Employees in the State of New Jersey are protected when they engage in protected activity. “Protected activity” is legal parlance for complaints or concerns raised by employees concerning actions of their employer. In New Jersey, protected activities include, but are not limited to the following: complaints about wage and hour violations; engaging in activities protected under labor laws, such as joining or organizing a union, participating in collective bargaining, or discussing the terms and conditions of employment with co-workers; reporting conduct which the employee reasonably believes is in in violation of a statute or regulation, such as fraud, safety violations, and environmental hazards; and making complaints of discrimination.
It is a violation of New Jersey law for an employer to terminate an employee for engaging in protected activity. This is known as retaliation. When discussing protected activity and wrongful termination, it is important to consider human nature and the potential for retaliation in the workplace. While laws exist to protect employees, the reality is that retaliation can still occur in some cases. Human nature encompasses a wide range of behaviors and responses, and unfortunately, some individuals in authoritative positions may react negatively when they feel threatened or exposed by the actions of subordinates who engage in protected activity. If you are terminated as a direct consequence of engaging in a protected activity, it's important to take the necessary steps to protect your rights and seek appropriate recourse. While many employers do the right thing in response to an employee’s engagement in protected activity, other employers do not do the right thing because sometimes, employees face reprisal after engaging in protected activity. The retaliatory termination of the employee might not be immediate. It is important to document everything. The employee who is experiencing retaliation should keep records of relevant documents, emails, memos, performance evaluations, and any other evidence that supports the belief that the engagement in protected activity was the driving force behind the retaliation. The employee who alleges a retaliatory termination has the burden of proof.
Engaging in protected activity should not result in retaliation or wrongful termination. Retaliation not only undermines the purpose of protected activity but can also have a chilling effect on other employees, discouraging them from speaking up or asserting their rights. Retaliation goes against the principles of a fair and equitable workplace. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or experienced retaliation, contact Morgan Rooks PC for a free consultation with an employment attorney.