Employers let go of their workers all the time and often, the reasons for their decision are justified. Termination of employment may be necessary if companies have to cut back or if an employee fails to meet their obligations regarding their job. Sometimes, the decision is mutual and both parties determine the relationship isn’t a good fit for either of them. In such instances, the decision of the employer to terminate the employee is legal and the fired employee only has the option to file for unemployment benefits and move forward. However, some job terminations are not justified and might be illegal. If you have been terminated from your job, you should speak with an employment lawyer in Princeton to know if your termination was illegal.
Understanding At-Will Termination
New Jersey is an at-will employment state. Generally, this means that an employer can fire a non-contractual employee without due cause and an employee can resign from a position at any time without fear of legal consequences. But, at-will employment has limits. If an employer terminates a non-contractual employee for a reason that violates anti-discrimination laws or in retaliation for a legal act, it’s not legal. Anti-discrimination laws prevent employees from being fired because they belong to a protected class. This class includes race, age, religion, gender, disability, pregnancy, and more.
Terminating an employee for whistleblowing is also illegal. Whistleblowing happens when a person reports wrongdoing within a company for some reason.
When a Termination is Legal
Even if there are laws that protect employees from wrongful termination, employers can still legally let off a worker for legal reasons. However, employers should follow proper procedures. They should abide by any written disciplinary procedures to which they have committed. Failing to do so could give the employee a reason to question the lawfulness of their termination.
For example, if the employee handbook entitles employees to a written warning about tardiness; however, they are terminated after reporting to work late just one time, the employer might have a valid claim for wrongful termination. This is true if the motivation for their termination is not legal.
What to Do After Being Wrongfully Terminated
Often, you must file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Also, there might be some local or state requirements regarding filing a complaint. It is in your best interest to consult an employment lawyer if you think you were wrongfully terminated. Your lawyer can answer your questions and guide you toward the right procedures for filing a claim and pursuing legal action if needed.