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Recognizing the Signs that You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated

New Jersey is an at-will employment state, meaning that an employee can be fired for most any reason or for no reason at all. But there are exceptions to this general rule. Certain actions by employers can constitute wrongful terminations, for which employees can sue under state or federal law. Reading the signs that your firing might have been illegal is the first step to winning compensation for the injury it has caused to you, your finances and your future career.

Federal and New Jersey law generally prohibit employment discrimination based on such personal characteristics as nationality, race, religion, disability, age, gender identity, sexual preference and pregnancy. Some indications of discriminatory intent may appear before your termination, such as if your boss unfairly singles out you and others like you for criticism or discipline, gives unfairly preferential treatment to workers who don’t share your protected characteristics or subjects you to a hostile work environment.

Your termination might also be retaliatory. For instance, if you complained to your boss about illegal conduct, unsafe work conditions or failure to pay your full wages when due, and your boss suddenly finds fault with you or your work performance, it might be an indication that the employer is creating a pretext for firing you to mask an actual retaliatory intent.

If you aren’t allowed to return to the same job after returning from legally authorized leaves, you are likely the victim of wrongful termination. New Jersey law allows you to take unpaid leave for military service or jury duty and up to six weeks of paid leave to take care of newborns or sick family members. Under federal law, companies with at least 50 employees may be required to grant up to 20 additional weeks of unpaid leave for such family care. New Jersey law requires companies with at least 25 employees to grant up to 20 days of unpaid leave to victims of domestic abuse.

You are not an at-will employee if you have an employment contract. Whether it is a written document, a verbal promise or an employee handbook or business policy, such a contract may have provisions that limit the grounds for termination or that impose procedural safeguards. A firing proven to have violated your contract constitutes a wrongful termination.

If you see any of these warning signs or you have any suspicions that your firing was illegal, a wrongful termination attorney can analyze your situation, advise you on whether you have a cause of action and represent you in the appropriate legal forum to enforce your rights.

Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., with offices in Hackensack, represents workers throughout northern New Jersey in a range of employment matters. Call us at 551-245-8894 or contact us online to set up an appointment.

Neil  H.  Deutsch Attorney Photo
Neil H. Deutsch

Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for his…

Bruce  L.  Atkins Attorney Photo
Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

Bruce L. Atkins is the Senior Managing Partner at Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt P.C., a prominent plaintiff employment law firm in the tri-state area. Mr. Atkins believes employees’ rights should be aggressively pursued when they’ve been wrongfully dealt with by their employers. He brings this philosophy to his practice when considering each case and its…

Adam  J.  Kleinfeldt Attorney Photo
Adam J. Kleinfeldt

Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigation such as discrimination, retaliation and whistle blowing matters. He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict in a sexual…

Debra M. McGarvey Attorney Photo
Debra M. McGarvey

Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), the…

Carly Skarbnik Meredith Attorney Photo
Carly Skarbnik Meredith

Carly Skarbnik Meredith, Esq. is a Partner at the firm. Carly has focused her career exclusively in the field of employment law. She has a plethora of experience representing both employees and employers with their employment issues, needs, and concerns. She believes representing both employees and employers has made her an extremely well-rounded client advocate.…


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