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Employee Discipline

Employee Discipline

New Jersey Employee Discipline Lawyers

Most employers use various forms of discipline to correct and punish improper behaviors by their employees. However, some employers also use discipline to harass, discriminate, or retaliate against employees in violation of the law.

Forms of Discipline

There are many different forms of discipline that employers use, and different names for the same types of discipline. However, some of the most common forms include:


Terminations, of course, are the most severe form of discipline. If you were fired for an illegal reason, you may have a legal claim. More information is available on our wrongful termination page.


Another more severe form of discipline is a demotion to a lower-level position. Demotions often come with a decrease in responsibility, compensation, or benefits. Depending on the reason for the demotion, like other more severe forms of discipline it can be a legally actionable adverse employment action.


A suspension is another form of adverse employment action. Suspensions can be for as little as one day, but more often are for many days, weeks or even months. Depending on the circumstances, suspensions can either be paid or unpaid.


Many employers use written and verbal warnings as forms of discipline. While these generally are relatively minor types of discipline (the proverbial “slap on the wrist”), they can be used to support more serious discipline in the future.

Performance Improvement Plans

Theoretically, a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP"), also known as a Performance Action Plan, is intended to help under-performing workers address deficiencies in their job performance. However, frequently they are used to help an employer justify taking a more serious action such as demoting, suspending or terminating an employee.

Poor Performance Review

In some instances, employers can use negative performance evaluations as a form of discipline. For more information from our New Jersey employee discipline attorneys, please see our performance evaluations page.
Rights Under Employment Contracts

Some employment contracts, including union collective bargaining agreements, limit how and when your employer can discipline you. For example, some employment agreements limit the employer’s right to fire you unless there is “good cause” or “just cause” to do so. Other employment agreements allow employers to fire employees without cause, but entitle employees who were fired without cause to receive severance pay.

Similarly, many employee handbooks include requirements or other limitations on how and when the employer can issue discipline to its employees. However, employee handbooks typically include disclaimers which make it difficult or impossible to legally enforce these policies.

Discriminatory and Retaliatory Discipline

In addition to any contractual rights you might have, the law prohibits employers from using discipline as a way to unlawfully discriminate or retaliate against you.

For example, in New Jersey it would be a violation of the law for your employer to fire, demote, or take another adverse employment action against you because of your age, race, gender, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, color, ancestry, religion, marital status, or military status. Likewise, it would be illegal for an employer to discipline you because you objected to, or refused to participate in, an activity that you reasonably believed was illegal, fraudulent, criminal, or violated a clear mandate of public policy relating to public health, welfare or the environment.

Contact an Employment Lawyer

If you believe your employer had used discipline in a way that violates your employment law rights, or would like related legal advice, Rabner Baumgart Ben-Asher & Nirenberg, P.C. can help. You can contact us online, or call our law office at (201) 777-2250 to schedule an appointment with one of our New Jersey employee discipline lawyers.

Learn More About Your Employment Law Rights

If you would like to learn more about your workplace rights in New Jersey, then we welcome you to sign up for our free employment law e-Newsletter, or to visit or Blog, both of which discuss new employment law cases, statutes and other related information.

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"I worked with Jonathan Nirenberg, ESQ on a sensitive emotional employment matter. Mr. Nirenberg was quick to respond, offered excellent advice, and always followed up with phone calls or emails when needed. My situation was settled out of court within a short period of time with the best possible results for not just me but also for the employer. Highly recommend and would seek his help again if needed..." Linda Busch, PhD
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"I felt alone and without a voice, until I hired Jonathan I. Nirenberg of Rabner Baumgart Ben-Asher & Nirenberg, P.C. Mr. Nirenberg represented me in an employment matter. Without his help, I know that I would not have had the extremely successful outcome I had. Jonathan was not only professional, but very empathetic to what happened to me. Jonathan gave me support, and options in relation to a challenging employer/employment situation which was an extremely difficult time in my life..." Shelly Smith