Most employees in New Jersey work “at will,” meaning that they can be fired at any time for any legal reason. Employees who are fired for an illegal reason may file a wrongful termination claim under various laws, such as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), and common law breach of contract.
The South Jersey employment lawyers at Burnham Law Group, LLC have over 20 years of experience handling all types of employment law matters, including wrongful termination.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?
If an employee is fired for a bad or unfair reason, it does not necessarily mean that their termination was wrongful.
To constitute a legally wrongful termination, the reason for firing must have been illegal, such as ones that are in violation of:
Federal anti-discrimination laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against applicants or employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
In addition to Title VII, there are other federal laws prohibiting the firing of employees for illegal reasons, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act; the Age Discrimination Act; the Americans With Disabilities Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Immigration Reform and Control Act, Section 1981; and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
State anti-discrimination laws: Each state has its own laws regarding employment discrimination. In New Jersey, employers must comply with the thorough New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
NJLAD makes it unlawful for workers to be fired – or subjected to any differential treatment – on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex, familial status, marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, mental or physical disability, perceived disability, or AIDS or HIV status.
Laws against retaliation: Employers are prohibited from firing employees in retaliation for asserting their rights under Title VII, as well as the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).
Under CEPA, otherwise known as New Jersey’s whistleblower statute, employers may not take retaliatory action against an employee because he or she disclosed, or threatened to disclose, the employer’s illegal policies or practices.
Employees who report fraudulent or criminal conduct, or who participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry, are also protected from retaliation under the statute.
Proving a Wrongful Termination Claim
Wrongful termination claims tend to be challenging, because the employee must be able to show that he or she was fired for an impermissible reason.
To establish a prima facie case under the NJLAD, the employee must show that they:
- are a member of a protected class under the law
- performed their job according to the employer’s legitimate expectations
- were fired despite adequate performance
- were replaced, or the employer sought a replacement for their position
How much compensation a wrongfully terminated employee is entitled to depends on what kind of loss he or she suffered because of the firing.
Wrongful Termination Settlements
Most wrongful termination claims are settled out of court. Several factors that are considered in determining the value of a wrongful termination claim include:
Lost wages: Wrongfully terminated employees may receive the amount of wages they lost from the date of termination until the present, minus any income they received from a new job or unemployment benefits.
Lost benefits: If a wrongfully terminated employee loses the benefits that came with the job, he or she may be able to recover out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance, as well as fringe benefits.
Emotional distress: If an employee who was wrongfully terminated suffers anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental anguish, he or she may be entitled to damages for emotional distress.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at Burnham Law Group, LLC Help Wrongfully Terminated Employees Get the Justice and Compensation They Deserve
If you were wrongfully terminated or retaliated against, contact a South Jersey employment lawyer at Burnham Law Group, LLC. Our skilled and compassionate lawyers know what it takes to prevail in these complex cases, and we can help you get the justice and compensation to which you are entitled. Contact us online or call us at 856-751-5505 for a free, confidential consultation. From our offices conveniently located in Marlton and Somers Point, we represent clients throughout New Jersey.