If you are lucky, you get to work in a field or at a job that you enjoy doing. While, for many, going to work is a means to an end – putting food on the table, paying the mortgage, perhaps having extra money to go on vacations, etc. If you are one of the millions of people whose family relies on your employment to get by, it’s understandable if you are looking over your shoulder not wanting to upset the boss.
It’s important to know, however, New Jersey is an at-will state when it comes to employment – meaning your employer can terminate your employment at any time, without warning and for any reason. That being said, there are a few situations where an employer is not allowed to fire you without cause. In fact, if the employer does fire you under these circumstances, they would be breaking the law. If you feel you are being targeted or have been terminated wrongly, you need to contact a lawyer who will take on your fight and protect your job.
New Jersey law prohibits an employer from terminating an employee for any of the following reasons:
Safety Issues: If you report workplace safety violations and your employer seeks retaliation, this is illegal.
Illegal Behavior: If your boss or employer is requesting you do something that is against the law, you can refuse and not be legally fired for it.
Discrimination: You can’t be fired if you file a complaint or otherwise oppose an employer’s discriminatory practice in the workplace.
Family Leave Act: If you request Family Leave (N.J. Stat. § 34:11B-9) and are denied based on what is legally considered discrimination, you cannot be fired for reporting your employer.
Hazardous Substances: If you learn that your employer is handling, storing or disposing of hazardous materials improperly, you cannot terminated for reporting it.
Minimum Wage: If your employer is not paying workers at least the minimum wage, and you report this information, you cannot be terminated.
Whistleblowing: If you learn about fraudulent or other illegal activity being conducted in the workplace and you choose to “blow the whistle,” there are laws that will protect you from retaliation.
When it comes to being a whistleblower, employees are covered by the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). This New Jersey law was enacted to protect employees who choose to do the right thing. The law states that someone who avoids illegal behavior and instead seeks to uncover fraud or other wrongdoing in the workplace should not be retaliated against, and specifically fired, for doing so.
If it turns out that the employee was not correct in making the allegations, but had reasonable belief that the law was violated, CEPA will still protect the employee from wrongful termination.
New Jersey CEPA lawyers at Begelman & Orlow are experienced in the area of CEPA and wrongful termination cases. We have an extensive, successful record for protecting New Jersey whistleblowers. Contact our offices today for a free consultation if you feel you have been wrongly fired or punished in the workplace for speaking up and reporting illegal activity.