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What qualifies as wrongful termination in New Jersey?

The current economic crisis has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. You may be among these persons, yet the reason for your termination may not make sense. Even during these times, your employer may have been thriving. Furthermore, you may have continually met or exceeded your employer’s performance standards. And if your employer terminated no one else, your departure may raise eyebrows.

You might wonder, then, whether you were the victim of wrongful termination. Before filing a claim against your employer, you must understand whether your case meets its threshold.

Exceptions to at-will employment

New Jersey is an at-will employment state. This arrangement allows both you and your employer to end your relationship at any time, without any notice or without any cause. Yet, there are situations where your employer cannot terminate you at-will. These include:

  • Retaliation: Your employer cannot terminate you for engaging in workplace organizing, for whistleblowing or for reporting another employee’s harassment of you.
  • Discrimination: Your employer cannot terminate you for reasons based on your status or ability.
  • Breach of contract: Your employer must follow its policies and the terms of your contract in terminating you. In New Jersey, this applies to implied contracts, like written or spoken assurances, as well.

Like most other states, New Jersey observes a public policy exception to at-will employment. Under this exception, if your termination violated a public interest, it could qualify as wrongful. Your employer cannot terminate you if:

  • You exercised a statutory right, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • You refused to engage in activities considered illegal under New Jersey law
  • You engaged in acts of public interest that conflicted with your job duties
  • You reported its legal violations

Filing a wrongful termination claim

If you discover your termination qualified as wrongful, you have the option to file a claim against your former employer. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for making your claim is two years from your date of termination. The exception is if your wrongful termination involved a breach of contract. In this case, you have six years after the date of violation to make your claim.

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