Top-Rated Wrongful Termination Attorney Representing Employees Throughout New Jersey
Losing a job can cause a tremendous amount of emotional and financial stress for an employee and their family. Under New Jersey’s at-will employment standard, employers have wide discretion in hiring and firing. In fact, a business or organization does not need just cause to terminate an employer. However, there are some reasons for which your employer cannot fire you. If they do, you may have cause to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit.
At Zatuchni & Associates, our New Jersey wrongful termination attorney is a skilled and experienced advocate for workers’ rights. Our mission is to help you obtain a successful outcome in your case. If you have any questions or concerns about the wrongful termination laws in New Jersey, we are more than ready to help. Contact us to set up a free, completely confidential review of your wrongful termination claim.
Understanding At-Will Employment in New Jersey
Employment in New Jersey is “at will.” What that means is that, unless your employer made a specific promise about the length of your employment in an employment contract, the employer can fire you or lay you off at any time with or without reason. It is important to emphasize that this means that companies do not need to prove that they had a “good” reason to terminate an employee. Quite the contrary, employers have the right to fire at-will workers for virtually any reason—including seemingly frivolous, unfair, or otherwise ill-advised reasons.
That being said, there are some strict limits on what employers can and cannot do. New Jersey employers are prohibited from terminating a worker for an illegal reason. If you or your family member was fired or laid off for an unlawful reason, you have the right to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit to recover compensation and relief for your damages. Below, our New Jersey employment law attorney highlights six of the most common bases for wrongful termination claims.
Types of Wrongful Termination Claims In New Jersey
To bring a successful wrongful termination claim in New Jersey, an employee must present evidence proving that they were fired or laid off in violation of the law. You may have cause for a wrongful termination lawsuit if you’ve been fired:
- Discrimination: An employer cannot fire you for a discriminatory reason. Specifically, you may bring a wrongful termination claim due to discrimination based on race, sex, religion or national origin, gender or sexual orientation, disability or pregnancy status, or age.
- Breach of Contract: New Jersey’s at-will employment standard does not override the provisions of a valid contract. If you were terminated in violation of a written employment contract, you have the right to file a wrongful discharge lawsuit.
- Retaliation for Exercising Your Rights: New Jersey employers cannot stop workers from exercising their lawfully protected legal rights. You may file a wrongful termination lawsuit if you were removed in retaliation for legally protected employee actions, such as employees bringing complaints about discrimination, wage and hour violations, or whistleblowing conduct
- Retaliation for Refusing to Engage in Illegal Conduct: You can also file a retaliation claim if you were removed because you declined to do something illegal. It is wrongful termination if a company or organization fired you in retaliation for failing to do an illegal act or to engage in an unsafe work action when the employer has violated safety regulations
- Taking Lawfully Protected Job Leave: An employee’s right to take lawfully protected leave is important. Employers cannot violate it. You may bring a wrongful termination claim if you were fired for taking time off when you have a legal right to take time off for military duty, voting, FMLA leave, or other lawfully protected job leave.
- Unjust Violation of Written Procedures: Finally, you might have a wrongful termination lawsuit if your employer removed you in direct violation of the written procedures in an employee handbook. As these are highly complex claims, you should consult with a New Jersey employment lawyer right away.
Know Your Rights If You Have Been Wrongfully Discharged In New Jersey
Our goal at Zatuchni & Associates is to help you find financial recovery and justice through the legal system. If your lawsuit for wrongful discharge is upheld by the court, you can:
- Get your job back (reinstatement)
- Receive back pay (money from the time you were fired until the date of the court decision)
- Receive front pay (money you could have received had you been able to return to work under better conditions)
- Compensatory damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress
- Punitive damages
- Promotion if you were unfairly denied promotion opportunities
- Reasonable accommodations if the court found that your employer failed to make reasonable accommodations
- Attorneys’ fees
As a worker or employee, you have legal protections from employer retaliation and firing. Ask our New Jersey wrongful termination attorneys how we can help you receive justice.
Wrongful Termination FAQs
Can I Be Fired Because of My Social Media Posts?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. Online platforms for communication that didn’t even exist a decade ago now occupy ever-increasing minutes of our lives. If you’re a working person who routinely uses social media, you’re right to wonder: Can my boss terminate me for social media posts I make on my own device, on my own time?
Generally speaking, save for narrow exceptions (discussed below), the answer is “yes.” If you work in the private sector, then you are an “at-will” employee. This means that, outside of a few protected categories, your employer can legally fire you for any reason, including for social media or other online posts that you allow your employer to access and view. For example, if you upload photos of yourself inebriated or otherwise compromised to an unrestricted Facebook account, your employer is free to express his or her disapproval by terminating you.
It only becomes potentially illegal for your employer to fire you for your social media posts when your posts involve a few things, which we’ll go over in detail.
Social Media Complaints of Workplace Harassment or Discrimination
Under both New York and New Jersey law, it is unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees for their complaints of harassment or discrimination based on a protected category like race, gender, age or religion. As such, it would likely be illegal for an employer to fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee for, say, a Facebook post criticizing the lack of females in upper management, or the company’s refusal to allow workers to reschedule shifts that conflict with religious observances.
Whistleblowing Complaints on Social Media
Under both New York and New Jersey law, it is unlawful for employers to retaliate against an employee for complaining about employer conduct that the employee reasonably believes is illegal, fraudulent, or in violation of a public policy. Given this, it would likely be illegal for an employer to fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee for, say, tweeting management a photo of exposed electrical wiring, faulty scaffolding, or other unsafe working conditions in violation of OSHA.
Social Media Discussions on Working Conditions or Union Activity
Under the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”), employers are prohibited from firing or otherwise retaliating against employees for discussing certain “terms and conditions” of their employment, such as wages and hours. The NLRA likewise prohibits employers from firing or retaliating against employees for discussing union matters, including the possibility of organizing a union. As such, an employer would likely violate the NLRA by, say, firing an employee for maintaining a blog advocating for unionizing her fellow cleaning crew members.
I’ve described the foregoing exceptions at a very broad level. Please know that workplace anti-discrimination laws, whistleblower laws, and the NLRA have specific requirements to be met if social media communications are to be protected. For instance, the New Jersey whistleblower law only protects an employee from retaliation if he or she complains to a manager, supervisor, or relevant governing authority. A tweet or a Facebook post directed generally to one’s online friends and contacts may not satisfy this legal threshold.
Protecting Your Tweets and Other Social Media Posts from Retaliation
Because so few social media communications are protected from retaliation, I advise the following.
Avoid Posting Complaints about Work Online
If work colleagues are in your online social network, avoid posting complaints about work. There are several good reasons for this.
First, even if you post legally protected complaints (such as complaints of discrimination or harassment), there is no stopping your employer from unlawfully terminating you for them anyway. Your posts may give you a basis for a lawsuit, but that may be small comfort if you are out of work.
Second, more than one job has been lost due to an employee’s careless Facebook post airing her personal work grievances. A case in point is In re O’Brien, 2013 WL 132508 (N.J. App. Div. 2013). There, a first-grade teacher for a majority African-American and Hispanic elementary school in Paterson, New Jersey, made two Facebook posts expressing her exasperation with her class, including one that stated: “I’m not a teacher — I’m a warden for future criminals!” Notably, the teacher’s Facebook friends included persons “in the school and in the district.” Through online connections, the teacher’s posts were reported back to the school principal, who suspended and ultimately terminated her for her comments.
Since the teacher was a public employee, she challenged her termination under the First Amendment, arguing that her posts expressed a “matter of public concern” — namely, out-of-control student behavior that impacted learning. The court, however, rejected this argument, finding that the teacher was merely venting her personal frustration with her own students. Her termination was upheld.
Avoid ‘Friending’ Coworkers on Social Media
If possible, avoid “friending” work colleagues on Facebook and other similar networks in the first place. Although this advice may seem unnecessarily restrictive, the simple truth is that online connections, including coworkers, may react negatively to your posts and report them back to management. The off-color joke you post that seems so amusing to you may be interpreted by your coworker as racist or sexist. You may think your replies to your coworker’s Facebook posts are just good-natured, friendly ribbing; he may interpret them as bullying or harassment and tell management the same.
As you’ve no doubt gleaned by now, the intersection of work with social media is fraught with potential mishaps and confusion. If you have a question about whether your social media posts are protected from retaliation, call our offices today for a free consultation.
How New Jersey Wrongful Termination Lawyer David Zatuchni Can Help
Wrongful termination claims are complex. With more than two decades of relevant legal experience, David Zatuchni is a tireless advocate for employee rights. He knows how to hold employers accountable and he strongly believes that every worker deserves the same high-quality representation that large law firms provide to high-dollar corporate clients. Our New Jersey wrongful termination attorney is ready to:
- Conduct a free, comprehensive review of your employment law claim;
- Answer your questions about wrongful termination law;
- Investigate the case and gather information and evidence; and
- Devise a strategy focused on getting you justice and financial compensation.
Wrongful termination lawsuits are highly fact-specific legal cases. We will put forward the energy and resources needed to understand your situation and build the best strategy. With a proven history of successful settlements and verdicts, our litigation-tested employment law team will take your case as far as necessary to get you the best outcome.
Call Our New Jersey Wrongful Termination Attorney Today
At Zatuchni & Associates, our New Jersey wrongful termination lawyer has the skills, knowledge, and tenacity to protect your rights. If you or your loved one was fired or discharged in violation of state or federal law, we can help. Call us to schedule a free review of your case. With law offices in Morristown and Lambertville, our employment law team is well-positioned to handle wrongful termination claims throughout all of New Jersey.