What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?

What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?

If you have been terminated from your job and believe that your employer did not have a legal reason for firing you, you may be able to file a wrongful termination claim. When terminating an employee, there are several ways that an employer can violate federal, state, and local employment laws, from a discriminatory discharge to unlawful harassment. However, there are laws in place that protect employees from being terminated unlawfully. In addition, there are steps you can take to ensure that your legal rights are protected, including filing a wrongful termination claim. This can be a complex process, and you must secure evidence supporting your claim.

What Are Examples of Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer terminates an employee without a valid or legal reason. The following are examples of some of the most common employment violations that employers make when wrongfully terminating an employee:

  • Discriminatory discharge: According to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), which is considered one of the most protective discrimination laws in the country, employment discrimination against employees based on gender, sexual orientation, race, age, national origin, disability, and familial status is prohibited. For example, if an employer terminates an employee because she is pregnant or terminates a group of employees and replaces them with younger workers, this is considered a discriminatory discharge.
  • Retaliatory discharge: Employers are also prohibited from terminating an employee for making a reasonable and good-faith complaint of discrimination or unlawful activity in the workplace. For example, if an employer terminates an employee for taking protected medical leave or fires an employee for making a sexual harassment complaint, this is considered a retaliatory discharge. Fortunately, New Jersey has several anti-retaliation statutes that protect workers, including the Law Against Discrimination, the Equal Pay Act, and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
  • Unlawful harassment: All employees are entitled to a safe workplace free of harassment and discrimination. Employers must have effective anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to provide a safe work environment. If an employee files a complaint, the employer must conduct a thorough investigation as soon as possible. An employer may be held liable for unlawful harassment if the employee is forced to resign due to the ongoing and hostile work environment, which is causing physical and emotional distress.
  • Breach of contract: While most employees are hired on an “at-will” basis, which means that workers are hired without a contract and can be terminated at any time for any legal reason, an employer can be in breach of contract if they terminate the employee’s employment before the contract has expired. Most employee contracts include a “for cause” or “for just cause” provision allowing the employer to terminate the contract under certain circumstances. For example, if the employee commits a felony, has a permanent disability, engages in grossly negligent behavior, or is insubordinate, the employer may have just cause to terminate the employee, provided substantial evidence supports the decision.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Wrongfully Terminated?

There are specific steps you should take if you were wrongfully terminated from your job. Regardless of the particular circumstances, it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced employment attorney who can recommend the best legal course of action based on the events leading up to your termination. The following are examples of steps to take based on common employment violations:

  • Termination due to discrimination. If you were terminated due to discrimination, your employment attorney can assist you with filing a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  • Termination for retaliation. If you were terminated for reporting unsafe conditions or illegal activity in the workplace, whistleblower protections are available. Your employment attorney will help you report your termination to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and file a whistleblower complaint.
  • Termination for exercising your legal rights. If you were terminated after exercising your rights under state labor laws, you must resort to termination to your state’s labor department. If your employer terminated you for exercising your right to family leave, fair wages, or overtime pay, you must file a complaint with the Department of Labor or contact the Wage and Hour Division’s local office directly.

How Can an Employment Attorney Help Me With My Case?

A dedicated employment attorney will determine whether you have a claim for wrongful termination and recommend the best legal strategy based on the circumstances of your termination. You may need to file a claim with the EEOC before you can pursue a wrongful termination claim. In addition, there may be more than one person responsible for your termination and who may be liable for damages. In some cases, your employer may have to pay punitive damages if you were subjected to particularly egregious behavior by your employer, like intentional harassment and discrimination. Your employment attorney will assist you with every aspect of your case, from reviewing the evidence, including your personnel file and witness statements, to filing a claim with the EEOC, OSHA, or the Department of Labor.

Our Hackensack Employment Attorneys at Carcich O’Shea Represent Victims of Wrongful Termination

If you have been fired and believe your employer did not have a valid reason for firing you, contact our Hackensack employment attorneys at Carcich O’Shea as soon as possible. We will thoroughly review the circumstances of your termination, determine if your employer violated your legal rights, and assist you with every step of the claims process. To schedule a confidential consultation, call 201-988-1308 or contact us online. Located in Hackensack, New Jersey, we serve clients in Bergen County, Edison County, Essex County, Morris County, and Passaic County.

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