wrongful Termination in NJ
Retaliation - The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (NJCRA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), and New Jersey's common law all protect employees from retaliation.
Whistleblower Protection - New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) is one of the broadest and most powerful whistleblower protection statutes in the United States. CEPA protects employees who “blow the whistle” on their employer. Blowing the whistle includes complaining about or refusing to participate in activities of the employer or co-workers, which the employee reasonably believes to be in violation of law or public policy. Blowing the whistle also includes reporting activities, which the employee reasonably believes to be in violation of law or public policy to appropriate outside agencies.
Discriminatory Terminations - New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD) provides broad protection against discrimination. If you are discriminated against because you are a member of a protected class, then you may be able to establish a violation of the LAD. The statute, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12, makes unlawful employment discrimination against members of the following protected classes: race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of any individual, or because of the liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States or the nationality of any individual, or because of the refusal to submit to a genetic test or make available the results of a genetic test to an employer.
Conscientious Employee (CEPA) Retaliation – Easley v. New Jersey Department of Correction. The jury found that the Department of Corrections retaliated against the employee after she cooperated with the FBI and testified before the Grand Jury regarding extortion by the Department’s Deputy Commissioner.
Disability Discrimination (Owens v. NJ Dept of Treasury) – Settlement – Department of Treasury worker suffered permanent vocal chord paralysis after the Department refused to accommodate her laryngitis.
National Origin Discrimination (JG v. Camden) – Settlement – Hispanic Schoolchildren alleged that they were forced to eat on the gym floor without plates while non-Hispanic children were permitted to sit at table and eat off plates.
CEPA verdict (Still v. Orkin, Inc.) – Jury found exterminator was terminated in retaliation for refusing to apply insecticide in an unlawful manner.