Were you recently fired from your position at work? Are you wondering whether you were wrongfully terminated? Have you said something about the company’s employment practices or activities which resulted in the end of your employment? If so, it is crucial to speak with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment lawyer right away to learn about your rights and legal options.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania are at-will employment states, meaning that your employer has the right to terminate your employment for any reason or no reason at all. There is an exception, however. Any reason cannot mean an “illegal reason.” For example, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining about discriminatory hiring or employment practices.
If you believe that you’ve been retaliated against or wrongfully terminated from your job, contact the New Jersey employment rights lawyers at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. right away. We can evaluate the facts of your case against your employer and take swift and decisive action if your rights have been violated. Call us today at (856) 817-6221 to schedule a free consultation.
Why You Need A Lawyer To Handle Your Wrongful Termination Case
If you suspect that your recent firing was in retaliation for speaking out against potentially illegal practices, you should speak to a lawyer about your case. An experienced employment lawyer can review the circumstances surrounding your termination and determine whether the firing was illegal. They can make sure your rights are protected and can help you decide how to move forward—whether you should negotiate a severance package, file charges, or even file a lawsuit against your former employer. Your attorney can review any agreements you are asked to sign and advise you as to what is in your best interest. They can negotiate with your former employer on your behalf to make sure that you get the proper compensation.
Why You Should Hire The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C.
The employee rights attorneys at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. are dedicated to protecting the best interests of people in the workplace. We have extensive experience representing clients in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, for wrongful termination as well as claims of sexual harrassment, employment discrimination, and retaliation against employees based on their race, disabilities, religion, pregnancy, and gender and sexual orientation. We know what it takes to bring a successful case against an employer for discrimination or wrongful termination.
How To Prove Wrongful Termination And Retaliation
Proving that you suffered illegal retaliation generally requires three elements:
- You must show that you were engaged in a “protected activity,”, like speaking out against or complaining about illegal employment practices or discrimination, or participating in an investigation to uncover illegal activity.
- Your employer must have punished you or taken adverse action against you in some respect, such as demoting you, reducing your pay or benefits, or firing you.
- You must demonstrate that the punishment or adverse action was in response to your participation in the protected activity.
Making this connection can be difficult, as employers will often try to provide a valid reason for their actions, to claim that the firing or lack of promotion was a result of the employee’s own shortcomings.
Direct evidence of a link, such as verbal or written statements, emails or text messages, are the strongest type of support for a wrongful termination claim. This type of evidence can be hard to come by, however, as employers are usually savvy enough to not speak openly about retaliation. It may be necessary to provide circumstantial evidence to demonstrate the connection. A few examples of circumstantial evidence might include:
- Inconsistency in employer behavior – Statements that an employer has made in the past that conflict with their recent actions may be helpful evidence. A positive performance review from the past which contradicts more recent negative reports could be helpful in calling the employer’s statements into question.
- Comparison to others’ work– If the employee can show that the quality of their own work compares favorably to that of other employees, they may be able to counteract claims by the employer that they were fired or passed over for promotion because the quality of their work was not sufficient.
- No acknowledgment of employee concerns– If an employee alleges discrimination or raises concerns about illegal work practices, it is unusual for an employer not to take these issues seriously. If the only response to these concerns is to fire the employee, it raises questions about the validity of the termination.
In any situation involving workplace conflict, documentation is extremely important. Official documentation like performance evaluations, or emails and notes that might conflict with the employer’s story, schedules that show exclusion from meetings or training activities, and disciplinary documentation can all be important evidence.
Make a Workplace Complaint
If you believe that you are being discriminated against or harassed in the workplace based on a protected trait, such as age, sex, disability, or race, you should protect yourself by placing your employer on notice. Make a written complaint, preferably through email so that you can prove that you actually complained and that your employer became aware of your complaint.
Indicate the nature of your complaint. For example, you might state, “I am being discriminated against because of my race.” If you are being denied overtime, complaining about that is also protected. You might state, “I worked 45 hours last week and I was not paid any overtime for the 5 extra hours that I worked.” Keep a copy of your emailed complaint.
Making a complaint helps protect your right to file a lawsuit. Your complaint puts your employer on notice and provides an opportunity for your employer to investigate and remedy the situation. Remember, not all complaints are protected. Complaining about not getting enough vacation time, complaining about your manager’s supervisory skills, or complaining about your employer, in general, could get you fired.
Frequently Asked Questions About Employer Retaliation
If you’ve just been fired, you probably have many questions about wrongful termination: what are your rights in this situation, whether you have a case, and how a lawsuit may benefit you. Your attorney is the best source of specific information, but here are some answers to a few common questions that may help.
What is at-will employment, and does it mean I can’t sue for wrongful termination?
New Jersey follows at-will employment rules, which means that an employer can fire any employee for any reason, without warning.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. If the employee has an employment contract, including a union contract or collective bargaining agreement, the employer may be in breach of the contract if the firing violates the contract’s terms.
Your employer also cannot fire an employee for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or the New Jersey Family Leave Act. Further, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits treating an employee differently (including termination) based on several characteristics:
- National Origin, ancestry, or skin color
- Sexual orientation
- Gender, including gender identity or gender expression
- Marital status
- Genetic information or atypical hereditary traits
- Physical, mental, or perceived disability
- Service in the military
Employers are also prohibited from firing whistleblowers if they were engaged in a protected activity, such as participating in an investigation of the employer for illegal activities.
You also cannot be fired for filing a lawsuit against your employer for discrimination, workers’ compensation, or harassment. Your employer can’t fire you for refusing to participate in illegal activities.
If I Was Forced To Quit My Job Due To Impossible Working Conditions, Do I Still Have A Case?
Under constructive discharge rules, you may have a claim. The constructive discharge is legally actionable if the hostile conditions are related to your employer’s violation of your rights, such as discrimination based on a protected category such as age or race.
To prove such a claim, you must demonstrate that the working environment or conduct was so intolerable that a reasonable person would be forced to resign, that the employer knew of the conditions, and that they failed to fix the situation even though they were able to do so. The employee is responsible for reporting the conditions to the employer or a supervisor before bringing a constructive discharge claim.
Why Should I Pursue A Wrongful Termination Case?
The goal of a lawsuit against your former employer for wrongful or discriminatory termination would most likely be to recover lost earnings that you would have received if you had stayed at your job. The economic damages you recover may include increased potential earnings due to cost-of-living adjustments, raises, and promotions. Lost benefits, such as health coverage, vision and dental coverage, stock options, and retirement savings, are also an important consideration.
The sudden loss of a job can cause serious emotional stress, which can lead to physical and mental ailments. You may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses or psychological counseling required as a result of your termination. Damages for pain and suffering may also be available.
As part of this process, you will likely be expected to mitigate your losses by finding a new job as soon as possible. If you deliberately fail to do so, the amount you are able to recover may be reduced. You may be able to recover the cost of job searches, membership in professional organizations, travel expenses for job fairs, and wardrobe expenses for the purpose of obtaining new employment.
The amount of compensation will likely depend on the severity and scope of the discrimination or illegal activity. An experienced employment attorney will know how to put together a solid case and may be able to negotiate a much larger settlement for you.
Speak With An Experienced New Jersey Employment Attorney Today
If you’ve just been fired or have suffered some other illegal retaliation at work, you should speak to a workers’ rights attorney as soon as possible. Don’t let your employer get away with penalizing you for telling the truth.
The employment attorneys at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. can make sure your rights are protected. We will evaluate your case based on all your evidence and advise you on the best steps to take to make sure you end up with the best possible results. We understand that losing your job is a stressful and difficult situation to go through, but you don’t have to face it alone.