If you’re like most New Jersey workers, you are an at-will employee. If you did not sign an employment contract when you were hired, and you are not a member of an employee’s union, then you are an at-will employee.
This means your employer can fire you for almost any reason and you can quit at any point without penalty. However, being an at-will employee does not mean a company can fire you for discriminatory reasons.
Exceptions to At-Will Employment Rules
While an at-will employer does not have to give a reason for terminating or demoting you or cutting your pay or hours, these actions generally happen for one of the following reasons:
- Poor performance or negative attitude
- Customer complaints
- Company cost-cutting
- Violation of company rules
- Failing drug test
- Seasonal staffing changes
- Favoring a higher-performing employee
- Poor attendance
In most cases, you will probably be aware of the reason you are being fired, demoted, or getting a pay cut even though your employer is not obligated to provide one. However, even at-will employers are subject to anti-discrimination laws. They cannot fire or demote you based on your:
- Gender identification
- National origin
- Military status
At-will employees are also protected from termination for refusing to violate the law or public policies, reporting illegal or unsafe activity by the employer, or filing for workers’ compensation benefits. If you have good reason to suspect that your employer discriminated against you in taking an adverse employment action, you should talk to a lawyer about a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Express and Implied Contracts Provide Some Protections
If you have a written employment contract with your company, you can only be legally fired if you violate the terms of the contract. If you believe you were terminated unjustly, you can take legal action to get your job back or be compensated accordingly. Some companies unwittingly form what’s known as an implied contract with their employees. This might take the form of a verbal commitment, an employee handbook that provides conditions of employment, or company policies you are obligated to follow. An employment lawyer can help you determine if you had an implied contract with your employer when you were terminated.
Contact Our New Jersey Employment Law Firm With Your Questions
It’s never easy to be fired, even if you understand why it happened. But you don’t have to stand for being wrongfully terminated. If you think you have been treated unjustly by your employer—even if you are an at-will employee—contact our office for an evaluation of your situation.