Legal Guide

What Qualifies for Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination, also known as illegal or unlawful termination, occurs when an employer fires an employee violating state or federal laws or regulations. Some examples of wrongful termination include:

  • Discrimination: It is illegal to terminate an employee based on race, gender, age, religion, national origin, or disability.
  • Retaliation: Terminating an employee in retaliation for filing a complaint or participating in a legal action against the employer is illegal.
  • Breach of contract: If an employee has a written or implied employment contract that sets out the terms and conditions of employment, an employer cannot terminate the employee violating that contract.
  • Violation of public policy: Employers cannot fire employees for refusing to break the law, reporting illegal activity, or taking protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Defining Wrongful Termination 

Absent contractual obligations, employees in the State of New Jersey are “at-will,” meaning their employment may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all unless it is motivated by an unlawful reason. Unlawful reasons include but are not limited to discrimination, retaliation for complaining about activity that an employee reasonably believed was illegal or fraudulent, or retaliation for requesting a workplace accommodation. In such circumstances, the employment termination may constitute a wrongful termination.

Qualifications For Wrongful Termination

Violations of the FMLA (Family & Medical Leave Act) 

Wrongful termination for violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) occurs when an employer terminates an employee for taking protected leave under the FMLA or for exercising their rights under the FMLA. The FMLA requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for qualifying reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child, a severe health condition that makes the employee unable to work or to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a severe health condition.

Employment Discrimination

An employment termination based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, pregnancy, sexual orientation, disability, genetic information, status as a covered veteran, creed, nationality, ancestry, marital status, domestic partnership status, civil union status, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States, HIV or AIDS status or any classification covered by applicable federal, state and/or local laws is strictly prohibited. It may form the basis for a wrongful termination claim.

Unlawful Retaliation

A wrongful termination claim occurs when an employee is terminated for reporting discrimination or harassment internally to management or federal or state government agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.

In addition, employees who engage in whistleblower activity, such as reporting illegal, fraudulent, or unethical workplace practices and activities, are protected from unlawful retaliatory activity in the workplace. A wrongful termination occurs when an employee is terminated for engaging in such whistleblowing activity.

Furthermore, employees who are suffering from physical or mental disabilities or who require accommodations due to sincerely held religious beliefs have important legal rights in the workplace. A wrongful termination occurs when an employee is terminated in retaliation for making such accommodations requests. 

Breach of Contract 

Wrongful termination for breach of contract occurs when an employer terminates an employee in violation of a written or implied employment contract. If the employment contract sets out specific terms and conditions of employment, such as a specific period of employment, a particular job title or duties, or a promise of job security, and the employer breaches those terms, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination.

When to Seek Legal Counsel For a Wrongful Termination Case 

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, consider seeking legal counsel to evaluate your case and determine your legal options. It is advisable to seek legal counsel if:

  1. You have evidence of unlawful conduct: If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is crucial to gather evidence supporting your claim, such as emails, documents, or witness statements. An experienced attorney can review this evidence and help you understand if you have a strong case.
  2. You have suffered significant harm: If you have suffered significant financial losses, emotional distress, or damage to your reputation as a result of your termination, an attorney can help you evaluate the potential damages you may be able to recover.
  3. You have legal questions or concerns: If you are unsure about your rights or legal options or have concerns about potential retaliation or other employment-related consequences, an attorney can provide guidance and advice.
  4. You want to pursue legal action: If you are seeking to pursue legal action, an attorney can help you file a complaint or lawsuit and navigate the legal process.

Experienced employment attorneys, like us at Curcio Marzaian Sirot, can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the wrongful termination process and can help you understand your legal rights and options.

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