What is a Wrongful Termination?
Many people say they have been "wrongfully terminated" or "wrongfully discharged" if they were fired unfairly, arbitrarily, or without just cause. But not every unfair firing is illegal. That is because unless you have a written or verbal employment contract, are a civil service employee or a member of a labor union, or have some other protection from being fired, if you work in New Jersey or New York then your company probably can legally fire you for almost any reason or even for no reason at all. Lawyers call this being an employee “at will,” since you can be fired or resign at any time and for almost any reason.
Can I Sue If I Was Wrongfully Fired?
There are many important exceptions to employment at will. For example, it is illegal discrimination in New Jersey and New York if your company fires you because of your age, color, gender, mental or physical disability, marital status, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran or military status.
Similarly, depending on the circumstances, it can be illegal for your employer to terminate your employment in retaliation for objecting to a violation of the law. If you work for the local, state, or federal government, you also have additional civil rights protections from being fired in violation of your Constitutional rights. Or you might have a legal claim if you were fired or forced out as an oppressed shareholder of a closely held corporation.
What Should I Do if I was Fired Unfairly
There are many different laws that limit the reasons why a company in New Jersey, New York State, or New York City can fire you. If you have been fired for no good reason, you should consider meeting with an experienced employment law attorney to discuss whether you have a wrongful termination claim. An employment lawyer also might be able to help you in other ways, like explaining or improving your severance package, or helping you understand your obligations under a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement.
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