Defending Against Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

In New Jersey, as in many states, employment is considered ‘at-will’. At-will employment essentially means that either the employee or the employer may decide to end the employment relationship at a time of their choosing for nearly any reason. Even ‘no reason’ is a valid reason to terminate an employment relationship.

What many employers do not realize, however, is that there are some reasons for termination that are considered improper; and even having the appearance or perception that an improper termination took place could expose you to potential litigation. Because of the perception associated with many terminations, ending an employment relationship can be littered with legal pitfalls. An experienced

Common causes of wrongful termination lawsuits in New Jersey

There are several clearly defined circumstances under which it would be improper to terminate an employee. An employee cannot be fired due to discrimination because of their:

  • disability;
  • age over 40;
  • race;
  • national origin;
  • religion;
  • perceived disability;
  • pregnancy;
  • or veteran status.

In some cases, termination due to sexual orientation can be an improper ground as well. Additionally, an employee may not be fired due to acting as a whistle-blower or alerting a state or Federal agency of a health or safety violation. Retaliation against workers for filing a workers’ compensation claim or attempting to make use of FMLA benefits are also both improper reasons for termination.

An interesting (and often unexpected) cause of wrongful termination lawsuits is what’s called a ‘constructive discharge’. Constructive discharge does not require a formal end to the employment relationship. Under New Jersey law, constructive discharge occurs when the employee is essentially forced out and has to quit due to what they consider intolerable situations. This may sound like it happens often, but courts often take into account that the work environment must be much worse than what would be considered ‘hostile’ and that it takes more than a single incident to create a valid constructive termination claim. Further, the reason for the departure must be because of a violation of an employee’s rights (stated above). The burden of proof is on the departed employees and they also have to prove that they did everything within their power to keep their job before being forced out.

Speak to one of our experienced corporate attorneys

There are ways to protect your company from wrongful termination lawsuits. Employment agreements and documentation are important. If you think that you may be in danger of exposure to litigation from a wrongful termination lawsuit, contact us today.